Note: I updated this blog post in February 2020 for greater clarity and additional resources.
Spirit Junkies are always asking me what I’m reading, and now I want to share some of my favorite books!
I’ve been working on healing my gut and have been obsessed with books related to health, food and cooking. (If you follow me on Instagram, you know all about the Gabby Cooking Show.)
My spiritual practice healed my relationship to food
Like many people, I have a complicated history with food and eating. But I’m happy to say that I have healed my relationship to food and found incredible freedom as a result!
One of the biggest changes I made was to quit sugar. I have lots of blog posts and videos on this topic. I suggest you check out my tips for staying off sugar if you want to cut it out yourself.
I also offer spiritual tips for mindful, anxiety-free eating in this Thanksgiving post. These tips aren’t just for the holidays. Use them anytime you sit down to eat, attend a party or are in a situation where your food issues might pop up.
It’s important to maintain a healthy spiritual relationship to food
Our bodies are dynamic and always changing, and new challenges with our health crop up in different phases in our life. Therefore, I believe it’s important to actively maintain a healthy spiritual relationship to food as well as an awareness of our bodies and what best nourishes them.
That’s why I’m sharing seven books that have guided my own healing and are helping me become stronger, healthier and happier every day.
These books are by some of my favorite doctors and wellness experts, and they offer different philosophies and approaches. I encourage you to check them out for yourself. One may resonate with you more than others and that’s totally cool!
I offer up these books because they have helped me heal my body, mind and spirit and I hope they serve you, too.
Check out my Finally Full digital course
I’m so passionate about helping people heal their relationships to food and their bodies that I have a whole digital course dedicated to it: Finally Full.
However your food issues come up in your life, and even if they seem to be running your life at times, you CAN create a healthy spiritual relationship to food and yourself! This is a self-paced course that is 100% online, so you can take it from anywhere.
7 health books to help you heal your mind, body and spirit
1. Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?
Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?
By Dr. Mark Hyman
It can be hard to figure out what to eat to stay healthy because there are so many food trends, mixed messages and confusing news stories out there. That’s why I really like Dr. Mark Hyman’s new book, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?
Mark demystifies healthy eating, exposes how the food industry works and offers up a simple and sustainable plan for eating well. Mark is the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center and chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine.
One thing I really like about this book is that it’s really straightforward and no-nonsense. If you’re always confused about what to eat and get hung up on fads and trends, this book will help you chill out about eating!
I recently talked to Mark about the book and asked him a couple of questions that had been on my mind recently.
My Q&A with Dr. Mark Hyman
Gabby: There’s so much conflicting advice out there and studies to support every claim. Can you share some perspective on how people can relax and eat in a way that makes them feel good physically, mentally and emotionally?
Dr. Hyman: This is a big challenge. I see patients who have jumped from diet to diet in pursuit of the healthiest option available. Some may call this orthorexia (obsessive pursuit of a healthy diet), and you might have guessed it, but this obsession does not lead to a vibrant human being.
Stress over every bite we take can actually fuel illness. That’s why it’s important to focus on eating real, whole food. Eat the food that God made and leave the food that man made.
Gabby: Eating is one part of the health equation. Does your book address sleep, stress management or any other elements of health and well-being?
Dr. Hyman: This book is all about food, but there are so many other components to feeling good. I incorporate all of these in something called the Feel Good Wheel.
There are 8 parts to feeling good:
- Exercise and movement
- Mindset and practice
- Emotional health
These are all very important, especially community. I’ve seen firsthand just how powerful community can be when it comes to moving toward your best health. Getting healthy is a team sport, so find your best team.
2. Body Belief
Aimee wrote this book in response to rising levels of autoimmune diseases among women.
Autoimmune disease occurs when the body begins attacking what was once considered normal, healthy tissue. Some common ones are Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, endometriosis and Crohn’s disease. The incidence of autoimmunity tripled over the past 40 years, affecting women 75% more than men.
