Book Review: The Thyroid Solution Diet

by Ridha Arem
by Ridha Arem

First off: This book is not just about the thyroid or those who suffer from thyroid related issues. Second: Anyone interested in extending their life should read it.
I have for years been interested in the connection between food, exercise and physical health and this book, which falls along the same lines of Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About ItDr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars and anything by Michael Pollen, does a wonderful job explaining it using both science and a keen ability to speak in terms any layperson serious about their health should be able to understand.

I was much more interested in the first two-thirds of the book in which Arem goes into fabulous detail about sugar, fat and how these foods breakdown and based on various factors combine with the body’s multitude of hormones (but especially insulin and leptin) to regulate/affect/and in many cases generally muck up the body’s natural metabolism (i.e. Garbage in. Garbage out, which reminded me a great deal of Alejandro Junger’s, Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself, which I also highly recommend). The last third spells out specific recipes, which I may or may not use, but offers to those not interested in coming up with their own menus, excellent examples of not only what to eat, but when to eat it. Great information to anyone, regardless of what state their personal health is in, in terms of converting food to fuel as opposed to fat.

While I don’t agree 100% with what he says—for instance, I don’t follow the low-fat-is-better-for-you theories on health—rarely have I found a food book that speaks so clearly in terms of sugar, fat, hormones, and exercise, and also of aging, stress, sleep, and detoxification and the affect these have on mood as well as pant size.

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

I read this after my eldest daughter gushed over and over about it and I’m glad I did, but not for any real reason found in the book. Don’t get me wrong it was all right. I enjoyed parts of the story and the characters seemed mostly very real to me, but like others who’ve commented I felt the dialogue was too much/ too heavy in parts (and in other parts dead on); I didn’t care for the drunk Dutchman and his role; or fully understand the connection to Anne Frank (other than it was local). Pretty much, I think the back 1/3 of the book just wasn’t as well written and developed as the first 2/3.

Why I am glad I read it though is I believe Green did a very good job of injecting into the story (and thus into me, the reader) the yearning, heartbreaking, character-searching and angst-ridden soul of a teenager, offering a glimpse into the thoughts, aspirations and musings of my own precious teen. That’s worth way more than any stars.


Then there are the books I should have read but didn’t, or did with so little regard for what was in them. I read them—or not as the case often was—for assignment, for a grade, because somebody said that I should. I didn’t read them for pleasure, not usually. Nor for what they said about the world and about human nature. Not for the mysteries they exposed about life.

That’s not to say I didn’t read. I loved reading and have teachers and good parents to thank that my passion for books became strong and long lasting. But given the choice what I chose to read back then did not ask too much of the reader, not with language, tone or content. They had more to do with nightmaresinternational espionage, occasionally a dragon, certainly a cowboy or two, than with complex multi-layered works that wrestled with universal dilemmas. Not that both can’t deliver a rousing good story, I just tended to stick to the formulaic ones that fell within certain central themes and avoided the more thought-provoking taxonomies of the human condition (nor did I ever talk like that).

George Bernard Shaw—a playwright I never read but probably should’ve—once said, “Youth is a wonderful thing. What a shame to waste it on children.” I’ve found myself thinking about that a lot as I turn the page on another year, with the next chapter a few pages back just sitting there looming alongside my future membership card to the AARP. I think about where the time went and those books I should have read and I wonder how in the world did so many words slip past me. Words once belonging to such a long, storied list of authors I’d fail just mentioning a handful.

There is another famous saying though (un-attributable, but backed up by science nonetheless): You’re only as old as you feel, and with that sentiment in mind I’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to re-visit what should have served as my formative discover-myself-in-literature years. For the next year, starting with January, once a month I plan to read a work from one of the greatest writers ever known—or not if you believe in those identity theories—the Bard of Avon himself, William Shakespeare.

(Oddly enough, Shaw himself, apparently, would have thought such a commitment ludicrous, at least in terms of following down that path in pursuit of a serious observation into social problems, as he disapproved of Shakespeare as a thinker and philosopher and to show it coined the term bardolatry.)

That said, it might be too late for Shaw to change his tune, but it’s not too late for me. Besides, with Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour having given up the ghost, I need something to fill their esteemed place.

