Book Review: *4 Habits of Healthy Families* by Amy Hendel!
Aug 28th, 2009 by sheistoofondofbooks
- 4 Habits of Healthy Families: How to Save Your Family from the Obesity Trap by Amy Hendel
- Hardcover: 475 pages
- Publisher: BenBella Books; 1 edition (May 11, 2008)
- ISBN-13: 978-1933771496
Back-of-the-book blurb: This comprehensive guide to diet and nutrition provides solid advice for families looking to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The four habits of healthy families—Plan Together, Prepare Together, Play Together, Portion Together—and possible integration strategies are thoroughly discussed as well as the Healthy Family for Life (HFL) diet plan, which contains both family and individual food assessments, activity and weight patterns, activity planning, and suggestions for family support. Providing practical tips for making healthy changes on a daily basis and recipes that are simple, yet nutritious, enough for the busiest of families, this manual is an invaluable reference for those who tend toward obesity and encourage unhealthy eating habits, as well as families looking to reinforce their already healthy tendencies.
She is Too Fond of Books’ review: You can imagine my reaction when I saw the title of this book - containing not only fat and thin, but also obesity. I complained about the word diet in The Game On Diet book, “why can’t we use a word like lifestyle, so we don’t reinforce body image issues with the impressionable teen in my life?!” Well, as with The Game On Diet, 4 Habits of Healthy Families is all about learning habits to achieve and maintain health, not a crash-and-burn diet and exercise plan or ranting lecture.
Author Amy Hendel tackles what she calls the “in your face” title early on. It’s as if she’s talking directly to me and my issues with those words when she explains that the title is intentionally blunt and the words deliberately chosen. She’s talking about fat and thin attitudes - it’s possible to have a fat attitude (getting little exercise, eating a high-fat, highly processed diet) and be physically thin; but the negative consequences of that fat attitude are hurting the body on the inside and those negative habits will come to the surface eventually.
So, I got past the title and kept reading - what did I find? A well-written, easily understood plan for working together with the entire family. This is not a “you’re the mom, this is what you need to do for your family” book. This is a “here’s how you can do this together, get everyone involved, make it your lifestyle” plan.
There are several heavier (more serious) diagnostic tools and charts to determine overall health of individuals and the family dynamic, activity snapshots, family eating habits, and the level of change needed to be made. These are tools to assess where you are before beginning the plan. At first glance the titles of the tools (and the fact that some are printed in official-sounding Appendices) can be a bit daunting. Taken line by line they make sense; straight-forward and quantitative measurements to help your family form its goals.
Hendel proposes the Healthy For Life (HFL) plan, a “whole family approach” with the mnemonic of 4 Ps - plan, prepare, portion, and play (activity) together. One of the principles I found most interesting (and core to the HFL plan) is the the “yes, no, maybe so” method of categorizing foods.
Each chapter concludes with a Quick-Summary and Tips for Teens and Tips for Kids. These sections reinforce the idea of a whole-family plan, and address issues and concerns for the various age groups. It also gives responsibility to the teens and younger children to make the best choices based on what is in their control.
Usually when I read a book I take notes on things that I might want to incorporate into a review - a particularly beautifully written section of prose in a novel, an insightful and memorable description in a work of non-fiction. I found myself taking pages of notes while reading 4 Habits of Healthy Families, and even (gasp!) marking portions of the text and writing notes in the margins! Notes for myself; notes to share with my family; habits I’d like to incorporate into our meal prep.
Hendel’s approach seems sound - she has medical research and experience to back-up the HFL plan; it is presented clearly - with lots of explanations and those text boxes and bullet-point lists that I love. As we approach back-to-school, I plan to get my family more involved with the 4 Ps. It will benefit us in many ways - quality time together, learning healthy habits, and less pressure on me to manage it all by myself.