Friday, December 31, 2010

New study: Females choose cocaine; males prefer food

Cocaine.  Photo: DEA

Are recreational drugs more enjoyable for women than for men? A recent study on that topic caught caught my eye this morning.

Women are more sensitive to cocaine

"Human studies of cocaine dependence indicate that women enter drug treatment faster than men and report shorter cocaine-free periods," said scientist Kerry Kerstetter of the University of California, Santa Barbara. These and other observations indicate that human females are more sensitive to cocaine, have a greater cocaine craving and are more likely to relapse than men.

White lab rat. Photo: DEA

Female rats choose cocaine over food

To explore this question in more depth, Kerstetter turned to lab rats. She trained rats to press a lever to get food and a different lever to get cocaine, then gave hungry rats a choice between the two levers.  The hungry female rats chose the cocaine lever about half the time.  But hungry male rats showed a definite preference for the food lever. The gender difference was statistically significant.  "It appears that females are more likely than males to sacrifice food for low doses of cocaine," Kerstetter said.

Kerstettler then more than doubled the volume of cocaine delivered by pressing the cocaine lever. In this situation, both sexes chose cocaine more often. But female rats still preferred the drug more than the males did.  Females chose cocaine over food 75 to 80% of the time, compared with less than 50% of the time for the males.

Female hormones may be responsible

No one knows the reason for these gender differences yet.  But Kerstettler believes that female hormones play a role. Female rats that had their ovaries removed after puberty behaved more like males, choosing food more frequently. Kerstettler and her colleagues believe female hormones may set up or regulate the response to cocaine in the brain.

Gender differences can guide treatment plans

On a practical note, Kerstettler and other neuroscientists believe that understanding gender differences can help individualize the treatment of cocaine addiction.


Laura Sanders. "Cocaine trumps food for female rats." Science News.  Dec 3, 2010.

"Sweets or cocaine? Male rats prefer sweets; female rats favor cocaine."  Science Daily.

Key words: cocaine females choose cocaine drug addiction Kerry Kerstettler gender differences sex differences drug treatment

Monday, December 20, 2010

10 Tips for Coping with Holiday Stress and Depression

Depressed.  Photo: public domain

Confrontive dad arrives for the holidays
A friend told me yesterday about his parents arriving at his home for the holidays. His wife was taking a shower when the parents arrived. His father said, "Where's your wife? She should be downstairs to greet us. I think that shows a lack of respect."  My friend, stressed by the arrival of his parents with their usual expectations, as well as the presence of his sister's family and a passel of kids, responded defensively. "Well, Pop," he said, "this is my house.  If you don't like the way we do things here, you can just leave."

So the family holiday was off to a roaring start. My friend felt bad about his response to his dad, but really, dad started it by arriving with expectations, and by stating them in such a critical manner.

Christmas is marketed as a time of cheer, presents, and family togetherness, but whether you're with your family or not, Christmas is actually a time of stress for most of us, and a depressing time for some.

What causes the stress and depression? According to the Mayo Clinic, these three holiday triggers can lead to a meltdown.  Being aware of these triggers in advance can help you take care of yourself.

Recognize Holiday Triggers
  • Relationships. Relationships can cause turmoil, conflict or stress at any time, but tensions are often heightened during the holidays. Family misunderstandings and conflicts can intensify — especially if you're thrust together for several days. On the other hand, facing the holidays without a loved one can be tough and leave you feeling lonely and sad.
  • Finances. With the added expenses of gifts, travel, food and entertainment, the holidays can put a strain on your budget — and your peace of mind. Not to mention that overspending now can mean financial worries for months to come.
  • Physical demands. Even die-hard holiday enthusiasts may find that the extra shopping and socializing can leave them wiped out. Being exhausted increases your stress, creating a vicious cycle. Exercise and sleep — good antidotes for stress and fatigue — may take a back seat to chores and errands. To top it off, burning the wick at both ends makes you more susceptible to colds and other unwelcome guests.
What to do?
So what can you do if find yourself  stressed out, behaving badly, exhausted, depressed?  The Mayo Clinic offers the following 10 guidelines for healthy self-caring.