Here’s my list of books and the month I’ll be reading them. If you’re interested in tagging along and sharing your own thoughts, I’d love the company.

  • January              Hamlet
  • February            Romeo and Juliet, of course
  • March                  Much Ado About Nothing
  • April                     Macbeth
  • May                       Henry V
  • June                     The Sonnets
  • July                       A Midsummer’s Night Dream
  • August                 Othello
  • September         King Lear
  • October               The Tempest
  • November          Julius Caesar
  • December          The Winter’s Tale and Twelfth Night


When Is Your Reader Ready?

I had the chance today to guest blog over at and because it was day 1 of my 2 day Kindle eBook Giveaway, I took the opportunity to reflect on what that promotion meant in terms of readership.

For starters, giving my work away on such a large scale endeavor meant I no longer had any part whatsoever in selecting my readers, which was kind of nice as a self-published author. I solicited reviews after spending a fair amount of time on blogs and book sites before soliciting anyone’s time and opinion.

What handing out hundreds of copies for free means is a plethora of personalities and unique book perspectives, i.e. readers who perhaps aren’t interested or even ready for a book like mine. That’s not to say that Departure is exclusive, it’s not. Honestly, it’s written with no one reader in mind but the story experience itself, which includes all the human nuances and life experiences that a reader brings to it.

And you’ll see, as I point out in the guest post on Shayna’s blog, sometimes life just hasn’t caught up enough to make the story come alive inside every reader who could possibly get their hands on it. That’s a risk every author takes. There are no exceptions.

Click here to visit Shayna’s blog and my guest post, and then click on over to Amazon and my Kindle Free Day and get a copy of the book for yourself.


First Lines: The Dead Lion

Thought I’d begin a new thing here where I share the first few lines of my favorite books. There are many, but to start, and because I’m a loathing, self-loving writer, I’ll turn of course not to someone else’s but to the book I am working on at the moment:

In the late evenings of that summer he would sit with her photo at the table in the middle of their small kitchen and by the light of the lowly stove lamp study the old road atlas. There all the land opened wholly before him, pallid and bleak in the dim lit night, the corners reaching skyward and curling, the paper folds thin and deteriorating, like life itself, and he like a wretched lost pilgrim searching for what he knew not amongst the smudges and gray silhouettes, a bloodshot array of roadwork, some mark perhaps on that pale depthless country on which to affix for himself a crude bearing. —The Dead Lion, by moi

Cleaning the Slate

This post was original published on my blog, Without Envy, January 19, 2011

Franca and I are not fanatics about health — well, our children might say we are and maybe it’s true, though we also believe that everything is better in moderation, including wellness dogmas — but we do eat well, exercise regularly and generally follow the kind of active, wholesome lifestyle that promotes youth, not aging. With this past year taking a toll on us on so many levels, in the days following our one year anniversary of living with diabetes we took advantage of this emotive milestone to do something about whatever remained of the unfavorable, pent-up feelings not successfully accepted, purged, exorcised or written off in the long months prior. There was, despite these efforts, the toxic residual of dark thought still polluting our minds and weighing our bodies down. I saw it when I looked in the mirror and felt it when I tightened my belt.

I didn’t know it then, but Eastern tradition has a word for this. It’s called amma. In English, we know it only as a mucus and while we don’t for the most part imagine it anywhere other than running from the nose, it’s everywhere in the body. The ears, the lungs, joints, the gut, the genitals. Our bodies make about a quart of it everyday in protecting these and other vital systems from such noxious intruders as pesticides, processed foods, medications, household cleaners and, according to believers of amma, negative emotions. Over time, the mucus builds up like plaque and leads to a feeling of lifeless and heaviness in the body and mind.

The solution to ridding ourselves of this unwelcome load, practitioners of this holistic movement say, is through treatments of a less conventional, more whole-person approach, such as nutrition, yoga, meditation, and fitness, all of which aid in this process of natural detoxification. One of the champions of this philosophy, Dr. Alejandro Junger, cardiologist and author of the book Clean, describes the goal as this: “the vibrant well-being and longevity that are your birthright.”

