Simplicity, Tribes and Potatoes: What do they have in common?

It isn't a joke. It's my recent reading list. Simplicity, tribes and potatoes are the subjects of three different non-fiction books I just finished reading. I had jotted down the titles on a sticky note as a reminder to write reviews for you. As I looked at the list, it occurred to me that the combination of books, itself, had a different story to tell. That these three disparate books happened to convene on my nightstand at the same time seems rather odd, but it perfectly illustrates the trio of forces I'm forever working to simplify and balance in my daily life: professional, parenting, and personal.

The Books

  1. Tribes, by Seth Godin: This is a brilliant little book about turning ideas into movements and stepping up as a leader. Reading it inspired a major shift in perspective for me, and the ripple effects are ongoing.

  2. Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne: I can't say enough wonderful things about Kim John Payne. In this book, Payne makes a compelling case against the "too much, too soon, too fast" pace of modern life that we've come to accept as normal, and how this accumulated stress shows up in our children as a variety of behavior disorders. His solution is to aim for simplicity in our family life in four key areas: de-cluttering the home environment, (I'm already a freakish minimalist, so we're good on that one) establishing rhythms and predictability, (working on that) maintaining balanced schedules, (trying) and filtering out the adult world (yep, TV really is brain poison).

  3. Potatoes, not Prozac, by Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons: I wouldn't have ever discovered this book by its title, since antidepressants are not my thing, but it's actually a book about sugar sensitivity and healing sugar addiction. Now that? That's my thing. She lays out a 7-step plan for naturally balancing your brain chemicals and beating sugar addiction.

The Connections

If we use the letters I assigned to each of the three books, A, B & C, and plug them into this handy Venn diagram*, I can illustrate what these all have to do with one another.

  • A-B: Right after I finished reading Tribes, I began reading Simplicity Parenting, and decided to check out the website. Lo and behold, either Kim John Payne had just read Tribes too, or it was an interesting bit of coincidence, but darned if this wasn't the perfect example of Godin's principles in action! Payne was taking his ideas and turning them into a movement – something that went beyond selling a book. He was setting up trainings for Simplicity Coaches to help them help families. He was encouraging community groups to form around Simplicity Parenting so parents could support one another in their efforts to simplify. Word was spreading fast, and within six months, the book was already in its third printing. Just as I was pondering how I would implement what I'd learned from Tribes, here was a model right in my niche. Handy!

  • B-C: What might Simplicity Parenting have to do with sugar addiction, you ask? I think the connection is two-fold. First, the science Dr. DesMaisons reveals behind sugar sensitivity is fascinating, and just might explain most of my character flaws. In brief, sugar sensitive individuals happen to have low levels of serotonin, blood sugar, and beta-endorphins, (yes - all three!) and this triple-threat chemical imbalance results in all kinds of unpleasant behaviors and feelings, not to mention sugar cravings which only throw things further out of whack. I'm convinced I'd be a more patient, happy, and serene mama if my brain chemicals were better balanced. I'm working on that. (I'm still on step 2, so I have a ways to go, but so far, so good.) Plus, speaking for the universal "we," when we're happy, we don't need to look outside of ourselves for fulfillment; we don't have the need to fill each day of the week with play dates, or buy our kids more toys, or fill our houses with more stuff, or watch TV to escape. Implementing the pillars of Simplicity Parenting is a lot easier when we're happy and at ease with ourselves.

    The second connection between these two books is that in exploring my own reactions to sugar, I'm becoming even more aware of Lucas' sensitivity to sugar. I noticed early on that it made him crazy-annoying, and so we already avoided obvious sugars like candy or even fruit roll-ups. But I'm learning to give him more protein at each meal and to cut out the carby snacks. We're replacing crackers and such with whole food snacks like apples, which hit the bloodstream slowly and steadily over time, and carrots, which give him the satisfaction of crunching on something. Eliminating the over-stimulation of sugar and processed foods, especially if a child is sugar-sensitive, is one more way to reduce a child's stress level and bring their behavior back into the normal range.

  • C-A: Finally, Potatoes not Prozac and Tribes; Really? There's a connection? Absolutely! I was so jazzed after reading Tribes that I launched into a flurry of journaling activity and a whole new take on my writing and my mission. (More on that later.) I was passionate, focused, and confident that I was the one for this mission! Not-coincidentally, I was just coming off of being sick, and so I'd been eating well to get well for about two weeks. (Plus, I'd been taking the flower essences!) That meant I hadn't been eating chocolate of and on all day, every day, as is my norm. Once I felt better, I went back to my beloved chocolate in its many luscious forms, and lost some steam … and focus … and confidence. This cycle felt all too familiar to me. That's when I started reading Potatoes not Prozac and discovered that passion, focus and confidence, among many other things, are in short supply when you're dealing with sugar sensitivity. By consuming so much sugar, I was pretty much short-circuiting my progress on ANYTHING. By implementing Dr. DesMaison's seven steps, I hope to get my brain chemicals back in balance so I can fully implement what I learned from Seth Godin and step into my work with confidence and clarity.

