Category Archives: Books

Nutrition Book Review: S.A.S.S.! Yourself Slim

Title: S.A.S.S.! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches (previously released as Cinch!) (HarperOne, 2012)
Author: Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D.
The Big Cover Promise: “Lose Up to 8 LBS. in the First Five Days!”

Last year I reviewed Cinch!, a diet book that pleasantly surprised me. (You can read my original review of this book here.) I credit that book with helping me rediscover a love of cooking and getting me to discover the joy of flavoring with herbs and spices rather than salt and sweeteners. Now the book has been rereleased with brand new content and the new title of S.A.S.S.! Yourself Slim, which refers to Slimming and Satiating Seasonings (and, yes, the author’s last name). In addition, the cover claim has added a pound to the possible amount of weight you can supposedly lose in four days.

Yet the book’s main idea is the same – that learning to discover the natural goodness of foods that pack flavor punches and keep you full can help you lose weight in a more permanent way than a more drastic plan ever could. Sass’ writing is still very pleasant and reflects her practice as a nutritionist: common sense principles applied in clever ways so that you don’t feel you’re sacrificing. She is sensible, yet cheerful and optimistic, and she knows how to share her knowledge in convincing and encouraging ways. And, my favorite part of the book is still all those great recipes.

Since the main content is the same, I won’t bother to review the entire book over again – just the extra content.

Testimonials: The new edition of the book still has the original quotes sprinkled throughout from Cinch! enthusiasts, but also includes new, lengthy testimonials complete with names, ages, and full details. In some cases “before” and “after” pictures are there, too. Women talk about the positive benefits of the plan, which includes not just weight loss and increased energy but also husbands and kids who got on board with the tasty recipes, too.

Swaps: A glossy section of pink pages includes a reflective letter from Cynthia Sass, a bunch of testimonials, and a short section with examples of some swaps that you can try for some of the recipes that keep within the same food groups (or “puzzle pieces”).

Change in Potential Weight Loss: As I said before, I don’t like gimmicky “lose this much weight in this number of days!” claims. Now I’m really curious as to why the amount of weight you can lose went up a pound. I guess some people had even better results than others.

Overall, you get all the same good content as the last book, with little bit more content. All the new testimonials help make the book feel more genuine and encouraging and complement Sass’ naturally warm writing very well.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from One2One Network, but have not received monetary compensation, and was neither requested nor required to provide a positive review.


Book Review: Cinch!

As part of my yearly resolution to amp up my healthy eating and fitness habits, I’ll be providing you with umpteen reviews of different fitness/workout plans (DVDs and video games) and nutrition plans (“diet books”). Let’s start with a great new book that HarperOne released on December 28! I received the opportunity to review an advance copy of this book as an offer from One2One bloggers’ network. I knew almost nothing about it or the author and was surprised to find a well-organized and nutritionally sound plan.

Cinch! - available now from HarperOne

Title: Cinch!: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches
Author: Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D., who previously collaborated on Flat Belly Diet! (Rodale Books, 2008)
The Big Cover Promise: “Lose Up to 7 LBS in the First Five Days!” “Stop Counting and Start Living”

Main Points: This is a thirty day plan, with explanations for how to continue to follow the basic ideas once the thirty days are over. You can start with an optional five day “fast forward”; that’s followed by a 25-day (or 30-day, if skipping “fast forward”) set of meals made up of specific ingredients (or “puzzle pieces”) set at timed intervals. You get three meals and two snacks per day and plenty of beverages (from a list of approved choices, including “Zesty Cinnamon Berry Basil Tea”). Sass provides plenty of recipes, or you can build your own from the “five puzzle pieces” the meals are made from. The puzzle pieces are: produce, whole grain, lean protein, plant-based fat, and SASS – Slimming and Satiating Seasonings, which replace things like butter and cream. Sass emphasizes choosing organic options and fair-trade chocolate, and encourages readers to avoid red meat (which is not part of the Cinch! plan). Additional chapters encourage walking as exercise, explain how to continue using what you have learned past the 30 days of Cinch!, answers multiple questions readers may have, and includes a chapter on conquering emotional eating. If you are a vegan or interested in eating fewer animal products, Sass provides plenty of options for you, too!