Here’s what Aimee says…
The basic premise of Body Belief is that true healing can happen when we reconnect to our body and begin to live in sync with it again. When we reconnect we can start to hear the conversation that is going on in the privacy of our own mind.
When this awareness occurs, we can shift our body beliefs and form a kinder and more compassionate relationship with ourselves and set the stage for radical healing.
Having more loving, kind and positive thoughts release neurochemicals in your brain (like serotonin and oxytocin) that actually promote cellular thriving and are curative.
Aimee and I got together for an awesome Facebook Live talk recently! Check it out:
3. Thin from Within
Thin from Within: The Go with Your Gut Way to Lose Weight
By Robyn Youkilis
I’m passionate about gut health, and my dear friend Robyn is one of my gut guru!
Her new book, Thin from Within, helps you reset your gut with a three-day plan, heal digestive issues, quit diets and make intuitive food choices that are right for your body.
Here’s what Robyn says:
A healthy gut better absorbs nutrients from the food you are eating. You might be eating nutritious, whole foods most of the time, but still feel foggy, uninspired and generally “less than” your brightest self. Why? Because if your gut isn’t in tip-top shape, it’s not properly absorbing all the vitamins and nutrients from your food, which means your cells don’t have the fuel they need to do their jobs.
When your gut is healthy, you’re energized after meals and you feel focused, happy and satisfied. A healthy gut knows what you need to feel your best. When you learn to listen to your unique body, it will lead you to exactly the foods, workouts and life choices that are best for you in each moment.
This isn’t something a diet will accomplish for you. You must go deeper and connect to your intuition. When your gut is healthy, those intuitive messages are much clearer and stronger.
4. Crazy Sexy Kitchen
Kris Carr is one of my best friends and a true wellness warrior! In her book Crazy Sexy Kitchen, she teams up with chef Chad Sarno to create 150 amazing vegan recipes. These are super accessible recipes that anyone can make. If you’re not a vegetarian or vegan you might be surprised by what you find! Kris offers up vegan versions of many classics like chili, French toast and even crab cake.
If you’re skeptical about eating plant-based or don’t know much about it, Crazy Sexy Kitchen also includes tons of educational information that debunks myths and clearly answers some of the biggest questions about eating vegan (like “Where will I get my protein?”). She shows you what to stock in your kitchen and includes quick meals, soy-free recipes, gluten-free recipes and more.
You can check out some recipes from Crazy Sexy Kitchen free on Kris’s blog, like these:
For more on Crazy Sexy Kitchen, check out the video interview I did with Kris when the cookbook first came out!
5. The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution
Aviva is an amazing doctor, herbalist and midwife. Her newest book is The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution. In it she offers a 28-day program that transforms your metabolism, hormones and mood.
I love Aviva’s approach because she combines hard science with traditional wisdom about health and wellness. She is a guru when it comes to self-care and managing stress!
Here’s what Aviva says:
Think of the adrenals as controlling all things “survival”-oriented in our entire body: our immune system, inflammation and making sure we spend our energy wisely rather than burning ourselves out.
The most important path to healing the adrenals and thyroid is to heal the whole stress response system, starting in the brain. Having too much on our plates and not sleeping enough are the two biggest factors that trigger most of us into chronic survival mode.
Learning to “do less to do more,” as I say in my book, and making regular time daily for meditation, are critical. Time in nature, hot baths, any form of relaxing self-care starts to reset this system to get you out of survival mode.
Herbs and nutrients also play a powerful role in healing the stress response system. Adaptogens are my go-to. I’ve been using them as an MD-herbalist for over 30 years and they continue to blow my mind.
Ashwagandha to me is the queen of adaptogens because she’s gentle, soothing and can even help you get better sleep, while gently restarting immunity, clearing brain fog and reducing inflammation. Reishi mushroom is the king: strong but gentle, he is deeply healing for immunity and inflammation, while nourishing the adrenal stress response back to balance.
