Little Paris Bookshop: The Power of Books

It has been awhile since I have had a book club selection post, in case you are new, From Left to Write does not have traditional book reviews. We read books and then we use the book as inspiration to write a post. We might take a theme from the book or even talk about a memory that the book pulled out for us. In any case, these are not your typical reviews, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them!

Disclosure: This post was inspired by the novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, where Monsieur Perdu–a literary apothecary–finally searches for the woman who left him many years ago.. Join From Left to Write on October 8th as we discuss The Little Paris Bookshop. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. {I actually received my copy of this book from NetGalley over the summer, but because of B2’s birth it took me this long to read it, so it was great timing that this was the From Left to Write book club selection for September}

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While I struggled a bit with the length of the book, what I didn’t struggle with was the underlying message. Books have the power to pull us in and help us heal, they can help us through a dark spot or even a bright one and give us a new a fresh perspective.

I remember the first time a book helped me heal. When I was in 6th grade one of my very close friends passed away suddenly. He wasn’t sick, it wasn’t expected, it was incredibly hard on our entire grade, over 20 years later I can still remember how hard the wake was, how a classmate fainted at the funeral. Kids have a hard time dealing with the everyday stuff that goes along with being a pre-teen, adding a death into that mix was something that none of us was prepared for.

I was always a voracious reader, piles of books littered my room, but after the death of my friend I struggled with the happy books I usually read. After a visit to the library and book store I found the book “Say Goodnight, Gracie“. The book was very similar to what I was going through, it helped me process my feelings.

Eleven years later my best friend passed away, again in a tragic accident, he wasn’t sick, it wasn’t expected. He was one of the brightest people I had ever known. I don’t mean in a smart way, although he certainly was very smart. I mean bright in the fact that he always lit up the room he was in, he could make you laugh when you were in the most terrible mood. He even predicted that I would end up with Nick, long before we even started dating.


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Since I transferred to the college that we went too, I ended up taking 4 years to graduate, because a lot of my credits didn’t transfer. 95% of my close friends had graduated and moved an hour away to Boston. I felt pretty isolated, no one that was still in the city with me really or truly understood what I was going through. Again, I turned to books (and food – but that is a post for another day). The one book I read over and over again was “Say Goodnight, Gracie”. This time I related very strongly with the main character, and to this day I still miss Jack very much. I missed him at my wedding, and I wonder who his wife would be, if our kids would be best friends?

I’ve read books since his death that have struck a chord with me, and related to the friendship that we had. While books don’t take your pain away, the help you heal in a way that maybe wouldn’t happen otherwise. I will always be thankful for books that have helped me through some of the most difficult times of my life.

What books have helped you through a tough time?

The No More Excuses Diet: Controversy Sells More

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This post was inspired by The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang who shares her no excuses philosophy that motivated her to become more fit. Join From Left to Write on March 12th as we discuss The No More Excuses Diet. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

I remember the first time I saw Maria Kang’s photo on Facebook, posted by friends who are into fitness, posted by moms, posted by those whose careers are in the fitness and health field. If you went on any form of social media, I’m sure you saw the photo, and commentary. People who thought that it was a shaming moms who didn’t have six-pack abs, and those who agreed with her that no excuse is above your health and fitness.

The multiple times I have had to get back into the swing of things, when I first started living a healthy & active life and after my first pregnancy, I have appreciated the no BS attitude any fitness professional has had with me. This is what I need to make myself accountable and to make sure I succeed in whatever it is that I need to do to lose weight or kick the unhealthy habits I was partaking in. Logging my food, including the junk and treats, making a training schedule and following it. Having someone question when I don’t follow through with my plan, writing this blog and showing you all what I have or haven’t done. These are the things that keep me accountable.

However, I don’t believe that no excuses and an all or nothing attitude are beneficial for those who are starting out on the journey to healthy living. I have excuses just like everyone else, and I won’t hide the fact that they are excuses, but I also won’t feel bad for them either.