What I Like: First of all, dieting or no, I would encourage someone to buy this book just for the recipes alone. Chocolate Pear Ginger Smoothie has quickly become one of my favorite things to whip up. Other meals include combinations of ingredients that may be new (and tasty) to you, such as strawberries, avocado, and balsamic vinegar in tacos, or green tea for stir-frying veggies! Most recipes seem pretty quick and easy to whip up. And, dark chocolate is required as your daily fifth “meal” (with a few truffle recipes provided)! The plan does seem nutritionally solid. Sass stays on top of current research and studies and clearly knows her stuff; she explains multiple recent studies to back up her including certain foods in the plan (and asking you to refrain from others, such as red meat). Her “five puzzle pieces” idea can work for a lifetime, not just 30 days. There is a quiz you can take to help you determine if you might need to decrease or increase the sizes of the meals to fit your personal needs. There is NO calorie counting which is refreshing … Sass puts more of the emphasis on enjoying your food. Sass’s writing style is smart, easy to read, and friendly, and the research she discusses is interesting and thought-provoking.

What I Feel Iffy About: Reading about the five day “fast forward” made me hungry just thinking about it – as in, I feel like I would be starving on it. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. (As Sass points out, it’s not a bad thing to feel hungry before you start chowing down for a change – but I think feeling too terribly hungry would make me go nuts and get way off track!) In that plan, all of your meals are made up of just five ingredients. Thankfully, it is optional, so there isn’t much to complain about. (Sass even asks you some questions to help determine if it’s a good idea for you to try it, and then gives you a food diary to guide you if you do try. My trying is not entirely out of the question, by the way!)

What I Don’t Like: I never like claims that you can lose X amount of weight in Y days by following Z plan. Why? It just makes the plan sound gimmicky. Most of what you will lose is probably water weight. And anyway, the focus of the fast forward is to prime your body to eat differently and get you energized and ready to change your habits for good. So it seems unnecessary and even counterproductive to tout this claim on the cover. Some of the ingredients for the meals can be pricey.

Final Thoughts: If you have a hard time disciplining yourself for any plan, you may find this one just as difficult. But there are so many recipes and new food combinations to try that you may not. And you aren’t counting carbs or calories or fat grams, just changing what goes into your meals and when you eat them. My favorite thing about the plan is that it really is not so much a gimmick but a way to change your eating. Some diets out there are too “yo-yo” meaning you can actually hurt yourself and your body’s metabolism by doing them. But I don’t see that you have anything to lose by following Sass’s ideas – everything is fresh, unprocessed, and good for you, and no, you definitely won’t starve!

Cinch! at

Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist nor a doctor and this blog constitutes my opinion only and not medical advice. I did not receive compensation for this review and was not required to write a positive one. This information was current at the time of my review. Do not start any eating plan or program without first talking with your doctor. You are responsible for your own actions. I disclaim any liability from the use, proper or improper, of the material in this review or of the product mentioned therein.

30 Things Everyone Should Know How To Do Before Turning 30

On a somewhat recent trip to McKay’s used books and music in Manassas, I picked up a discounted little read I had been considering for several years: 30 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do Before Turning 30, by Siobhan Adcock. I love books that give you the author’s opinion of things that everyone should do before they turn a certain age, before they die, before they get too old to appreciate it, before they have kids, before they do anything else ever again, bla bla bla.

Do YOU know how to do all of these things? And should you?

So here begins a little experiment of mine. It just so happens that my 30th birthday is under a year away – closer to nine months away, to be exact. And I don’t know how to do everything in the book. So why not try out Adcock’s suggestions and see if I can indeed learn to do all of these things? It can’t hurt to hone my present-wrapping, cooking, dancing, flat-tire changing, and persuasive speaking skills. At worst, I’ll make a fool out of myself for your amusement. At best, I’ll pick up some awesome new skills I should’ve learned a long time ago – no, I cannot parallel park – and have fun reviewing the book in a creative manner along the way.

And if it works out well? I may just try out the experiment again with another “everyone should” book. There are plenty of ’em. Stay tuned for Thing #1, in which I learn to wrap a professional-looking present! How timely!

Watch a Trailer for … a Book?