Speaking of supplements… I talked to Aviva during her book launch and asked her what other supplements she recommends to patients.
Check out this clip for her answer:
6. The Body Ecology Diet
The Body Ecology Diet: Recovering Your Health and Rebuilding Your Immunity
By Donna Gates with Linda Schatz
In The Body Ecology Diet, Donna Gates opened my eyes to what she calls “the hidden invader,” aka systemic fungal/yeast infections.
If you’re experiencing discomfort, fatigue or other symptoms that won’t go away, an imbalance in your internal ecosystem might be the reason. In this book, Donna offers up a step-by-step way to heal your body’s ecosystem by shifting the way you eat.
To give you some sense of how important gut microbes are, think about this: The human body contains 10 times more microbial cells than human cells, and there are 150 times more microbial genes than human genes. Donna calls them “tiny miracle workers.”
Here’s what Donna says about the inner ecosystem:
A healthy inner ecosystem is connected to everything: brain and gut and immune system development early in life, resistance to infection, dental health, metabolism and even your circadian rhythm.
You can keep your gut in the best health with diet and by minimizing stress, which greatly affects digestion. It’s also important to chew your food thoroughly and follow the Body Ecology Principle of 80/20 to stop eating when you’re 80% full.
The best diet is a high-fiber diet with 80% vegetables that include, root vegetables, leafy greens, other non-starchy vegetables, ocean vegetables and fermented veggies. Fermented foods bring in a daily stream of microbes to keep that inner intestinal balance nature intended and requires.
7. How to Be Well
How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life
By Dr. Frank Lipman
One of my favorite doctors, Frank Lipman, shares his formula for lifelong vitality in his new book, How to Be Well!
He explains it using what he calls the Good Medicine Mandala. The Good Medicine Mandala is illustrated by a circular system of six rings and contains more than 100 simple steps to what really works to improve and strengthen your resilience, functioning and overall health.
Frank is a true pioneer in functional and integrative medicine! He’s the founder and director of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center and has helped thousands of patients heal and change their lives with “good medicine.”
This approach combines modern medicine with the best of alternative and complementary medicines, and integrates essential elements from Chinese and functional medicine as well as nutrition, acupuncture, meditation, yoga and more.
What is the Good Medicine Mandala?
Here’s Dr. Lipman’s response:
For the book, I created my “new map for a new era of medicine” around a unique organizing structure: The Good Medicine Mandala.
A mandala is a symbol used in many wisdom traditions of the world. Almost always a circle, it represents wholeness, potential, and the infinite. It represents the unknowable and the eternal and suggests a cosmos or even a universe. It depicts continuity and captures the wheel-like turning of time, seasons, and of course, our own human life.
At its most fundamental level, the mandala is a symbol that restores order.
The Good Medicine Mandala is a circular system in which you, not a doctor or any other authority figure, stands at the center. It is an antidote to old-school linear thinking (which often just boxes you in).
Six rings surround you, representing the six spheres of life that, as an integrative physician trained in modalities of East and West, I know to be the pillars of long-lasting health. When you restore and/or optimize all these spheres, you lead the pack in terms of your standard of health and enjoyment of life.
Each of the six rings contains the blueprints for an abundance of small actions you can take to improve and strengthen your resilience and functioning. In an echo of a traditional mandala, the Six Rings of Good Medicine ripple outward from the most material aspect of health — the food we eat — to the most subtle one: our sense of connection to the world at large.
The Six Rings are:
- How to Eat Well
- How to Sleep Well
- How to Move Well
- How to Protect Well
- How to Unwind Well
- How to Connect Well
Within each ring, you will find the instructions for the essential habits, routines, and tactics that boost resilience and improve functioning. These are universal by design. The way you use them, however, is personalized.
What books have transformed your relationship to food or your body?
Spirit Junkies, I hope this post serves you as you heal your own relationship to food and your body. Have you read any of these books? What books have helped you? Leave a comment and let me know!