Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Book Review: Stop Aging, Start Living by Jeannette Graf, MD September 24, 2012

Also a short review of Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr

I wrote a post a few months ago entitled Is an Alkaline Diet Good for Your Skin? which concluded that yes, an alkaline diet was good for your skin.  After researching that post I wanted to learn even more about the subject of alkaline diets so I read the two books reviewed in this post and attempted to change my own diet (not so successfully) as well.

I was drawn to Dr. Graf’s book Stop Aging, Start Living for a few reasons.  Dr. Graf is a practicing dermatologist with a background in medical research who came to the conclusions that she writes about in her book after years of research and trial and error (on herself and her patients).  I always like to read books by people who back up their medical claims with real evidence and science as opposed to hearsay which is exactly what this book is like.  Moreover, Dr. Graf actually follows the advice that she dispenses in this book.  This is definitely a case of someone practicing what they preach.

The book is clearly and concisely written and an easy read.  Though there are real scientific principles outlined in the book they are done in a way that anyone can understand.  Believe me – I need my science dumb downed for me so if I could understand what she was talking about in this book anyone can.  The book outlines a lifestyle that embraces healthy eating and living.  There are recipes (I haven’t tried any yet I must admit) and skincare product recommendations in addition to skincare regime ideas.  Dr. Graf also includes sources for finding the other products she suggests getting in the book.

Dr. Graf’s co-author Alisa Bowman outlines the anti-aging program in the book’s introduction (pages 4-5 in the paperback edition):

The Nutrition Prescription.  You’ll focus most of your food choices on Jeannette’s eleven alkalinizing Age Stoppers (dark leafy greens, vegetables, filtered water, lemons and limes, garlic and onions, spices, fruit, nuts and seeds, olive oil, sea salt, and specific whole grains) and try to minimize the five acid-producing Age Accelerators (sugar, processed carbohydrates, alcohol, colas, coffee, and animal protein).  Using her 3-to-1 alkalinizing formula, you can continue to eat the acid-producing foods you love by balancing them with more alkaline options.

The Supplement Prescription.  Each morning you’ll drink a sweet but powerfully effective Alkalinizing Cocktail that contains greens powder and fiber.  You’ll also take an alkalinizing mineral supplement with calcium and a probiotic supplement to improve digestion.

The Lifestyle Prescription.  Through laughter (watching funny movies), joy (doing something every week that exhilarates you), and calm (deep breathing, vegging out, etc.), you’ll rev up your brain chemicals that produce joy, happiness, serenity, and an overall sense of well-being.  Your skin will glow as a result.

The Skin Care Prescription.  By using a cleanser, moisturizer, sunblock, eye cream, and makeup suitable for your age, skin type, and skin needs, you’ll reduce the appearance of wrinkles and plump up your skin.  The products work, and they’re affordable and easy for even the least knowledgeable skin care consumer (read: me) to fine. You won’t go broke on this program.

That is really Dr. Graf’s program in a nutshell.  The book expands upon the above topics.

I found Dr. Graf’s program to be easy to follow (for the most part) and realistic (compared to the program outlined in Crazy Sexy Diet – more on that below).  Dr. Graf takes into account that people do not have the time or inclination to make huge lifestyle changes that would disrupt their lives and burden themselves with unattainable goals and edicts.  Take for instance coffee – Dr. Graf acknowledges that while coffee is acid forming and while it really doesn’t have a place in an alkaline diet she still drinks it herself so it isn’t banned entirely from her patients’ diets or from the regime outlined in the book.  Or look at her alkalinizing cocktail which can replace time-consuming juicing and green smoothie making yet still gives you similar benefits to juicing and making vegetable laden green smoothies.

Part 1 of the book is the scientific side of the book.  In this part of the book Dr. Graf explains all about pH and how it affects your body and your skin; she talks about how if your body chemistry is too acidic hurts this your health.  The book also delves into the workings of our digestive system and explains how a properly working digestive system helps your body and your skin.  Lastly, the first  part of the book discusses the importance of joy and balance in our lives and how valuable it is to incorporate activities that make us happy into our lives.

