A couple of months ago, I got an email from a nice man named Neil asking me if I could spread the word about his wife’s new book enLIGHTened. He mentioned that her previous book about miscarriage had fallen through the cracks and they didn’t want that to happen to this book. I had a miscarriage about 10 years ago, so I had a soft spot for Neil and his wife Jessica almost immediately. They sent me a copy of the book and I read it and have been working on my review for a while because I want to do this book justice. This is not your typical “I lost weight, so you can too!” kind of book; it’s a story about a girl who found her passion and embraced it.
Jessica Berger Gross’ passion is yoga, and even though yoga seemed to come naturally to her, she still struggled with her body and body image. The full title of her book is enLIGHTened: How I Lost 40 Pounds With a Yoga Mat, Fresh Pineapples, and a Beagle-Pointer. Her other passion is pineapples and one of her biggest supporters is her dog Salem (the beagle-pointer mentioned in the title).
This is a very honest account of someone who not only lost weight, but finally found herself amidst a lot of struggle and family strife. She doesn’t sugar-coat anything – she’s been through some heartache and freely shares her struggles. She admits that trying to do some of the poses while overweight was challenging at best, and darn near impossible at worst. Her journey to finding peace with her body took her from Long Island to a mountain top in Katmandu and back again. The book is filled with humor and a touch of sarcasm from time to time (a woman after my own heart!). One of my favorite lines in the book is in a chart with the heading Top Six Signs You Are Eating Too Much. The first one (and my fave) is:
“Your “fat” clothes have become your favorite clothes. Stretchy is the new black!”
Not only has Jessica embraced yoga, but the yogic lifestyle as well. I’ll admit there were points in the book where I thought, “oh no, she’s going to get all woo-woo on me here” but then she pulls out a phrase or experience that makes me laugh and I realized she’s a regular woman like the rest of us. For example, she talks about doing a juice fast at a Kripalu retreat and being asked by the instructor what she wants out of the next sip of her juice. She says,
“I wanted to be comforted, I wanted to be filled. (To be honest, I wanted a grilled cheese sandwich.)”
Amen sister! Me too!
In addition to her yoga practice, she also incorporated some ideas to make her weight loss success a little easier, such as keeping a big bowl of fruit available in the fridge at all times (preferably pineapple!), getting an accountability partner to whom you are extremely honest, having a few staple meals that you can go-to in a crunch(veggie chili anyone?), and developing discipline (also known as tapas in the yogic community) to help you in not only weight loss, but life in general as well. These are just a few of the things Jessica had to learn to fit into her busy life as a wife, mom, yoga teacher, and writer, so if she can do it I think we can too.
The book is light hearted at times and painfully real at others, but always honest. She’s honest about her once very large appetite, the strife with her parents, the dark days that sent her into a depression. The only time she felt free and unburdened was while she was doing her yoga or meditating with a warm beagle-pointer on her lap. Through yoga and lots and lots of pinepple, she transformed herself from a chubby depressed teenager to a lithe and serene (on most days) woman.
Not only did Jessica’s story touch my heart, but there were a couple of ideas stuck with me after I finished reading the book. In another chart ( I loved the charts) she writes something that made a lightbulb go on in my head:
“Food should leave you energetic, not sleepy.”
Whoa. I was suprised at how surprised I was that this suprised me so. You mean I’m NOT supposed to stuff myself silly and then fall into a food coma every night after dinner? I’ve been working on incorporating this one into my daily life – and I could write a big post about just this concept alone, but this isn’t about me, so I’ll save it for another day.
Another quote that hasn’t left my mind is about being active. Even though Jessica is a firm believer in the power of yoga, she is smart enough to know that not everyone will be a yogi, but everyone can find something that gets them moving. She says,
“We each need to find our own yoga, the physical work that keeps us healthy and strong.”
Everyone needs to move, and it helps if you can be passionate about moving in some way or another. So even if you don’t run out and buy a yoga mat, at least take some time to think about what your yoga could be.
At the end of this book, I just wanted to hug Jessica and her husband Neil. In honor of her book, I did a little yoga and bought some pineapple and have been trying to take some time to discover my passion. If you do yoga, or have been thinking of giving it a try, I highly recommend reading this book. She gives an illustration of poses at the start of each chapter, so even if your dog has never been downward-facing, you can still try the poses in the book.
I’m really glad I took the time to read (and re-read) this book, and I think you will enjoy it too. If any of you yoga-types out there really really REALLY want this book, leave me a comment and let me know. If more than one of you really want the book, I’ll draw names and send the winner my review copy of the book. The book itself is in great shape, the jacket cover however is just a tad bit worn – this book has traveled from my bedroom to the living room to my office and back again, but it still looks good.
*Don’t you love this phrase? This is the title of one of the chapters in the book – I think it sums up the the whole book nicely!