by Nikki Goldstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
GirlForce / 978-1-59990-354-5
This attractive book, loaded with photographs and colored pages, looks very much like a combination of a popular teen magazine and a regular large-sized novel.
The basic premise of the book - that people can be divided into three 'elemental' types (Air, Fire, and Earth - oddly, no Water) and that diet, exercise, and general lifestyle recommendations can be derived from your elemental type is very straightforward, and the author is careful to point out that "everyone is unique" and that readers will need to "find the approach that works best" for them.
The book opens with descriptions of the three elemental types, along with a multiple choice quiz to determine your own elemental type. I was mildly uncomfortable with one of the questions categorizing people's skin type and color into elemental types ("I'm considered dark-skinned for my race", or "I'm pale"). It is one thing to categorize people based on metabolism, but skin color is a bit different, in my opinion. Unfortunately for myself, I scored near-equal points in all three categories. The author cautions that this can happen, and to just try to figure out my best fit apart from the quiz.
After figuring out your elemental type, the book moves on to lifestyle recommendations. Each elemental type has a detailed food list. This section is largely very good: don't eat when you're not hungry, worry about nutrition instead of weight, avoid over processed foods, eat six servings of fruits and vegetables a day, practice sensible portion control, avoid caffeine and high-sugar drinks, don't force yourself to eat things you hate, etc. Some of the specific advice is a little odd, but not overtly harmful. For instance, Air types are told to generally favor cooked vegetables to raw ones, but raw vegetables generally have more vitamins and nutrients in them. Still, getting me as a teenager to eat vegetables at all was a major accomplishment, so whatever helps.
Next comes the exercise recommendations, and the author correctly recommends that daily exercise really is a must, but that exercise should be fun and *not* painful. She recommends finding a pleasant activity (and suggests several) to engage in daily, and recommends early exercise schedules (and early bedtimes in order to stick with them!) for consistency. Multiple yoga poses, with careful instructions for each, are shown according to elemental type, with both pictures and photographs to illustrate. Goldstein recommends exercise for health, not for weight-loss, and correctly recommends consulting your family doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.
After the diet and exercise advice, we're still less than halfway through this generous book. The following chapters deal with everything from makeup tips, clothing advice, relaxation techniques, stress management routines, self-esteem building exercises, and so much more. Although the advice is regimented into elemental type, each section is useful and interesting reading, even if the type isn't 'your' type.
What I appreciate most about this book is the constant theme that each young woman is a wonderful, special person who is unique (a tricky thing to emphasize in a book that categorizes everyone on earth into three types!). Goldstein manages to maintain, amongst all the advice, that each person knows her own body best and must listen to her body and have faith in their instincts. And she does all this in a fun, light-hearted tone that I believe most teenagers will appreciate.
While the basic philosophy and balancing techniques are credited here with Eastern origins, the philosophy espoused here is fairly simple and should, I think, be compatible with most if not all religions. Certainly, the idea of categorizing people is not new, whether it be by 'elemental' temperament or by multiple Meyer-Briggs knock-off tests or by animal comparisons, and so on.
As a bottom line, I would definitely recommend this book to young women as a colorful and enjoyable read. The advice is good enough, on the whole, and definitely more affirming and positive than the usual "you're ugly and you need to buy all our special food, makeup, clothes, and hair care products in order to rectify it" messages that seem to abound in so many of today's magazines. I do need to note, however, that the advance copy that I was sent fell apart at the spine on the same day I read it. Perhaps it was just a fluke, but it might be worth investing in the hardcover over the paperback, as those tend to be bound tighter.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
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