I recently decided to gather all of the books that were previously stacked in several different rooms, so I could sort and organize them all in one place. Now, instead of feeling stressed seeing them scattered all over the place, I look at my books and think about how much of my life and philosophy have been influenced by these books.
So many different books from a variety of authors have taught me so, so much. But there were a few that made such an impact that the concepts within them live forever in my mind. They influenced how I see myself, the world, and how I work with my clients, so I’m highlighting the books that changed me in today’s episode.
Tune in this week to discover the books that changed my life, and how they could change yours. I’m sharing my favorite quotes and concepts from the books that helped me on the way to self-acceptance, understanding my body, and so much more.
This is Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown, episode 148.
Welcome to Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you’re a successful woman who is ready to stop struggling with your weight, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn everything you need to know to lose weight for the last time in bitesize pieces. Here’s your host, Master Certified Coach Natalie Brown.
Hey, everybody. So I recently decided to gather all my books that were sort of scattered on random shelves around my house and stacked precariously high in some places in my room. That to read piles was getting really, really tall and kind of get them all together, sort and organize them all in one place, the built-ins next to my fireplace where they were all intended to live. So I did, I organized them by color like the Home Edit does, if you’re familiar with them. So now they’re all together in the most satisfying rainbow.
And instead of being stressed out looking at them I just feel so happy when I look at those shelves filled with books that I love. And as I was sorting through each title, I started to think about how much my life and philosophy has been influenced by books. So many books by so many varied authors have taught me so, so much. But there are a few that made such an impact that concepts I learned in them live forever in my mind. They influenced how I see myself and influence how I currently live and what I in turn teach my clients.
So I wanted to highlight them today and share my favorite quotes and concepts from each of them. And I also included a couple of bonus titles. I’m not going to give you quotes from just because it was hard to narrow it down completely. So one of those bonus books I’ll just start with, I want to mention it first because it was one of the first books on my journey to self-acceptance that I read that just really resonated with me and surprised me.
It’s Portia De Rossi’s autobiography titled Unbearable Lightness. It details her experience with anorexia and it is a painful and beautiful portrait of just what that experience was like from the inside. I had been a huge fan of Ally McBeal, that she was on, I loved her. And I paid really close attention to who was in the tabloids at the time. We did not have the internet to look up celebrities. We had to look at them in magazines. And there were many, many rumors about her eating disorder throughout the years.
It fascinated me to hear from her instead of the tabloids speculating about her own distorted view of herself and all of the lengths she went to and the deep harm she caused herself and her body in seeking worth and value. It was just so heartbreaking and also so relatable to me. Even though I hadn’t suffered with anorexia or bulimia I felt like I understood what it was like to loathe oneself and be hyper focused on appearance and treat my body like crap to look a certain way and be acceptable.
I was also amazed that someone beautiful and famous, and rich was so deeply unhappy. It was my first inkling that maybe it wasn’t the perfect body, or right amount of money, or beauty, or people admiring you that would make a person happy. At the same time I started to be interested in my relationship with food and overeating. And I really just wanted to understand more about it.
And so I read a book called The End of Overeating by Dr. David A Kessler that was just absolutely eye opening. It covers a wide range of topics, how sugar, fat and salt impact our bodies and brains, how rewarding foods rewire our brains. How the food industry has capitalized on that rewiring in order to get us to buy and eat more food. How our overeating becomes conditioned and how to treat it, how to reverse habits, how to learn to create a new relationship with food.
I even highlighted stuff in the endnotes of that book. And I looked up articles that he cited and I read them. I dove very deep. A couple of things I learned through reading this really shook me and changed my view. First, the understanding of how my brain and body respond to certain foods and that the processed food industry is using this to get all of us to eat more and more.
There are entire research and development departments at all the major food companies like Frito-Lay, Nabisco etc. that are wholly focused on getting the right combination of variables, of flavor, and sweetness, and saltiness, and mouth feel to make their snack foods irresistible, or cereals, or whatever it is, all the processed stuff. I remember just thinking, well, no wonder, maybe it isn’t a moral failing on my part. Maybe it isn’t that I am weak and broken. It’s actually that my brain and body are responding exactly as they’re supposed to, to these foods.
It isn’t my fault. I am being manipulated in a way. And I just had absolutely no idea. So it allowed me to have more compassion for myself and some hope that maybe I could make some changes because it wasn’t just a personal thing. One of the things that really stuck with me was this from the food rehab section of the book. He says, “Eventually we can begin to think differently about food, recognizing its value to sustain us and protect us from hunger. And denying it the authority to govern our lives.”