10 Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress and Depression
  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression too.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Where did my friend and his quarrelsome dad go wrong?
As I read the lists above, I was wondering which "Trigger" and which "Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress..." relate to the interaction between my friend and his dad.

The relevant trigger was the first one, "Relationships." That was easy.

The relevant "Tips to Prevent Holiday Stress..." was #4, "Set Aside Differences".  It says "Try to accept family members... even if they don't live up to all your expectations."  Dad started the harsh exchange by saying the wife should greet them upon arrival, regardless of her need to take a shower. I imagine this particular Dad may often state expectations, and may often state disappointment or even resentment when they're not met.  Perhaps he could give it a rest on holidays.

It's understandable that Son would be annoyed by such a statement, that his wife's absence is disrespectful. She'd probably been working all day getting ready for the guests. But, Son could react in other ways. He could say nothing and leave the room; go call a friend to vent. Or he could say "Dad, that hurts my feelings. Laurie's been working really hard to get ready for you." Or "I'm sorry you feel that way." Silence and a short walk around the yard might be the best choice. That leaves Dad no opportunity to give another punch.

Knowing that family conflict is likely over the holidays might help Son choose an option other than suggesting that his dad leave.

Keep expectations low, acceptance high
Keeping all the above triggers and tips in mind might help each of us to "keep expectations low, acceptance high" this holiday season.  I also need to set limits on the outflow of money, and take extra steps to make sure I don't get emotionally and physically depleted. Just another week or two and it'll all be over!

Key words: holiday stress Christmas stress Christmas depression tips for coping with holiday stress and depression mayo clinic

Thursday, December 16, 2010

308 rhinos killed in South Africa this year for their horns

 Photo: Sally Kneidel

The website "Bush warriors: stop poaching and bushmeat" reported today that four more rhinos have been killed illegally in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, the area that includes Kruger National Park. Rhino horns are used for traditional Chinese medicines, despite the fact that rhino horns have been analyzed thoroughly and have no true medicinal properties. Their monetary value is based entirely on Chinese myth and folklore. A single horn is worth tens of thousands of dollars on the black market. Most of the horns poached in South Africa are smuggled into China and Vietnam.

The increase in poaching of rhinos and elephants in South Africa has been linked to a flood of Chinese weapons into the area. According to the Bush warriors website, the South African government has stepped up patrols to apprehend poachers, but the courts are a weak link. Although 147 people were arrested for rhino-related crimes in 2010, the courts repeatedly fail to impose serious penalties as a deterrent, instead granting affordable bail amounts as punishment.

 A mother rhino's stumps after dehorning. Photo: Sally Kneidel

Today's post on Bush warriors describes and has links to articles about collusion by "insiders" that is fueling South Africa's growing rhino crisis. To read the informative post on the Bush warriors site, click here.

See also one of my previous posts about rhino poaching in South Africa, following my investigations there in 2009 and 2007.

And check out TRAFFIC: the wildlife trade monitoring network, a great source of information about poaching and the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife parts, worldwide.

Key words: rhino poaching South Africa China Chinese weapons Vietnam Bush warriors Chinese traditional medicine blackmarket wildlife poaching  poachers TRAFFIC

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas tree debate: Is fake or real more sustainable?

Readers, a woman who works for the Nature Conservancy asked me to post this article debating fake vs. real Christmas trees, by the Conservancy's Frank Lowenstein. It's also posted on the Nature Conservancy website. The debate is worth thinking about this time of year, although the solution is murky, for me.  Following is Frank's article (in black) followed by my own assessment (in purple).

Frank Lowenstein of the Nature Conservancy

"My home sits in the Berkshire Hills, with a distant view of the second highest peak in Massachusetts– Mt. Everett. Surrounding my house is a swath of farmland, which includes a Christmas tree farm owned by the Chapin family, who arrived in my town in about 1830.

