When I’m strength training and taking a rest of a couple of minutes between sets, I like to use that time to read a few pages of a good small book that fits in my gym bag. I never get to read as much during the rest of the week as I’d like, so this is one way of making the most of what otherwise might be dead time, and gives me something extra to look forward to about gym.

Heavy Reading (as opposed to light reading) will be my series of posts where I talk about the in-between-sets books that I’ve read, plus a few extras.

I’m kicking off with On Eating by Susie Orbach (2002), who at the time of writing was a psychotherapist and visiting professor at the London School of Economics. She is perhaps best known for Fat is a Feminist Issue, a book which I’ve not read myself but I had heard of before I picked up this one.

I don’t know how her other books compare, but this one has minimal text and lots of white space on most pages. It’s designed to be practical and Orbach has therefore kept it as simple as possible.

She offers five Keys to establish nutritionally and, most importantly, mentally healthy eating habits, with the aim that you feel calm and nourished rather than guilty and unhappy.

Essentially the book guides you towards becoming more aware of your body’s hunger and fullness cues. It also helps you to question the emotional reasons that you (and we all) might eat when you are not in fact hungry.

There’s no doubt that calorie tracking does work for achieving goals like changing body composition. But there is still room for error, it can become a time-consuming chore, and there is always a risk that it can trigger off obsessive behaviour or thoughts. Longer term, if we can get into habits where our own awareness lets us stay within the right kind of boundaries for the nutrition that we need, we free up some headspace for ourselves.

If you are seeking to become more aware and mindful about your food rather than recording every single bite and sip for the rest of your life, then I would recommend the visual logging app Youfood, which I use myself, and the excellent work of Precision Nutrition. The Precision Nutrition portion guides are super simple and require zero measurement, only your hand.

As for On Eating, here’s my summary to wrap up:

  • A quick read that you can refer back to
  • Simple advice that you can apply immediately
  • Wants to help you feel calmer about eating and is written in a calm, compassionate tone
  • Definitely worth your time if you want to embed sustainable, sensible, mindful habits
  • Encourages you to reflect on your life as a whole, not just eating
  • Includes problem scenarios at the back of the book
  • Not really any negative points to this one in my opinion