We don’t have any family nearby, if I want to get a workout in it has to be first thing in the morning, or for now the two times B is in school during the week. If it doesn’t happen then, then it won’t happen, end of story. Some times I wake up 5 times in the night and getting the extra 2 hours of sleep will make me a better mom that day then going to the gym, and sometimes it is the opposite. Nick’s disability also adds a layer of difficulty to things, not a complaint, but something I need to acknowledge. Leaving a 4-year-old and an infant with him alone just won’t be happening for a while, not an excuse, that is LIFE. Can I go for walks and try to get at-home workouts in? Of course. Will it be the same as getting my butt handed to me in a sweat-drenching workout at a local studio? No, and I don’t expect it to.

Maria Kang knew exactly what she was doing when she posted that photo, she stirred up controversy in the mom and fitness world. Controversy sells, hard work and honesty? Not so much. I am not saying that she hasn’t worked hard, she has. Her book is proof of that, and it is definitely tool I will be utilizing post-baby. Would she have gotten a book deal if she hadn’t posted that controversial photo? I don’t believe so. It reminds me of the saying “any PR is good PR”. The photo was posted, there was a ton of conversation regarding it, both good and bad. Then she received a book deal and her business picked up even more.

I think Maria Kang has a great approach to fitness and healthy living, she doesn’t belive in the all or nothing diet, fad diets,etc… she has a natural approach to dealing with treats and indulgences. Not something the average person would get from her initial photo.

What do you think? Does a controversial spark sell more than straightforward honesty?

The Matheny Manifesto: How Parents are Ruining Youth Sports

This post was inspired by The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny. St. Louis Cardinals manager Matheny shares his tough-love philosophy for children’s team sports that translate to everyday life. Join From Left to Write on February 12th as we discuss The Matheny Manifesto. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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I know that my title seems a bit harsh, but I think it is 100% true. I am not saying that ALL parents are ruining youth sports, but I think a large amount of parents are doing more harm than good when it comes to youth sports.

“That set the tone for hockey. Every game we went to, parents were yelling. They yelled at their own kids. They yelled at the other team. They yelled at the coaches. They yelled at the referees. I wanted nothing to do with all of that.”

-The Matheny Manifesto

Nick and I used to always joke around (prior to having children) that if our children played organized sports that I wouldn’t be allowed to attend any games because I have a short temper and a loud mouth.  Now that we have one child and another on the way my opinions have vastly changed. Part of my opinions had changed because of how I felt about being a parent, but there is a part of my mind that has been changed because of this book.

Growing up I played soccer in the fall, spring, and summer. Practices were attended by parents, but the basically associated with each other, and weren’t scrutinizing the coaches. During games they would cheer, but I don’t remember much booing or yelling. Now, our soccer team wasn’t exactly state competition level, but my sister was on the Field Hockey team that won states year after year, in fact they won all 4 years that I was in high school. I wasn’t at the practices, but I went to a fair amount of home games and I remember cheering and encouragement from parents, but again, not really a lot of yelling.

In between being in youth and teen sports and becoming a parent I feel like SO MUCH has changed. I have witnessed parents screaming and yelling at other parents, players, umps, refs, etc… at games AND practices. What’s just as bad is the parent who singles out their child shouting words of encouragement during a game or practice. These types of behaviors make the child feel incredible amounts of pressure to perform and succeed, and if they don’t…I can’t imagine how they would feel, probably like they let down not only the coach and the team but their parent(s) as well.

I think there are other factors at play as well, and Matheny talks about these in length in his book, one of the major ones is parents going behind the childs back and asking the coach “why isn’t my child playing this position?”, “why isn’t my child a starter?”, “why doesn’t my child get as much playing time as x,y, and z?” “my son/daughter is the best, why do you let the other kids hit so much?”, you get the idea. If we want our kids to respect coaches and figures of authority then as parents we also need to do that. Our actions speak much louder than our words, and frankly I would be mortified if I found out my parents spoke to my coach like that behind my back.