Photo credit: liljulier/flickr via a Creative Commons license

In its heyday in the 1990s, the Chapin Christmas Tree Farm was packed with people from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas eve. Families would arrive on our small dirt road from a 2-hour radius (south to Manhattan, west to Albany, east to Hartford). Children and parents would pile out of cars to prowl the several acres of trees in search of The One that was just right. Eventually each family would find the tree that best fit their image of Christmas (and their living room), and my neighbor or his grandson would pull out a saw and the transaction was completed.

This scene—one of family togetherness, people asserting their own unique taste, and support of local agriculture– is today rarer than it should be. More than twice as many families in the United States use fake trees as real ones. Beyond the losses to family interactions and local economies, this situation is bad for our climate.

Fake trees are usually made from a kind of plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which is derived from petroleum. Electricity is used to melt the plastic, and approximately 85% of the fake trees sold in the US are shipped here from China. Most of China’s electricity comes from burning coal—the dirtiest source of electricity. Once the fake trees are made, they still have to be shipped across the ocean—usually in a diesel-fuel powered ship. More emissions still. (Fake trees also sometimes release lead when they get old, which isn’t a climate impact, but still is not a great thing to have happening in your living room.)

Real trees of course do sometimes require shipping. Today on US Route 7, I saw a truck with Quebec license plates headed south—loaded with about 250 bound-up real trees.

But real trees also grow in the ground for several years before they are cut, absorbing carbon out of the atmosphere every year. The vast majority of real trees today come from Christmas tree farms—about 12,000 of which exist in the United States. On these farms each tree cut is typically replaced by a new tree or two or three, which continue removing carbon from the air.

And once Christmas is over you can use your real tree in many ways—the boughs can be cut and used as a protective covering over delicate shrubs, the tree can be chipped and composted, and there’s the ever popular New Year’s Eve bonfire (if you live in an appropriate place for bonfires). Real trees can also be used to help trap sand on beaches, preventing erosion, or sunk in ponds to provide habitat for fish and other wildlife.

For best climate impact, find a local tree farm to buy from. The National Christmas Tree Association allows you to search by zip code. Or this site offers a listing by state and county. And perhaps an organic Christmas tree is best of all. Twenty-two states now have organic Christmas tree farms."
Frank Lowenstein


Are any Christmas trees a good idea??

I agree that fake trees aren't "green"

I'm glad to see Frank point out the downside of fake trees - that 85% are made in China and that most of those factories are fueled by coal, a major source of greenhouse gases. In addition, the trees are shipped with diesel fuel. They're not recyclable - but they are reusable, and can be given away when you're tired of them.  We had a fake tree for several years (the same one). When we no longer wanted it, we gave it away easily by posting it on We had several callers who wanted it and got rid of it the first day, to a grateful family.

But real ones aren't sustainable either

I'm not sure I agree with Frank's recommendation for live trees over fake. It's true that immature trees remove more carbon from the air (for photosynthesis) than they emit (via respiration). And yes, they can be shredded and used as mulch. If you buy locally, you're avoiding the fossil fuels used in transport.

But any tree plantation is a biodiversity desert, whether it's loblolly pines for the pulp and timber industry of the southeastern U.S., or palm trees for the palm-oil industry in Southeast Asia. Pulitzer Prize winning ecologist E.O. Wilson compared the biodiversity of a tree plantation to a that of a Walmart parking lot.

Palm-oil plantations from the air, Borneo. Photo: Sally Kneidel

Tree plantations displace wildlife habitat

Most tree plantations are chemically managed with herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides - so there is no semblance of a natural food chain in a tree plantation. As such, they're no more useful to wildlife than pavement is. And at a time when almost all wildlife populations are shrinking due to habitat loss, AND we're facing mass extinctions.....eliminating wildlife habitat for a tree plantation is not a beneficial venture.  The Appalachian mountains near my home are dotted with Christmas tree farms, and it makes me sick to look at them. Not to mention the ruined habitat I saw on Borneo and Sumatra this past summer. Flying over Indonesia or floating down its rivers, I saw palm plantation after palm plantation - where tropical rain forest used to be. One of the most frustrating sights I've ever seen.