Part 2 of the book explains, in detail, Dr. Graf’s four pronged approach to help you look your best.  There is the nutritional program, the supplement program, the skincare regime, and the lifestyle prescription as well.  I found her nutritional program striking in its easiness to follow and to incorporate into your life.  Yes, it takes some planning to follow her suggestions and you do have to give things up (limit the amount of animal protein in your diet including dairy and eggs and cutback to two cups of coffee a day for example), but the plan, overall, is realistic and clear.  The fact that there are recipes in chapter 10 (I would like to make the crunchy oatmeal raisin cookies with flax soon) and a list of acid forming and alkalinizing foods (pages 222-225) at the back of the book just makes trying to change your eating habits much easier.

The supplement chapter (chapter 6) outlines the different supplements Dr. Graf recommends taking daily and the reasons behind her recommendations.  This chapter also includes her recipe for the alkalinizing cocktail she recommends drinking every morning.  This is the simple way to get all the nutrition you would get from juicing without the fuss and mess of juicing (or expense). Dr. Graf explains how she came up with the idea for her alkalinizing cocktail (pages 89-90):

I stumbled across the greens powder many years ago, after that juice fast that I mentioned earlier.  I knew I needed more fruits and vegetables in my diet, but I was constantly on the move, going from patient to patient.  I traveled frequently.  Sometimes – often with the help of my juicer – I managed to eat ten servings of fruits and vegetables in a given day.  Usually I did not, especially when I traveled.  As committed as I was to juicing, I wasn’t willing to lug the juicer with me on an airplane.

So I began looking for a more concentrated and convenient source of fruits and vegetables.  I discovered greens powders.  Sold online and in health food stores, greens powders are nothing fancier than a powdered form of vegetable juice.  You mix the powder with water and drink.  Most notably, these powders are rich sources of wheat and barley grasses, sprouted grains, broccoli, kale, and other green vegetables.  Wheat, barley, and other cereal grasses in particular are extremely rich in antioxidants, chlorophyll, protein, vitamins, and minerals.  The grasses – the youngest green sprouts of these cereal grains – are actually much more nutritious than the grains (wheat, barley, kamut) that they produce.  They are particularly rich in polyphenols, the colorful pigments in fruits and vegetables that have been shown to promote optimal health.

Thanks to the nutritional goodness of these grasses, some greens drinks – such as my favorite brand, Greens First – contain antioxidant power equivalent to eating ten servings of fruits and vegetables!  That’s what I call concentrated nutrition.

I was really intrigued by the idea of drinking an alkalinizing cocktail each morning.  I went to a very large Whole Foods near my home at the time I was reading this book and looked for the brand recommended by Dr. Graf (Greens First).  When I couldn’t find that brand I decided to try different flavors of another brand since you could just buy one serving sizes.  The brand I tried was called Amazing Grass and the drinks I mixed up tasted just like that – grass.  No matter the flavor it tasted like grass.  It was very hard to drink (I still have one more packet left that I am dreading to try).  Granted I did not try Dr. Graf’s actual cocktail recipe (page 92) or the brand she recommended, but still the taste of the powder was a huge turnoff.  Also no matter how hard I tried to dissolve the powder in water I just couldn’t.  After drinking a full glass of the powder mixed with water I was still left with  sludge at the bottom my glass.  It was gross.  I do think that I need to try the greens powder again since I am nowhere near being able to afford a juicer, and despite my negative experience I still think this is a great idea.

Dr. Graf’s lifestyle prescription calls for incorporating a fun for you activity once or twice a week into your life.  She recommends exercising 20 or more minutes four times a week (fairly doable for the average person), deep breathing twice a day (a great alternative to mediating), laughter (so important and easily overlooked), relaxing for ten minutes twice a day, and finally finding a way to give back as often as you can.  Being able to make all these lifestyle changes every day probably isn’t in the cards for most people, but when you do have the time all of the recommendations in the book are quite doable and not overwhelming.  For instance, how many of you have tried to mediate and just given up in the end?  But can you find time for deep breathing twice a day?  I think most of us can.