I had no idea if this was possible but I did like the idea of purging myself of the burden of what I could only imagine were the enduring spoors of every tear, every worry, every heartbreaking element of this new reality. The clarity and lightness I hoped to re-discover was just too much to pass up. Franca agreed and we borrowed Junger’s book from the library and, minus the supplements, adopted his nutritional cleanse program to help get us there.

The plan was simple: eliminate a number of foods from our diet — dairy, wheat, caffeine, alcohol, to name a few of my personal obstacles — and consume only liquid meals (smoothies, juices, soups) for breakfast and dinner; then allow at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast to give the body time to digest the food and move on to the Great Toxic Dump.

We followed the program for two weeks — the full plan calls for three (everything in moderation, remember) — and to bring the kids into it and make it a bit more fun, we measured our success through the Ninentdo Wii Fit. By the two week’s end, we had shed a collective twenty pounds, most of which I can honestly say seemed to come not from fat but from somewhere deeper inside our bodies, giving some weight to the mucoid plaque theory. My Wii fit age dropped to 27 (I’m nearly twenty years plus that in non-Wii years, but in the interest of full disclosure, when we started I measured 31 Wii-years old, so not that great of a change. Franca’s age didn’t change at all, she held pretty much at 30). So it appeared from those reckonings alone to be a phenomenal success. But the real test however was not how I looked but how I felt and the clean did make me feel younger, healthier and more energetic, especially at night when before I looked ready for bed as soon as I’d polished off dinner, I now looked forward to a game of chess against Lia or even yoga with my wife.

As for the emotions? I won’t pretend to think that the anxiety I’d felt over the past year was suddenly and entirely eradicated with this cleanse. It wasn’t. After all, we’re talking about diabetes, an incurable illness requiring constant maintenance. Even with acceptance, each and every day adds some degree of grief, angst, and frustration to the volume of toxins for which mucus must keep up its insurgent-war against. What the clean did for me though is highlight the fact that you are what you eat, but you don’t have to be what you think.


Guest Post: A Lovely, Anti-Hero

This weekend I had the opportunity to write a guest post at Guiltless Reading, an exceptional blog from a writer based in Canada. Also included is a giveaway, both a signed paperback and an eBook edition up for grabs to those to enter. So click on over to Guilltess Reading and read what I have to say about writing a book that begs the reader to root for the anti-hero (okay, she’s not nearly as bad as Snake Plissken).



Inspiration: For When You Need It Most

A Moveable FeastI don’t even own this book, but for some reason it is always there on my mind or in the back of my mind or otherwise someplace near to it. When I check it out of the library, I usually keep it through the maximum amount of renewals (9 I think) and thumb through it almost daily, reading bits and pieces of it here and there, discovering something new every time, and not just about Paris, or Hem, or that era, but amount myself and how I choose to view the world. Having written that just now, it sounds heavy, I know, but trust me it’s not. It’s actually quite simple and down-to-earth.

I can’t remember what drew me to A Moveable Feast the first time I read it—it was probably at my wife’s suggestion, but I do know it was on my writing desk the day my daughter was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder, type 1 diabetes. Obviously there was no connection to Hemingway’s Paris and this affair—we live in the American south and there was no drinking, no horse racing, no boxing or famous people involved—but I found nonetheless something buoyant about the writing itself that helped me come to grips with this, our own life-changing event.

Shortly after the diagnosis, I began writing a blog—feel free to follow this link to visit it, it’s called Without Envy—and what Hemingway’s writing of Paris, and his other, fictional work, too, of course, but Paris was real, what it taught me was to identify the emotion, find it in whatever action or person that gave it to you and write it down in such a way that it’s honest and clear so that if any one else reads it they will see and experience the same emotion too. It set a perfect example for a father who was facing what is and will probably be one of the saddest, most painful situations in his life, if only because of how unprepared and little I knew about it. For as Hemingway once wrote himself: The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places —A Farewell to Arms, so too had the world, it seemed, broken me and those I loved, but through writing about it I felt stronger. You can’t ask much more from a book or its author.