I don't have any easy answers about Christmas trees. The best choice is to acquire a potted plant you can use year after year.  Or just skip the Christmas tree.  I wish, as a culture, we could do that en masse. Then children wouldn't feel deprived.  Given the massive habitat loss affecting our planet today, Christmas trees are not a habit we can afford to continue.
Sally Kneidel, PhD

Some of my previous posts about tree plantations:
Orangutans dwindle as Borneo, Sumatra converted to palm-oil plantations. Aug 3, 2010

My search for a wild orangutan on Borneo and Sumatra. Aug 16, 2010

Why use toilet paper?  No need to flush our forests. Oct 11, 2010

Plush toilet paper flushes old forests. Sept 26, 2009

A trampled state fights back. May 18, 2007.

One African family struggles to survive. March 17, 2007.

The wildlife trade, forestry, and the value of activism. May 27. 2006

Key words: fake Christmas trees real Christmas trees fake vs real Nature Conservancy biodiversity desert carbon sink fossil fuel climate change

Monday, December 06, 2010

Hunting may threaten orangutans even more than habitat loss

Wild adult male orangutan on Sumatra. Photo: Sally Kneidel

[See bottom of this page for list of my previous posts about orangutans.]
Most people are surprised to learn that unlawful traffic in wildlife and wildlife parts is the third biggest criminal activity in the world, after drugs and arms. The illegal hunting of great apes is so pervasive that it may threaten their survival even more than habitat loss does. Habitat loss is rampant these days, due to human population I wouldn't have believed that hunting could be an even bigger threat until reading a recent paper by Vincent Nijman (and 5 other scientists). Nijman is a scientist at Oxford Brookes University, a consultant to TRAFFIC, and has published numerous research papers on orangutan conservation.  He and the other authors of this particular paper collected convincing data that suggest orangutan populations have been reduced more by hunting than anything else.
 Wild male orangutan resting, Sumatra. Photo: Sally Kneidel

I crisscrossed Indonesia and Malaysia looking for orangutans

I was on the islands Borneo and Sumatra a few months ago, searching high and low for wild orangutans. That was my main reason for going to Southeast Asia.  I had researched sites carefully in advance and I chose my destinations accordingly; consequently, I was lucky enough to see a number of wild orangutans in undisturbed forests. But as Dr. Nijman writes, "Bornean orangutans currently occur at low densities and seeing a wild one is a rare event." In contrast, historic collectors like Alfred Russel Wallace in the 1800s saw many orangutans daily and "were able to shoot continuously over weeks or even months."  Clearly, orangutans are much rarer today than they were in the past. That's true not only of orangutans, but also for the other great apes.

Chimpanzees and gorillas are hunted for meat

I saw on the "Planet Green" network on November 24 a one-hour documentary about an investigation into the hunting of chimpanzees and gorillas for bushmeat in Cameroon. The investigator, Steve Galster, said these two apes are popular meat because they're so big and fleshy relative to other remaining wildlife. The primary reasons they're shot or trapped is to eat them, to sell their meat to neighbors, or to transport the meat by train or car to city markets. But when baby animals are captured after shooting the mother, the babies can be shipped abroad to be sold as pets. So killing a mother ape is doubly profitable.

Gorilla carried out of the forest. Photo courtesy of United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization

A pet chimp brings social status

I was impressed with the diligence of the filmmakers for this Planet Green show, which featured an undercover sleuth (a local woman) equipped with a tiny concealed camera visiting a local man who was trying to sell a baby chimp. The chimp was eventually confiscated and sent to a sanctuary. Even at the sanctuary, though, young chimps are vulnerable to theft in order to sell them. The demand for them is huge.

