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Book Review of: The Superstress Solution


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Review of The Superstress Solution, by Dr. Roberta Lee, M.D. (Hardcover, 2010)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

As someone who has endured many kinds of stressful events (earthquakes, tornadoes, fire, flood, hurricane, IRS audits, and other natural disasters), I feel qualified to review a book on stress. I've also written a course on this topic so I come at it as a published expert.

My insights into handling stress made quantum leaps when I began studying Chinese martial arts in the early 1980s. Dr. Lee is of Chinese decent (third generation Chinese American). Thus, I was not surprised to find myself nodding yes, yes, yes as she explained one concept and then another. Much of what she says is outside of the mainstream discussions of this topic. And that's really too bad, because she's right on target.

I was born with an immune deficiency that persists to this day, yet have not been sick since 1971. I credit this mostly to my dietary choices. Dr. Lee makes dietary recommendations that are very close to what I would recommend. Even Dr. Lee's Famous Salad Dressing is nearly identical to my own dressing recipe (I don't add honey, and I use balsamic vinegar instead of rice wine vinegar).

One thing she doesn't mention is where to get your green tea. I get mine from an ethnic Chinese grocery. I think it is an important quality consideration. For one thing, the tea bags don't have staples. I'm guessing Dr. Lee doesn't buy her green tea from the local chain grocery, so isn't aware that many brands of green tea aren't up to the standards she probably takes for granted.

Why are our diets so similar? It isn't because her information is widely known and practiced (it isn't). The similarities are there because we have arrived at solutions that work, though by different paths taken to get there.

The similarities go beyond diet. They go to the core philosophy: health care. At the time I'm writing this review, there's a national debate about "health care" yet nobody's talking about actual health care. They are talking about medical care. These aren't at all the same thing.

Medical care means cut, burn, or poison to treat the disease. And sometimes, that's necessary. But usually it's preventable. In all cases, it's expensive and in many cases astronomically so.

Over 90% of recurrent medical care would be prevented if continued treatment were contingent upon implementation of health care. For example, to get continued treatment for prostate cancer men would be required to reduce body fat to under 8% (easily achievable at any age) via a supervised portion control program. Or they would be denied the continued treatment, because their own behavior is defeating the purpose of the treatment anyhow. This may sound harsh at first, but if you reflect upon all of the facts, you can't help but conclude it's the most humane way to proceed. It's also the least expensive.

But instead of healing people, we subsidize sickness-inducing behavior and then complain that it costs too much to treat the sickness. This is like throwing rocks at your windows and then complaining about the replacement costs. The current "health care debate" is about deciding who will control the repair process instead of reducing the number of rocks thrown--maybe it would be nice to bring some competent adults into the "debate."

Medical care costs are ten times higher than they would be if we had a 'treat the person" approach rather than a "treat the disease" approach. Personal misery, of course, is also ten times higher than it needs to be.

Dr. Lee's approach to solving stress-related illness goes to the underlying problems, treating the person to solve the disease rather than treating only the disease and leaving the person unhealthy. This is one of the stark differences between "conventional medicine" (treat the disease) and "holistic medicine" (treat the person).

My own "mainstream" physician is an old-timer who tells patients things they don't like to hear and who insists on practicing health care rather than just medical care. When I went to him earlier this year with a nasty thumb infection (a tick had burrowed into my thumb, yuck), I just wanted him to lance it and give me antibiotics. I thought that was all he could do, and I was wrong. He used a combination of medicine and health care, impressing the heck out of me.

Dr. Lee is of this same caliber. While many overworked doctors will just prescribe a drug and hope you get over whatever is causing you to stress out, it's not a real solution. The drug reduces (or shifts) the symptoms, but it doesn't solve the problem.

Part of the solution involves proper diet, which is something most Americans describe as "nutty." People who observe my food choices often ask, "Are you health nut?," to which I reply "No, I'm just not a disease nut." What goes into the typical American shopping cart is appalling. No wonder people get sick.

Why anyone would drink "osteoporosis in a can" (soda) or eat "colon cancer in the dough" (bread with hydrogenated oil in it) I have no idea. Engaging in such practices defies logic, especially when you consider that these behaviors also promote obesity. If Americans dropped just these two behaviors, our national "health care crisis" would end because two big drivers of disease would be gone. Yet, it's the rare shopping cart that doesn't contain BOTH of these toxins.

Dr. Lee's diet recommendations provide sane alternatives.

Of course, the book isn't just about diet. I expound on that because it's the easiest part of the total solution to implement and it provides fast results. Dr. Lee provides what I consider a complete solution, though others may disagree. I've read other books on stress and think most of what is said is off target or suggest things that just aren't practical. This book doesn't have those shortcomings.

So, what's inside it?

She writes a nice introduction that lays out the basic concepts. It also explains her perspective on how we arrived at the current super stress as normal situation.

Part One consists of the first two chapters. Chapter One, Super Stress in Your Body and on Your Mind, discusses the symptoms and sources of chronic stress. Chapter Two provides a way to assess your level and type of stress. It provides four questionnaires that aid in this purpose. I think just going through the questionnaires can be helpful because issues that you might not think of are right there.

In Part Two, six chapters delve into the tools for stress reduction. I mentioned food (Chapter 4), earlier. Chapter 5 is titled "Rest and Motion." These are the two "physical" chapters; the others are about mental and social tools. These other four areas are typically under-rated and under-utilized. Conventional medicine doesn't address them at all.

On a related note, talk therapy, which treats the person, has been supplanted by "prescription therapy," which treats the disease. This sorry state of affairs is driven by Medicare requirements and yet we're supposed to believe that expanding government involvement into medical care is going to help.

Part Three consists of the last two chapters, and is all about taking your own personal stress solution from thought to reality. Chapter Nine provides a four-week program that will produce results for anyone suffering from chronic stress. Chapter Ten provides a sustainable strategy for stress-proofing, but that strategy is modified into four variations. Which variation you use depends on the stress types you identified in Chapter Two.

As with anything else that actually works, this program requires personal commitment and discipline. You have to replace old habits with new ones, and that takes time. Occasionally, it means being frustrated because the old behaviors took over. But if you stick with it, you'll find the results you were seeking.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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