A Guide for Readers

I have been fortunate in the three months since launching the book to participate in a number of writing discussions, interviews, readings, forums, etc. A pleasant surprise from those experiences is the degree of thought and introspection it required of me to answer certain questions about the novel. That sounds strange since I wrote it—and perhaps it may just be a matter of me needing to offer up something better than, Just because to answer why I omitted quotation marks or chose not to translate the Italian—but these questions encouraged me to dig deeper into the how I told the story and not just what the story was about. And honestly, it was just great fun, like being a student again in a way.

Back when I was a student, however, time spent pondering over the many symbolic interpretations of style, device, or storytelling seemed wasted to me and was often a discussion I always felt inadequately prepared for in class—as if I had read some entirely different passage than everyone else. I could not get past the perceived futility in trying to guess, for instance, whether or not in writing about a great white whale, the author (Melville) was actually writing about elusive goals, or was it to him just a fishing story of the one that got away (not likely).

But now having written a couple of novels of my own, I can appreciate these discussions with greater understanding and appreciation for the idea that it’s not only possible but probable that the author them self could not have grasped all of the supposed symbolism in their work. And that actually makes perfect sense to me. How often are we met in our daily lives with moments that mean something more to us simply because we can relate it to a greater whole. Often, right. I believe it’s that way with writing a novel, too. Writers are working hard to present this perfect vision they have in their minds, sentence by sentence, scene by scene, and it is only after they are finished that they can step back and put some distance between those various parts and look at the whole to visualize how they connect to one another, even something as un-relatable as choosing to not translate a foreign language, or the omission of quotation marks.

One of the most difficult things of growing old is the regret for not doing or being something different than who we were. I enjoy talking about literature and books and contemplating how they make you think and relate the story in someway to your own life, your own tiny piece of humanity. Those days sitting in a classroom would not be wasted, for sure.

This rambling on does have a point and it’s this: As in most literature, after reading this book there will be questions that arise. What happened after? Before? Why this and not that? And so on and so forth. I could give my perspective as the author, and have before, but some of the pleasure and purpose to reading is to relate this world to your own, to discover and share in some common ground. To force the deeper question. With that in mind I’ve spent the last few days putting together a Reader’s Guide for the novel. You can find it to the right of here, just click to download. It, too, may be a work in process as ideas come to me about the book, but if you’re interested in connecting with the story in a more meaningful way, I hope it will serve as a good start.

On Becoming A Writer

The story of how I came to want to be a writer is not unlike any others. I was drawn to it, almost as if by accident, through some other passionate interest. I was in the eighth grade and at that time—and still now—I was very much into the responsible use and protection our natural resources. I liked camping, hiking, and just generally being outdoors and if asked would have named some mountain, desert, river or coast as the place I most wanted to visit. One day, my English teacher, a lady of which I remember very little about but who apparently believed it her job (rightly so) to help children discover their potential, suggested I enter a youth essay contest on why it was so important that society protect these natural resources. I entered the contest and won.

We all know that sometimes it takes someone else pointing out a talent to make us aware of it ourself and this is what happened to me with writing. I discovered not only that I liked it, but if I was passionate and wrote truthfully about a thing I could make the words mean something to someone else. From that moment on I felt encouraged, excited and even entitled, in some respect, to write.

But as it goes, talent take time to develop. And it also takes work. One of the most important aspects to the process though is that you write about something you care about or the talent to make others see what you see and feel what you feel will be lost. Recognition can work against you, too, giving the false impression that anything you write will be received well, which is just not so. In choosing to write about child custody, I was choosing a topic I was very close to personally, at least in terms of my witness of a hotly contested case. I, too, have loved and lost and been unjustly misunderstood.

Even then, the novel took several years to write, time partly and intermittently spent discovering the way in which how to tell the story and then on the story itself. There were many stop and goes, dead ends, and detours, but with each of these I felt I was steadily getting closer to the heart of the novel, even when not working on it, even in my darkest days of which I won’t go into here, but evolved into months and years when writing fiction felt like a violation of parental responsibility. The hard part is pushing through these and remaining committed to telling the truth, which is what Hemingway once said, was the writer’s job anyway.

It was no accident that Anna Miller lost child custody, nor was her son’s kidnapping accidental. Strong intention can and often does level the playing field. But without action intention serves little or no purpose. For an early lesson in that, I have an eighth grade English teacher to thank.

To follow the discussion on my Goodreads Question and Answer, click here.