Another factor is trying to make your child a one sport superstar when they are very young. I have always said I would let my child do what ever they want to do, and if they didn’t like it then they would finish out the season, out of respect to their teammates, but they don’t have to go back to the sport or activity. On the flip side, parents see that their child is excelling at one activity and they push them to become better, even to the point of burn out. A lot of professional athletes participated in multiple sports, even in high school, and it helped them not burn out and to become great team players.

I am not saying I am the perfect parent, and I have it all figured out. I have a hard time observing from the sidelines during B’s soccer and swim practices and not saying “you’re doing great” and other encouraging behavior. I know that I do need to real it in especially if my children want to participate in youth sports in the future.

The best thing I can do for my children? Be 100% supportive, respect the coach, teammates and other parents. Let my children have fun and enjoy what they are doing.

If you have a child in youth sports, I highly recommend reading this book!

Do you agree or disagree, are parents ruining youth sports?

If I Fall, I Die: The Fear of Raising Kids

This post was inspired by the novel If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie,about a boy who’s never been outside, thanks to his mother’s agoraphobia, but ventures outside in order to solve a mystery. Join From Left to Write on January 22nd as we discuss If I Fall, If I Die. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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I really loved this book, it was a frustrating read, just because you wanted the mom to get better for the sake of her son, but at the end of the book I understood her fears. She doesn’t want her son to go outside because of her own fears, and he admits to doing things to ease her anxiousness, but he does eventually go outside.

This is the quote that resonated with me:

“But the shadow that love can’t help but cast is fear: fear they won’t stay alive or around-fear they’ll be reckless, or doomed, or just walk away and not consider you ever again. With love, you’re scared it will disappear. With fear, you’re scared it never will”

When I was pregnant with B the scary pregnancy dreams were so intense I would wake up with tears in my eyes. Dreams that I wouldn’t be a good mom, that I would lose my child, that something bad would happen to him, you name it I dreamt it. After B was born I hoped the dreams would stop, but they didn’t. They were less intense and vivid, but they still happened. Eventually they slowly started going away, I’d have one occasionally, but it wasn’t taking such a toll on me.

In the past year or so they started coming back, not just dreams, but you know in those moments before you fall asleep, I’d have images of someone breaking into our house and harming him, carjacking us, etc… The worst things racing through my mind, and then I would be awake and completely unable to go back to sleep.

Now that I am pregnant again, the dreams are back in full force. I try to use meditation to calm myself down (the Headspace App is wonderful) and talk through what I would do if this situation was to actually happen.

I think what I wasn’t prepared for as a mom is the constant fear and worry. Are we doing the right thing? Did I pick the right pre-school? Is my kids getting bullied? Are we giving him the right foods? I can’t imagine that this is going to get easier as the kids get older, only harder. I don’t even want to think about driving or college!

I have to believe in myself as a parent. I have to raise my kid with love and respect, but also with rules and consequences.

How do you deal with the anxiety and fears of being a parent?

Dataclysm: How Do We Choose Our Relationships?

This post was inspired by Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by OKCupid co-founder Christian Rudder, where he analyzes online data to find out that people who prefer beer are more likely to have sex on a first date. Join From Left to Write on October 9th as we discuss Dataclysm. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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I will be honest, I haven’t quite finished this book yet, it is pretty fascinating, even for someone who has never used an online dating website. I think one of the themes that stood out is why we choose our partners, and for the sake of this post, and friends?

Do we choose based on looks, first impressions, etc? I think sometimes that we make our decisions based on what we’ve seen during our lifetime. Do you hang out with a group of people who constantly parties? Maybe that is what you are into, but would you naturally make that decision?

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For me, my life growing up wasn’t super structured, there was a lot of uncertainty, and I can see that in the relationships of my former friends and family. I craved the structure, someone who was comfortable with being settled and not having this really fast-paced lifestyle. To me this is not boring, this is real life.