When Eric worked at the Food Lion in our old town of Blacksburg, he would occasionally tell me about commercials he heard broadcast on the grocery store radio station … for books. He described these commercials as being like movie or TV show advertisements, with an announcer and characters speaking. Now it seems that this is becoming more popular. I can’t help but find it a bit odd, but I’m not going to act like it doesn’t make me pay attention.

Here’s one for Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard…

And here’s one for the Jane Austen “re-write,” Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. This one has actors in it playing out a scene. And I nearly died laughing watching it.

What do you think of book trailers?

Edit: If you’re wondering why my blog looks all funky with the categories and everything like that suddenly shifted closer to the bottom, the truth is that I have no idea. I don’t think the theme changed, but I really don’t recall fooling with anything either. Eh, I’ll try to figure it out later.

The Book Thing of Baltimore

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a ridiculous bookworm. I will try to read just about anything, and I have a stupidly huge collection of books that takes up way too much room. Some people collect coins or stamps. I collect books (and lip gloss). It’s easy to see that this hobby is inherited from my parents (especially my dad), that my sister also inherited it, and that my brother-in-law shares our “problem.” (My aunt is probably only safe from this syndrome because she has a Kindle.) Now, my sweet boyfriend is way too patient for his own good and did not even roll his eyes when I excitedly informed him that we would be visiting The Book Thing with Cat and Rob as part of a litany of Valentine’s Day weekend events. He deserves much credit since he has tripped over, stubbed toes on, cleaned, moved, and glared at literally thousands and thousands of tomes. He even smiled at me when I told him I would be painstakingly giving away 30 books that I have never read and probably never would (because they look pretty bad) away to The Book Thing.

Uh, so what is the big deal if we go to a book store? Well, The Book Thing happens not to charge anything for any of its books. They are mostly used, but many are in fine condition, and you can take as many as you like. Uh oh! This particular visit, we wound up with 45. (Six of those were Eric’s.)

Well, enough babbling. Let’s take a look at a few of the funkier things we got this time. And please visit The Book Thing’s website at

I was really excited to see this book. Unfortunately, it’s mostly just lists of things people believe, not explanations of why they believe. It’s still fun, so I took it! ( does the dirty work of debunking many of these for you anyway!)

I have always had a thing for old textbooks (okay, math, not so much). This is a fourth- or fifth- grade level reading text. There was a huge box of them next to the kids’ books bins, where a man ran up and frantically threw books up in the air as he plowed through all 10 bins. Hmmm!

This is an independently published collection of essays about society’s view of women’s beauty, and how companies push their beauty products on women, among other things. There were about 50 of these in a box. It was published by the Center for the Study of Responsive Law and has a 1986 forward from Ralph Nader.

This book is part of the Opposing Viewpoints series, which presents exactly what it sounds like. This edition focuses on the hotbed topic of abortion and the many and varied opinions of the subject. One of my favorite parts of the newspaper has always been the letters from people who feel differently about various topics than I do, so I was drawn to this like the proverbial moth to the flame.

In my youth, I had a hard time knowing how to tell someone something negative. Working in certain difficult environments and going to college certainly changed that, but I could always use help with less-than-pleasant situations. But some of the suggestions sound rather … well, scripted. This book is guaranteed to at least be entertaining!

I had heard of this book, but never bothered to check it out. I certainly could’ve used it at a certain point in my life. It’s based on the idea that people go through a quarter-life crisis along with a “mid-life” crisis. People in their early- to mid- 20s face uncertainty about what to do with their lives, and how to “figure it all out.” I still face this at 28, as do many people I know who are far older than me, so I don’t think it’s restricted to any one age range. There’s a corresponding website:

I LOVE old pulp fiction art! Yes, this is a collection of tawdry paperback covers from yesteryear! And, they are all magnetic postcards! I can’t get any to stick to my fridge though. Despite the cover’s appearance, nothing in here is really dirty, just funny!

I loved Anna Quindlen’s newspaper/newsmagazine writing, although I’ve never read any of her novels. This ought to be a cool read.

We also got various other books on science, animals, philosophy, psychology, physics, health, travel, crime, and mythology, as well as several novels. It’s like Christmas! 😉