 Baby chimp, Wikimedia Commons 

Having a baby chimp is a social asset, the narrator said - something to show off no matter where you live. I can imagine that. There aren't many things in life more interesting than a living baby ape. In this Planet Green documentary, the poachers and smugglers who were caught on film all wound up going free, through "negotiations" (bribery) or police who failed to show up in court, or officials who took pity on impoverished poachers and their children.

Strong evidence that hunting has hurt orangutans more than habitat loss

The research of Vincent Nijman (and 5 colleagues) into the hunting of orangutans on Borneo was published in the online journal PLoS ONE in August, 2010. The researchers used "encounter rates" to measure the density of orangutans over the last 150 years in a variety of different habitats on Borneo. Their data came from hunting accounts, museum collections, and field studies. By the researchers' calculations, the number of Bornean orangutans has declined about 6-fold since the mid-1800s. The convincing aspect of their data is this: If large-scale deforestation and forest degradation caused the decline, then we would expect to see a sudden decline after the 1960s and 1970s, "coincident with major intensification of [deforestation] during this period." However, encounter rates declined steadily for at least 120 years before major deforestation began. Furthermore, say Nijman et al., although orangutan numbers do generally decrease following habitat disturbance, they manage to survive in high densities in some areas that have been heavily disturbed or even clear-cut and planted with monoculture plantations. Nijman et al. also noted that local orangutan extinctions or historical declines have occurred in the same areas where we know orangutans have been heavily hunted.

 Mother and infant orangutan in forest on Borneo.  Photo: Sally Kneidel

Orangutans now extinct in upland Borneo, where hunting was heavy historically

Mother and infant orangutan on Borneo.  Photo: Sally KneidelFor example, orangutans have long been extinct in upland areas of Borneo where poor soil prevents farming - areas that were historically populated by nomadic humans forced to rely on hunting. In contrast, freshwater and peat swamp environments were mostly not inhabited by people until the 19th century, but were densely populated by orangutans. The PLoS ONE paper sites many other examples of hunting-related distribution patterns of orangutans. In eastern Sabah (a state in Borneo), roving bands of head-hunters provided a refuge for orangutans and other wildlife, because other humans were afraid to enter the area. That refuge ended when head-hunting was banned.

Nijman et al. conclude that hunting has been underestimated as a key causal factor of orantugan density and distribution, and that orangutan population declines have been more severe than previously estimated based on habitat loss only.

Why do people still hunt orangutans?

The red apes, among our closest relatives, are still hunted for food or traditional medicines, as agricultural pests, for trophies, and more recently, for the pet trade. When I was in Southeast Asia in June and July, I visited the wildlife markets of Jakarta, where vendors openly flaunt wildlife-protection laws that are seldom enforced. There I was offered pet orangutans, along with many other supposedly protected primates, protected birds, and even a baby jaguar. Many told me they were carrying on a family business that had been handed down by their fathers. For more about my time in the Jakarta markets, see this post.

Trapping, shooting, eating, and selling wildlife are long-held traditions in forest cultures. Solutions must involve enforcement of local laws protecting forests and wildlife, and enforcement of penalties. That's something that's not happening right now in developing countries. But it must if orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, tigers, and thousands of other species are to survive this century. Many organizations are busy, on site, trying to make it happen. In Southeast Asia, TRAFFIC and Greenpeace are working hard to turn things around.

What can you do?

Support some of the NGOs who are making the most progress in protecting orangutans from illegal hunting and trade and who are fighting to protect Southeast Asia's remaining forests from destruction.

These are some of the best:

Greenpeace International
TRAFFIC: the wildlife trade monitoring network
ProFauna (an Indonesian NGO that helped me in Jakarta by providing a local guide to go with me to the markets)
World Wildlife
Rainforest Action Network
Earth Pulp and Paper

My previous posts on conservation in Southeast Asia:

Some of my previous posts on wildlife smuggling around the world:

Monkeys and parrots pouring from the jungle. September, 2008
The U.S. imports 20,000 primates per year. February, 2010
The great apes are losing ground. March, 2010

Some of my previous posts about deforestation:

Orangutans dwindle as Borneo, Sumatra converted to palm-oil plantations August 3, 2010
Wild tigers are in trouble October 4, 2010
Plush toilet paper flushes old forests. September 26, 2009

Keywords: orangutans hunting habitat loss bushmeat Planet Green gorillas chimpanzees Southeast Asia Africa TRAFFIC Greenpeace ProFauna wildlife trade wildlife smuggling

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"The Yoga of Eating" by Charles Eisenstein: A Book Review

 Readers, the following is a guest post submitted to me by freelance writer Robin Merrill

Greetings fellow revolutionaries! It is my pleasure to tell you about a book I’ve just discovered – The Yoga of Eating. At first I found, as you might find, this to be a bizarre title. I thought of yoga as a meditation for the body, a way of stretching and exercising for holistic health. I didn’t understand how one was supposed to stretch while eating.

How is yoga related to eating?

So, I did what all good readers do: I looked it up. If we define yoga as training our consciousness for a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility, then it starts to make sense. And that’s what this book has done for me, more than most any book I’ve ever read: it makes sense. Perfect, conscionable, rational, peaceful sense. And you’re hearing from a woman who has read approximately a trillion diet books.

I’ve listened to every expert there is and tried every variety of diet, including raw vegan. I’ve watched the television programs, listened to the podcasts, visited the websites, and scoured the books for the words that would lead me back to the vitality I enjoyed when I was younger.

The best expert is your own body

But I never listened to me. I never asked the best expert there is on my body: my body. She is the expert, according to Charles Eisenstein. If I will just listen to her, I will know when I am thirsty. She will tell me when I am hungry. And if I give her a chance, she will tell me when I am not hungry. She will tell me when to sleep, and when I need to go for a walk. She will tell me to trust her.

According to Eisenstein, current western culture pushes us toward a powerful and dangerous mistrust of the body. We are told that our bodies are our enemies, that they are breaking down, that our bodies need to be controlled and managed by medicines and treadmills. But this isn’t true. Now that I’ve started listening to my body, I’ve found that she’s pretty smart.

The weight your body wants to be

This is not a diet book, but if an overweight person employs the principles from this book, I don’t see how it’s possible that they would not begin a journey toward a healthy and balanced weight. Not necessarily high school cheerleader weight – not necessarily doctor’s office chart weight – not necessarily supermodel weight, but a healthy and balanced weight, which is the weight your body really wants to be.

Food has karma

Eisenstein’s book looks at topics such as the karma of food, how every bite we take affects the universe. He discusses sugar vs. artificial sweeteners, vitamin supplements, and the karma of processing our foods. (Processed people consume processed foods. This is a balance we’ve either created or fallen into by accident. If we want to consume fewer processed foods, we need be less processed ourselves ... I write this as my cell phone vibrates for my attention.)

The book also features a beautiful, poetic, and inspiring chapter on the yoga of cooking. Cooking can be a form of worship, instead of a chore?

We should listen to our cravings

He talks about distinguishing appetites from cravings, and how both have their value. If we listen to our cravings, we might be able to discern what it is we really need. We are doing ourselves a disservice by squashing our cravings, by insisting that they are evil, when they are only trying to speak the truth.

It took me weeks to read this book, as I had to keep searching for a highlighter or pencil. It will be one of the books that spends the rest of my life on my headboard. I plan to read it over and over. I believe it is a necessary book. I am not a person who finds it easy to love herself. I am a person who finds it easy to judge herself harshly and punish herself. Eisenstein writes, “self-rejection increases the need for external nurturance all the more.” By punishing myself all these years, I’ve only increased my need for comfort food.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who eats, and I especially recommend it to anyone who has struggled with eating, struggled against nourishment in pursuit of some cultural ideal. This book has changed my life and has allowed me to, at the age of thirty-three, get to know myself. Turns out I’m not so bad after all. Neither is food. Food is just food.

Robin Merrill is a freelance writer who can usually be found writing about jobs in criminal justice.

Key words: Robin Merrill Yoga of Eating Charles Eisenstein healthy eating diet weight loss