Sure, we do exciting things and have taken fun trips, but I love the fact that Nick and I can sit at home and watch a movie and have fun. My husband is one of the most sensitive and responsible people I know. For a lot of people that translates to boring, but not for me. I grew up in a chaotic lifestyle, and this is exactly the type of life I want to raise my child in.

I also have chosen my friends to be similar, I don’t like having people who are unreliable in my life, if I can help it. It’s taken quite a few of my adult years to cut out the people who aren’t reliable or supportive. This doesn’t mean that my friends have to be in the same situation as me. Some of these friends are single and have yet to had children, and yet I am closer to them than I was with some friends that are married with children. Now, even though the friends circle is a bit smaller, I have a group of friends that I know I can count on 100%, no matter what the situation is.

Did you choose a partner with a childhood similar to yours or completely different? What about friends, do you keep all your old friends around even if your views aren’t the same?

The Underground Girls of Kabul: Raising Boys

This post was inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul by journalist Jenny Nordberg, who discovers a secret Afghani practice where girls are dressed and raised as boys. Join From Left to Write on September 16th as we discuss The Underground Girls of Kabul. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Underground-Girls-of-Kabul-FL2W-Book-Club The first book for September is a bit heavy. If you’d like to read a bit about it you can read this modified piece from The Atlantic. The author talked to many families in Afghanistan, where it is not just nice to have a son, it is necessary. Regardless of your financial stature, if you do not produce a son you are not a worthy woman, and your husband should be embarrassed. This has led to a society where women will say that their daughter is a son, and will present the child as such. This is used for two reasons, the first is that many believe this will lead to the next child actually being a son, and also because the child can help out. The “boy” can get a job and make money, can escort the women in the family outside the house, etc…

This led to me thinking about raising boys vs. raising girls. I obviously don’t have a girl, but I have some friends that do. Coming from an engineering college, a lot of these women raise their girls with dolls and frilly pink. They have tractors and trucks, and toys that generally are labeled boys toys. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with raising your daughter that way, but I think there is a double standard. When a girl chooses a truck over a doll people think it is great, bend those gender stereotypes, but if a boy is seen playing with a doll or something pink they are immediately labeled gay or fruity or a pansy, etc…

Personally, my son can play with whichever toy he wants. He loves Cars and Legos (we have about 1000 of each currently strewn about our living room), he loves getting playing in the dirt and racing his Tonka trucks down the driveway, he also Frozen and Sofia, and at preschool the two toys he loves the most, right now anyway, are the lego table and the doll house. He wasn’t the only boy who gravitated to the doll house either, and no parent had a problem with it. If he showed up with the Sofia backpack he wanted, he already had a Cars one at home, I don’t know that all parents would have taken it in stride. My fear isn’t that my son would want to play with girly toys, my fear is that other parents or children will make fun of him for it.

What would you do if your son wanted a Sofia backpack?

2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas: Dealing with the Unexpected

This post was inspired by 2 A.M. At The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino, a novel about hope, love, and music in snow covered streets of Philadelphia. Join From Left to Write on August 28 we discuss 2 A.M. At The Cat’s Pajamas. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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 In the book Madeline’s life changed forever with the death of her mother and she had to change her everyday life. It’s no secret that I had a miscarriage, so it is probably no secret that Nick and I have been trying for almost year to get pregnant again. I wish I could end this post with a ta-da, I am pregnant, but I can’t.

I hate saying this, but I got pregnant easily the first two times. The first time I was on the pill, and it was a shock to say the least, but now I have a happy and healthy 3-year-old, and I would not change a single thing. When Nick and I discussed having a second baby, without a lot of effort I was pregnant again. Just like that, I wasn’t. It  was the worst thing I have ever been through.

