“Does the word “healthy” conjure up images of pain-in-the-ass slumming trust-fund girls demanding lemon slices in their water at the Denny’s? Guess what: it is absolutely possible to take good care of yourself without being obtrusive about it. You may want to be a truth-seeker or a rebel, and working out and feeling good seems like sheeple stuff, like doing as you’re told.”
If you know about Ann Sterzinger’s novels, and if you don’t stop reading this review and go fix that, you’d think she was the last person to write a self-help book. This is what you get for thinking. Stop doing it. You suck at it.
There’s a lot of books on diet and exercise on the market. Most of them offering quick fixes, snake oil, and other types of horseshit. Sterzinger’s aim in this book is to get at the root of what keeps people stuck in bad habits and working on fixing it. Specifically, she’s looking to help people who suffer from various forms of trauma direct how they often seek comfort in binge eating and remaining in active into finding that same comfort in exercise and proper nutrition. Obviously, digging into one’s wounds like that can be a lot to take and Sterzinger stresses the importance of properly applying her advice and seeking medical treatment if it causes any problems.
The main thrust of Sterzinger’s “Disaster Fitness Method” is applying the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, which Ann picked up while going through CBT herself, to one’s fitness routine and eating habits. She lays out the Method and follows it up with the various “mindfulness” exercises that one should do to ease themselves into it. My biggest criticism of this book is how this part is structured. Sterzinger stresses the importance of completing the mindfulness exercises before jumping into the Method. It would have made far more sense to go over the exercises before laying out the method in that case, especially since the exercises take up the majority of this part of the book.
Despite that, the advice here is still sound. Much of it would be useful to people who have no problems with fitness, but struggle with anxiety and depression. Myself, I did a couple of the mindfulness exercises while stressed at work and it was very helpful. Sterzinger also gives some great insight into how trauma can manifest itself in different people. She uses herself as an example, sharing stories of traumas that she suffered and how she was lucky enough to have it manifest in ways that kept her in shape.
The final quarter of the book goes more into general hints. Sterzinger encourages people to workout at home instead of the gym and gives some advice on finding workouts online. She also gives recommendations such as doing yoga, going for walks on rest days, using kratom as a booster, and goes more into nutrition. The advice in this part is a bit more subjective. My job happens to give me free access to a gym that’s only a block away from my apartment, so I have no reason to workout at home instead.
Like her novels, Sterzinger’s writing here is hilarious. While she writes in a serious tone when she needs to, the book is overall entertaining to read. No cloying, phony positivity or bullshit aphorisms here. She shares funny stories, in addition to sad ones, has a self-aware running joke that she’s writing this mostly for money, and throws barbs at the “fat acceptance” movement. This book is almost as entertaining as her fiction.
Copy provided for review purposes
Disaster Fitness is not only fun to read, it provides insightful, no-nonsense advice on fitness, a field full of nonsense advice. It's not just for people looking to get into shape either, Ann Sterzinger's recommended CBT exercises will be of great benefit to anyone who suffers from PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
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