Pulling from the wisdom in all three books, I feel like I have the tools I need to keep my professional life oriented toward meaningful goals while creating more simplicity and balance in our home life. Plus I'm gaining more energy, clarity, confidence, and optimism to help me stay on track with both of those now that I'm easing myself away from sugar addiction. This was a triple-whammy kick in the pants. Yes!

Do you find any of your current book combinations intriguing or insightful? Or is it just me - and the fact that I woke up at 3am this morning and decided to write instead of go back to bed? I'd love to hear from you!




*Created by Matts Halldin


Julie March 31, 2010 at 8:24 AM  

Alexis, you always post such interesting topics, and post about that in such an interesting and engaging way, I should add as well.

Am fascinated by all three books that you mention, and love the Venn Diagram (takes me back to my Maths lessons days!) - I completely see how each correlates with the others, although as you say, on the surface, potatoes, simplicity and tribes wouldn't appear to have so much in common.

I've not heard of the first book that you mention, but it definitely sounds worth a read, and I've added it to my wish list. I'm definitely going to get Simplicity as my next "parenting" book though, I've heard so many good things about it, and your recommendation has sealed the deal, it also really chimes with where I am at about our lives and the choices we make. Have you read Mitten Strings For God - Katrina Kenison - despite the title, not religious in the slightest, but a mother's memoir of her thoughts on life lived at a slower pace and the benefits it brings to each member of the family, not so much of a how to, but an interesting read, one which is in itself, gentle and soothing, and inspirational at one level, although not so much on the specifics of how to acheive the simplicity.

Potatoes not Prozac also sounds fascinating - and just what I've been looking for. I've been concerned about the sugar in our diets recently, although I think we eat pretty healthily on the whole, and I am the horrible mother that rarely lets her kids eat sweets or chocolate (this weekend will be a one off notable exception, and I am sure we'll pay the price for it!), but this confirms exactly what's been brewing in my head. I like how she recommends taking time over the changes - difficult for me because once I decide something I tend to want to jump in at the deep end but on another level I see how doing as she recommends will be of a long term benefit. WIll be interested to hear and share more as you move along this path, with regard to meal specifics and the changes that you see taking place. Isn't it funny how much we all seem to have the same ideas and ideals arising at this time - what a shame we couldn't all be able to meet together in "real" life to discuss these issues, now wouldn't that be wonderful ? xx

Janice March 31, 2010 at 4:03 PM  

You posting about sugars is timing because I've been thinking about sugars a lot since reading "Healing and Preventing Autism" -- since they discuss that removing sugar from the diet is the one of the best things to do to help the immune system. Also, it'll help the yeast problem too. Moses doesn't eat any candy, but he has a lot of apple juice and a lot of carby snacks. I think I may

Over the last few months, I've actually beaten gotten over my chocolate addiction (and so has hubby). For me, it was a combination of supplementing with chromium and my Reiki attunement, I think, that helped me get over it... And, I officially am over my cheese addiction too, I think. I'm finally started to crave better foods for me!!

As always, your posts gives lots of food for thought.

Janice March 31, 2010 at 5:49 PM  

Hey Alexis: Just wanted to let you know that your post was the next step in the puzzle for helping to heal Moses' sugar cravings. I blogged about it here:

Alexis Ahrens April 1, 2010 at 4:54 PM  

Julie~ Thanks for the book rec! That sounds lovely! I'll put out a search for it at our library. It really is interesting how we seem to be on the same wavelength on these topics, isn't it? I would be so nice to be able to meet in person!

Your point about wanting to jump in at the deep end with healing the sugar addiction is actually a trait Dr. DesMaisons has found in sugar-sensitive people, and certainly one I identify with. Slow and steady is not my m.o., but I'm willing to give it a go.

Janice~ I'm so glad my post was helpful! I can't wait to hop over there and read your post about it! Congrats on overcoming your chocolate addiction! That's huge!


Lisa (MommyMystic) April 2, 2010 at 7:49 PM  

These all sound wonderful. As you know, I can relate to the sugar/food thing, although it was another book (Chakra Foods) that got me looking at foods from an energetic perspective, and got me looking at my own diet in those terms. And Tribes comes up over and over among bloggers I know - I feel like I have read the book, even though I haven't! And simplicity parenting, too I definitely can relate to that.

As for my own reading, I have been in a very metaphysical/symbology mindset lately (as you can probably tell from my blog) so I've been reading a lot of stuff along those lines. Just re-read Carolyn Myss's Sacred Contracts which works with Jungian archetypes, and really got a lot out of it. Interesting to me anyway, although not so directly applicable to real life!

Anyway, sounds like you are finding your balance, that's all any of us can do. I have been working on accepting the pace that works for us all lately too.

Alexis Ahrens April 6, 2010 at 10:33 AM  

Lisa ~ Ooh - Chakra Foods sounds interesting to me, too! I think you're well on your way to living what Seth writes about in Tribes. It's a quickie read. I just love reading about Jungian archetypes, and I haven't read Carolyn Myss in years. Are you planning to write a review on the book, or was it just for fun?

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