Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reviewing Tugboat: My Journey Out of Obesity

Before my husband succumbed to an unfortunate bout of appendicitis and required surgery and several weeks of recuperation at home, I had planned to write a review of Tugboat:  My Voyage Out of Obesity by Cheryl Long.  At long last, I'm taking some time to write the review I wanted to write.

First, I have to say that I wish I had liked this book better.  My main problem is that I fundamentally disagree with Long's path to controlling her weight -- doing extended juice fasts.  The first she describes lasted twenty-one days and was something she undertook as a discipline.  I do think that fasting as a discipline is a good spiritual practice and that it is important to undertake it at times in order to gain mastery over our bodies and our appetites.  However, I think that three weeks of ingesting nothing but liquids, no matter how full of nutriets they are, is a flawed approach.  Long believes that, when you juice foods, you release and concentrate their nutrients and therefore can ingest many more nutrients than you could if you simply ate the foods in their raw state.  She relates a conversation with some women at a Sam's Club, saying:

"See all these veggies you have here?" She was demonstrating raw colored pepper slices and cherry tomatoes. "There is no way you could possibly eat even half what you have here; but I could juice the whole lot and drink the nutrients!" The light bulb fully lit up when I explained, "Your body doesn't need FOOD to survive; it needs nutrients! Take away the pulp, and you end up with concentrated nutrients!" (page 21).
My principal problem with this approach is that I don't believe that eating is merely about fueling the body.  It's a social and cultural thing, a way to connect with the natural world, and a way to express creativity and connectedness.  In other words, I don't want to merely survive by eating food -- I want to be fed.  I want to thrive. 
Next, Long describes a sixty day fast she undertook with three of her daughters.  I give them all a lot of credit for being able to maintain their discipline over such a long period of time. Some of the symptoms they developed as a result of the fast were alarming -- irritability, headache, malaise -- but to be expected.  Ultimately, because they were getting adequate nutrition, these symptoms abated a bit.  
The amounts of weight lost from week to week were truly astonishing to me -- five pounds one week, seven pounds another week, 4 pounds another week, and so on.  In all, Long lost 31 pounds on her sixty day fast.  She ended the fast feeling good and intending to use a more limited amount of fasting, healthy eating, and exercise to maintain her new healthy weight.
All in all, I admire Long's discipline, her dedication to providing her body with needed nutrition, and her very cheerful outlook about the project.  I would've been screaming at the walls by Day Two.  I worry, though, about sustainabilty.  There is no indication of how long after the fast ended she wrote and published the book, so it is hard to tell about long-term consequences and results.  I do know, however, that this approach would be a miserable failure with me, although I did seriously consider it.