Now with B starting pre-school it is really hitting me hard. I never expected to have this time to be by myself. Having a few hours a day where I could pretty much do anything is completely unexpected. Many people tell me that I will figure it out, because hopefully soon enough that will change. And I get it, I do, but this wasn’t the plan, and I hate that I couldn’t control this.

IMG_8698I mean, who wants to spend a minute away from this guy?

On top of all this, Nick and I have been seeing an RE (reproductive endocrinologist) to figure out exactly what is wrong with me, and it is never an easy process, is anything.., and one that I am not quite ready to put on this blog because I am still dealing with the process that we are going through and some of the diagnosis we were given.

I know in life things never go how you plan and you have to roll with the punches, so here I go, attempting to let life guide me and not the other way around…

 

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: I’ve Got a Golden Ticket!

This post was inspired by the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.

Head over to From Left to Write to learn how you and your child can have a chance to win the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes where the grand prize is a magical trip to New York City plus much more! For every entry submitted, Penguin Young Readers Group will make a donation to First Book. Then, join From Left to Write on July 24 as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As a book club member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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I don’t know about you, but I am one of those annoying people where I totally believe the book is better than the movie, and the remake is NEVER as good as the original. However Charlie and the Chocolate Factory only falls into one of those categories. I saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory before I ever read the book.

While I believe the remake is much closer to the original story written by Roald Dahl 50 years ago, the original movie will always hold a special place in my heart. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen both movies!

The opening credits always made me crave milky sweet chocolate. I always wished that I had a local candy shop like Charlie and his classmates. I think, hands down, my favorite part of the movie is when Willie Wonka leads the kids and their guardian through the factory and into the first room with the fudge waterfall and the gigantic gummy bears. Did you ever talk about what you would eat first if you ended up in that room, because my sister and I totally did. I totally memorized all the oompa loompa songs in the original movie and I have to say, I loved those way more than the ones in the second movie.

There were parts that totally scared the pants off of me, and probably you too. The scenes with Mr. Slugworth, totally creepy, and the boat ride after the first room, terrifying. These are scenes that are most definitely not in the remake, but are also not part of the book. And can we talk about the part where Charlie’s mom sings in the alleyway? Does anyone like that part?

Are you more of a fan of the original or the remake? Any favorite parts that remind you of childhood? 

Don’t forget to enter the Golden Ticket Contest!

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Ruby: You Are More Than The Hand You Are Dealt

This post was inspired by Ruby by Cynthia Bond, a gripping novel about overcoming our past and embracing love in a racially charged rural 1950s Texas.  Join From Left to Write on May 8 we discuss Ruby. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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If you are relatively new to the blog, you may have noticed a lot of book club posts. From Left to Write members don’t write traditional book reviews for the books we have been sent and read. Instead we use a theme, small or large, as a jumping point for our own posts.

Ruby was hard to read, not just because of the race issue but because a huge part of me was frustrated with Ruby. Ephram, another character in the book, was strong enough to overcome the past that he was handed and make a life that he was proud of, but Ruby could not. I wanted to shake her and tell her she was better than her past and her upbringing, she could have a life worth living.

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I will always say one of my biggest inspirations is my husband, and I know most of you are probably rolling your eyes and think that I am being super cheesy, but there are some parts of my husband’s life that I’ve never shared, and now we are ready to share with you. I asked Nick to write about his past and this is what he had to say:

When I was in 6th grade, I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that had the unfortunate side effect of causing me to lose all sight in one eye and a good deal of sight in the other. At first it was thought that some of my sight might be restored in some time, that the vision loss was only a temporary effect of excess brain fluid causing pressure on my optic nerves until a shunt was installed in my head to relieve said pressure. However, after visiting quite a few specialists, it was determined that I would likely live the rest of my life as a legally blind individual. 