That was the most revolutionary concept I had heard at the time, that I could get to a place where food didn’t have power over me, that I could learn to think differently about it. I just had always spent my time fighting with it and just believing that I had to eat less of it or eliminate certain things in order to be okay. And to have this concept that I could get to a place where it didn’t have power over me. I didn’t have to fight with it. I didn’t have to constantly be on a diet. I could maybe learn to think differently.
That led me down the road of gaining a deeper understanding of how different foods impacted my body and how to nourish my body with real food. I read a few titles, many more than this but just a few that stand out to me, Food Inc., there is also a documentary about that you may have seen. Real Food by Nina Planck. Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, and The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung that just taught me so much about my body and food.
Besides struggling with food I also struggled with perfectionism and constantly overcommitting myself. I was always saying yes to everything and everyone in search of my value. At the time I equated busyness with value and being in charge of and doing a lot of things with worth. I was always behind, overwhelmed, procrastinating, scrambling, running late, and doing and accomplishing a lot in a very scattered and chaotic way.
And then I read a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown that just blew my mind. The full title is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less which is a pretty apt description. Here are some questions the author asked to allow you to gauge if this book is for you. How many times have you reacted to a request by saying yes without really thinking about it? How many times have you resented committing to do something and wondered, why did I sign up for this?
How often do you say yes simply to please or to avoid trouble or because yes has just become your default response? Now, let me ask you this, have you ever found yourself stretched too thin? Have you ever felt both overworked and underutilized? Have you ever found yourself majoring in minor activities? Do you ever feel busy but not productive, like you’re always in motion but never getting anywhere? Now, next to this in the margin of the book I just wrote me with a sad face. That was just exactly me at the time.
Here’s another favorite part. Many of us say yes to things because we are eager to please and to make a difference. Yet the key to making our highest contribution may well be saying no. The real question is not, can we do it all? It is who will get to choose what we do and don’t do? Remember, when we forfeit our right to choose, someone will choose for us. So we can either deliberately choose what not to do or allow ourselves to be pulled in directions we don’t want to go.
I have to say this book was the beginning of me learning to discern, learning to be honest and say no when it wasn’t a clear yes, giving myself permission to listen to and honor what I wanted and what I didn’t, and allow other people to be frustrated and disappointed instead of making myself carry the burden of frustration and disappointment so they wouldn’t. I really don’t think I believed no was an option before I read this. I know that may sound crazy to some of you, but I really didn’t.
This was groundbreaking. And this book taught me that it was an option and how to make decisions based on my values and my needs so that I could make the contribution I wanted to in the world and take really good care of myself. I am actually really good at saying no now to all sorts of things. This book also talked about the importance of sleep to our wellbeing and our ability to be productive and to contribute in the way that we want to. And at the time I was just perpetually staying up super late multiple times a week to finish laundry, or to do a project, or to just have some alone time.
And the section on sleep in this book changed my thinking on that. He says, “We need to pace ourselves, nurture ourselves and give ourselves fuel to explore, thrive and perform.” Now, bear in mind that I read this book at the very beginning of the social media age, before every other guru and influencer was telling you to rest, and take care of yourself, and slow down. So this was a revolutionary concept once again to me at the time and one that changed my life in so many ways. To this day I protect my sleep at all costs, whatever it is can wait till the morning
One of the most influential books on my mindset and my life as a result for sure has been The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris. It was my very first exposure to ACT which is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. And it is full of relatable concepts, applicable tools and lots of visual analogies and metaphors which as you know my brain just loves.
One of my very favorite things I learned from this book was that my perception of my world is made up of stories I tell myself or thoughts I have in my head. And that what matters is not whether the story is true but whether it’s helpful. To start to see the stories I was telling myself about what was happening in my life, or who I was, or whatever, and distanced myself from them in order to analyze and to understand them totally opened up my world.
One of my favorite exercises I learned that I use all the time is to take a thought that bothers or upsets me and add, I am having the thought that to the beginning of it. So instead of saying, “I’m being completely ridiculous”, it becomes, “I’m having the thought that I’m being completely ridiculous.” It diffuses it a little, changes the strength and intensity of it. So instead of totally identifying with it personally I can see it for what it is, a thought I’m having.
And then I can look at it more objectively. I can ask some questions of it. These are also from the book. Is this an old thought? Have I heard this one before? Do I gain anything useful from listening to it again? Does this thought help me to take effective action to improve my life? What would I get for buying into this thought? And to figure out if a thought is helpful or not you can ask some of these questions. Does it help me to be the person I want to be? Does it help me build the sort of relationships I’d like? Does it help me connect with what I truly value?
