Keep Calm and Find Body Peace: A Review of Dr. Deah’s Calmanac

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1601286_10203111260129175_1511514333_nBy Erin McKelle and Allison Epstein

AE: It’s laid out like a more portable version of the Farmer’s Almanac, but readers of Dr. Deah’s Calmanac will be gaining knowledge about more than just planting advice and what days it’s expected to rain. This is no almanac – it’s a calmanac, designed to, in its own words, “plan our garden of positive body image around the elements that are most certain to occur… [creating] a sense of safety, control, and calmness.” Sounds like a message I can get behind!

EM: I have to say, my spirit was instantly lifted just by looking at the cover. Yellow is not usually a color I’m particularly fond of, but in this case, it brought me nothing but tranquility. I love the idea of playing off of the Farmers Almanac and the acknowledgement of body positivity being a process, not a quick-fix solution.

I really enjoyed the way the book is structured by months. I like the idea of reading and revisiting a book throughout the year instead of just reading it once and then forgetting everything about it. Body positivity is a journey, and I love how this book acknowledges that and embodies it.

Living in a body-positive way is a really massive undertaking, and I’ve found personally that it can take a lot of time to really digest. Using this book over the course of a year definitely gives you that time to reflect.

AE: I agree; the structure is really relatable and easy to follow! Each monthly chapter of Dr. Deah’s Calmanac is divided into three parts, starting with a personal story from the author that relates to the challenges that come up during each month. For example, March talks about elaborate, nerve-wracking Passover dinners, while September discusses the back-to-school, “Have you lost/gained weight over the summer?” rush. Even though everyone’s experience with body positivity is unique, I found myself nodding and agreeing with Dr. Deah’s points all along the way. I read the Passover section just before hopping in the car to drive to my family’s own celebration, and it was incredibly reassuring to know that I was not the only one to feel this way.

The conversational, relaxed tone makes it a great starting point for those who might not be used to extensive reading about body positivity, Health at Every Size, or other jargon or technical resources. If you’re reading Adios Barbie, you probably have at least a handle on these ideas, but the Calmanac doesn’t assume that you’ve earned a master’s degree in women’s studies or dedicated ten years to body positive self-help. It’s accessible without being patronizing, which was refreshing for me. Like the introduction suggests, it’s like having a conversation with a friend about these issues – even if that friend fits on my bookshelf!

EM: I have to agree with Allison — I found the personal stories to be the most helpful part of the chapters. I truly believe that storytelling is what’s going to change the world, and the way your experiences can touch other people is priceless.

Dr. Deah also includes important dates and things to watch out for in each month. It really makes the book like a calendar, and relates everything back to events that the reader would either probably be experiencing in their lives or things they could start celebrate. The November chapter talks a lot about the issues that often come along with food during the holidays that I think most people can relate to. Her advice on how to cope with this is both practical and anti-status quo. She includes information about almost all of the important holidays and events you could ever think of! It was great to see the amount of zeal she put into researching this, but at times it felt like a bit much; covering a few holidays would have sufficed.

AE: The third section of every chapter contains two interactive activities, generally artistic in nature, that the reader can use to deepen their understanding of the issues and topics mentioned. Examples range from collages to more three-dimensional arts-and-crafts to multimedia journaling-esque exercises, with plenty of space for readers to take notes about their experiences.

EM: I think the book might have too many activities (two for each month). I expected a book like this to be a book instead of a book/workbook. When I’m buying a book, I usually measure the level of personal investment that I’m willing to give it and with the amount of projects involved, I know I would be intimidated.

AE: Enthusiasm for these exercises might vary from reader to reader, depending on how they best interact with the material and (at least for me), their ease of access to gluesticks and butcher paper. Still, the Calmanac clearly explains the purpose behind the activities and gives readers food for thought along the way. It was also nice to read in the introduction that readers aren’t necessarily expected to participate in all the activities – Dr. Deah makes it clear that the book is to be used however the reader wants, in whatever way will be most helpful. It’s a personal journey, not a set, dictated path: just like body positivity!

EM: The pacing of this book is perfect – it’s short enough that you can read it over coffee in the morning, but thorough enough to hit all of the important points without glossing over anything. It’s also very well organized, as each section is distinct and flows together nicely; it’s never confusing and no content ever lacks context.

The ease of reading factor is one of the biggest appeals of the book. Dr. Deah writes in a very non-academic, but well thought-out, way. Each chapter takes maybe 15 or 20 minutes to read, which means that no matter how busy you are, you have the time to read this. The fact that it’s divided into monthly sections takes you on a personal journey to body positivity, but also gives you time to digest what you’re reading.

AE: The Calmanac is easy to read partly because of its structure, but also because of its laid-back, conversational tone. It gives advice and support without veering into those irritating, patronizing waters of so many self-help books. All too often, body-positive literature suggests a quick fix and a definite, 100%-fabulous solution. When we run into the inevitable pitfalls along the way, this can cause shame or insufficiency. Suggesting that the catch-all solution for a body positive life is to “reframe your thoughts!” or “start loving your body for what it can do, not what it looks like!” is all well and good, but won’t somebody recognize that on some days that’s easier said than done? Dr. Deah, having taken the body-positive journey herself over the course of her life, gives that recognition I was looking for.

EM: The Calmanac is a great book for anyone who’s looking to bring a little (or a lot) more body positivity into their lives. The fact that this book is meant to be read over a year’s time makes the information a lot less intimidating – I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read that are screaming “LOVE YOUR BODY AND DON’T HATE YOURSELF! BE BODY POSITIVE!” The fact is, a lot of body positive literature can make you feel terrible when you’ve “failed” to love yourself every minute of the day. Body positivity is a process and doesn’t happen overnight- Dr. Deah really understands this.

Dr. Deah’s Calmanac is available now for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, drdeah.com, and at select independent bookstores in California. Check here for a full listing.

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