Of course this was an insanely difficult burden to bear by an 11-year old and luckily I had the most incredible family to help me through what I still look back on as the most difficult time in my life. My teenage years were spent trying to adapt to my new situation, a great deal of that time spent wishing that things could go back to the way they were when I could see 20/20 like the rest of my peers. Gradually, as I started coming to terms with the hand life had dealt me, I started to accept who I was. Eventually I found that there were things in life that I could be great at, despite not being able to see. Music became a huge passion and by the time I was accepted into college, computers had also become a significant part of my life, ultimately shaping my career path.  

 Today I am a very successful software developer. I get to work on life-impacting software every day, which is more that I could have ever hoped for out of a career. I have a beautiful family of my own and we live in a wonderful house. I have more than many people in this world would ever dream of, and I am so thankful for that. Can I see well enough to drive myself to work, or read books to my son, or catch a baseball? No. But I refuse to live my life being defined by the things that I cannot do and rather, focus on the things that I can do. Yes, sometimes things are harder for me, and from time to time, that really sucks, but at the end of the day, I truly believe that If I work hard enough and try to be a good person, life will reward me the same as it would any sighted person. 

Honestly, reading what Nick wrote brought me to tears, he hasn’t by any means had it easy but he could’ve taken a much different path than the one he is on. He could be living off disability money from the state, being angry at the world, but he chose to live a life that will fulfill him and fulfill his family. Not only is he a positive person, but he doesn’t let other people’s ignorance annoy him or take away from his life (something I am still working on). He is a better father than many and an amazing husband. I am so grateful that he is a part of my life, and that we walk this path together.

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Get Skinny Again: Review

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge in exchange for my review through my relationship with FitFluential. As always all opinions are my own. 

IMG_7785I received Sarah’s book: Get Skinny Again! back in February but I wanted to be able to try some of the recipes and workouts before I was able to give a thorough review to you. Before we get to the review I want to address the title of the book, while my end goal is not to “get skinny again” it is to have a healthy lifestyle and enjoy the healthy foods and workouts that are a part of my every day. I know the title can be off-putting, but I find that is the case for most healthy living type of books.

Sarah’s blog and YouTube channel were among the first I read and watched when I started getting into blogs, I always appreciated that she is real and talks about healthy living in a way that applies to most people, not just bloggers. She has HIIT workouts and how to buy a week of groceries under $40. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting Sarah in person, she’s a very well-known blogger and YouTube personality, but she is extremely nice and encouraging to everyone she meets.

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The book is divided into three parts:

  • Time To Get On Your Fitness
  • Time To Eat Clean To Get Lean
  • Time To Live The Fit Life

I really loved all the different workouts in this book, there were a bunch of different types of workouts and I loved that each move had one entire page dedicated to it. For a lot of workout plans I end up looking on YouTube for some exercises, and there are a lot of badly performed exercises uploaded. The pictures show the moves and most steps as well as what you should not look like or be doing in some moves. I do wish they showed some modifications for items like push-ups or side planks. Not every person can do all the moves and it would be nice to not have to improvise or complete an exercise in poor form.

There are not only strength workouts, but cardio workouts as well, some of the cardio workouts include running. I do wish Sarah had used not only speed numerals but cues to how you should be feeling as not everyone runs the same pace. Overall, I really loved the Fitness section, it included home and gym workouts as well as stretching.

Now on to the Food section. Sarah included a lot of healthy options that you can find at chain restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and I really appreciated that. She also gave some helpful ideas for meal planning, and of course recipes. I can’t wait to try the Salsa Chicken Quesadillas and Energy Bites.

IMG_6253Peanut Butter & Jelly Time Smoothie (minus the chia)

The last section, Living the FIT LIFE, is one of the most important, it stresses that every journey is different, and every body is different. What works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. She also gives ideas about how to still have a social life and go out with your friends, significant other, etc… and still eat or drink healthier items. I appreciate a healthy lifestyle book that doesn’t expect you to give up your social life and spending time eating outside your own kitchen.

You can buy the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You can follow Get Skinny Again on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can follow Sarah on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Have you read Sarah’s book? Do you read her blog or watch her YouTube channel? What do you think?