Of course I was very interested to read Dr. Graf’s skincare regime advice.  I actually really like it since it was so down to earth, realistic (yes that word once again), and clear.  I found it really interesting that she advises everyone, no matter what is going on with their skin, to use a moisturizer twice a day.  As a retinol, retin-a devotee myself I loved the fact that she sees both as an integral part of an anti-aging skincare routine.  In the book she recommends drugstore products for everyday use though while researching this post I found out that she now has her own line of skincare products (which are very reasonably priced).  I have no idea if her products are any good, but I found it interesting that she has also come out with a skincare line.  Overall, I loved the skincare advice that she dispenses in the book, and if you aren’t into the nutritional aspects of this work I would still recommend reading what she has to say about skincare.

Chapter 9 of the book is an outline of how to really put to use all the information you just read about in the book.  There are three different plans explained – the 24-Hour Kick-Start (hardcore), the 2 Week Plan, and the Baby Steps.  I think most people will want to try the second or third or just the third plan.  Every aspect of your day is explained in detail and meal recommendations are included as well.  There is no guess work about how to incorporate all the information in the book into your life.  Everything is right there before you.

And Now A Little Bit About Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr

Many of you may have already heard of Kris Carr, but for those who haven’t I urge you to read her bio and explore her website.  Personally I find her story very inspirational and was looking forward to reading her book.  Now keep a few things in mind when you read Crazy Sexy Diet – the lifestyle choices recommended in this book are not for most.  Not that many people are willing to embrace a largely vegan and raw diet.  Not that many people can fast and/or go on juice cleanses.  Not everyone is willing to give up their coffee.  And not everyone has the time first thing in the morning to mediate and exercise before going about their daily business.  I would love to start my day like that but my son has drastically different ideas of how our morning should look like.  Having said all of that I found aspects of this book wonderful and inspiring.  Though Carr’s food and lifestyle plan do not work for me as a whole there were parts of the book and ideas from the book that I was delighted have encountered.  Just the outpouring of positivity that the book embraces is worth the price of the book.  As I was reading this book I kept thinking of different friends, who for varying reasons, would benefit from this reading this book.  I think there is really something, even if it is small, that everyone can take away from this book.  Just because you aren’t ready to spend your days juicing and eating raw vegan meals while telling yourself positive affirmations doesn’t mean that you can’t find something of use to you in the pages of this book.

Bottom Line:  If you are looking for a reasonable and fairly easy way to improve your health and help your skin I recommend Dr Graf’s book.  If for whatever reason you feel like you need a total lifestyle overhaul I recommend Carr’s book.  And if you just need a little inspiration and a pick-me-up turn both of these books can help you.

Just for Fun:

Further Reading:

In case the ideas espoused in Crazy Sexy Diet sound new to you be sure to read The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle which is a fictionalized account of the going ons at Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s Battle Creek Spa.  Ideas about healthy eating and how to care for one’s body have been around for eons, in different permutations.

Images from goodreads.com and http://www.abcnews.com

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Stop Aging, Start Living by Jeannette Graf, MD”

  1. […] Book Review: Stop Aging, Start Living by Jeannette Graf, MD … ← Basic Skin Care Advice That Will Work With Ease – Anti Aging […]

  2. Great post. I was raised on a vegan diet throughout much of my childhood and now occasionally allow myself some wild Alaskan salmon when protein is scarce. I also make a smoothie daily and add organic barley greens to it…. Can’t even taste it. If I’m too lazy to make a smoothie i’ll drink the barley greens in water. Just hold your breath whilst drinking and finish off with something flavorful immediately after you’ve gulped it down. That’s what I do anyway! 😉

    I’ll add Dr. Graf’s book to my list of books to read. Thanks.


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