Does it help me in the long term to create a rich and meaningful life? This book is chock full of useful helpful stuff like this. My copy is full of underlining, and highlighting, and dogears, and writing in the margins, and post-it notes jammed in marking sections. It is well worn and well-loved. I recommend it to everyone. I gave copies of it to everyone in my family. I even had my kids read it for my Mother’s Day gift one year. And we had some family discussions about it because I think it’s so necessary for life.
I could go on and on about all of these books but specially this one, I won’t so this podcast won’t be three hours long. But grab a copy for yourself if you want more.
Another favorite book by one of my favorite authors and speakers is Finish by Jon Acuff. I really like all of his books but this one was just the first one I read and so I wanted to include it because it made an impact and started me on the path of reading more of his stuff. I really love the way he writes, his humor especially and the way he phrases things so memorably. He’s extremely quotable. This book is about how to not let perfectionism prevent you from accomplishing your goals.
He introduces some really great concepts in service of how to do this but one of my favorites is to cut your goal in half. He’s the very first and maybe only person I’ve heard talk about goals and encourage you to maybe do a little less and/or do it slower rather than just yell at you to hustle and grind and keep going. For some people that works but for the rest of us we need to be a little more gentle with ourselves, a little more realistic, give ourselves more time, put less pressure on ourselves. Because pushing too hard creates quitting.
And cutting the goal in half creates little successes that allow us to keep going instead. From the book, we’ve now bumped into the second lie of perfectionism, your goal should be bigger. Think about it this way. At the beginning when our excitement is through the roof, we think our achievement must be as well. This is why people who have never run 100 yards will tell me they are going to run a marathon. I will gently ask them, “Have you ever run a half marathon? Have you ever run a 5K? What about a K? Have you ever run just a single K?” Get yourself a tiny little medal.
The answer is always no, they have never run before but they insist on doing that marathon. Have you ever wondered why 92% of people fail at their goals? Because we tend to set goals that are foolishly optimistic. He has lots of studies, and evidence, and research to back up all of his recommendations. And it just all spoke to me. As a former perfectionist, a recovering perfectionist, it’s allowed me to think about goals in new ways and helped me to really focus on and celebrate successes so that I can finish.
Another favorite Jon Acuff book is Sound Tracks. It’s his most recent and I also love following him on social media. He has lots of helpful content. These last two books I want to highlight are my most favorite books that I have read maybe ever in the realm of self-development. I have some novels that might usurp them in terms of my favorite books ever of all time, but anyway More Than a Body by Lindsay and Lexie Kite. And Untamed by Glennon Doyle which I have covered both of them quite a bit on the podcast already so I won’t spend extraordinary amounts of time here.
Bet I’ll just share some of my favorite quotes from these powerful women. From More Than a Body one of my many favorite concepts. You are working to live your life free from those objectifying chains because you want to prove to yourself, to them and to everyone else that happiness, and love, and success are possible in any body because we are more than bodies.
Look around, lots of people look lots of different ways and have lives filled with fulfilment, love, connection, success, help, and all the things you have learned to associate only with thinness, youthfulness and narrowly defined sex appeal. Do not underestimate the power of looking around and seeing for yourself all the real life examples who bust the myths about who deserves to be loved or happy. They are not hard to find.
In your own life can you think of people who don’t fit all the beauty ideals or come anywhere close to them and are still successful in loving relationships, respected, strong, confident, happy, healthy, or otherwise admirable to you? Could you be one of them? Are you willing to try?
And then from Untamed I feel like I could basically quote this whole book. I just love how Glennon sees the world and how she writes about it. But I’ll just share a few, a handful. Control might actually be the opposite of love because control leaves no room for trust and maybe love without trust is not love at all. Grief is a cocoon from which we emerge new.
I had always assumed that my feelings were so big and so powerful that they would stay forever and eventually kill me. But my hard feelings did not stay forever and they did not kill me. Hard feelings ring my bell and then left me with a package filled with brand spanking new information about myself. Sometimes the voices inside of us which we have assumed speak truth are just the voices of human beings who told us what to believe. Rebellion is as much of a cage as obedience is. They both mean living in reaction to someone else’s way instead of forging your own.
I am a human being meant to be in perpetual becoming. If I am living bravely, my entire life will become a million deaths and rebirths. My goal is not to remain the same but to live in such a way that each year, moment, relationship, conversation and crisis is the material I use to become a truer more beautiful version of myself. The goal is to surrender constantly, who I just was in order to become who this next moment calls me to be.
Okay everybody, I’ll reluctantly end it there. I hope you’ll grab your own copies of any of these books that resonate with you. And I hope you’re building your own library of lifechanging books. Have a fabulous week, I’ll see you soon.
Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you want to learn more about how to lose weight for the last time, come on over to itbeginswithathought.com. We’ll see you here next week.