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There are lots of self-help books out there for a wide-range of issues, but finding one that connects with you and moves you enough to make it useful is not an easy task. I also find that many offer simply common-sense perspectives and don't provide that pivotal step between knowing what to do and making you want to do it. Whilst this book is quite popular and recommended by self-help sites and professionals, I felt it lacked something to make it stand out from the crowd and to make it truly helpful.
Getting Better is basically a self-help, informative book aimed primarily at two types of eating disorders in particular, those of bulimia and binge eating (which you could call overeating or comfort eating on a disordered spectrum). It aims to provide a thorough understanding of the 'conditions', what recovery entails and how to get there.
In total, there are 15 Chapters over 143 pages (paperback version). Each lay out one aspect of the step-by-step plan. These are:
1. The way forward
2. Tools for the journey
3. Dieting: A health warning
4. Bingeing, nibbling, and compulsive overeating: The black hole of the never-satisfied stomach
5. Vomiting, laxatives and diuretics: Have your cake and eat it - or not?
6. Learning to feel good about your body
7. Jack Spratt's Wife: Being fatter may be better
8. Relapse: Walking in circles- Or not?
9. The wounds of childhood
10. Food for thought
11. Finding your voice
12. The seduction of self-destruction
13. The web of life: Parents, partners, children & friends
14. Working to live, living to work
15. Is this the end of the journey - Or not?
Whilst I think that showing the reader examples gives us something to relate to and something with which to reflect on, I personally found them rather intrusive at points, making them somewhat uninteresting to read. I tended to gloss over severak of them because what I wanted were tools, words of comfort and motivation, tips and solid advice. That's not to say that such examples were pointless, not at all, but many were quite long-winded and unhelpful for me personally.
To break up the text somewhat were scribbled cartoons throughout, along with various tables giving worked examples. For instance, there's a food diary example, which is useful in giving you an idea of a resource you can use for yourself, adapting from the template provided. I liked the breaking up of the text in this way as it made it a bit more manageable.
What this book does do, in between the real life examples, is give grounded behavioural routes and changes that can be taken during recovery. I find this really important; understanding the condition is one thing, knowing how to get to where you want to get to (ie to be healthy and happy with yourself and food) is another thing. I like that we're given ideas of changes that can be made, rather than it just bombarding the reader with concepts and whimsical ideas.
I would say that the language used was fairly clear and concise, striking a balance between knowledge and compassion. It wasn't too scientific but it wasn't too condescending, neither of which would have been a good thing. For this, it read more easily and makes you want to pick the book back up. I'd say it's easy to understand and not taxing, but it does, obviously, require attention. To be useful, you need to try to take in what's being said and think it through. It makes this fairly easy to do, breaking the text down in to manageable chunks and providing useful advice to consider.
This is designed as a 'survival kit' so it's intended to offer practical ideas and inspiration, rather than just be either informative or comforting. It's a step-by-step self-help programme that takes you from the start of the journey and it is, I believe, one that have been evaluated in a randomised controlled trial. This gives me more confidence in the programme, and knowing that many people rate this highly made me more inclined to be open to what was being said and suggested.
This isn't just a book for sufferers as it can be used by family and friends, or even professionals, who want to learn more about the process in the interest of supporting someone dealing with such issues. Having read this, however, I would say it would be quite useful alongside therapy/counselling, as there are steps that you can discuss with a professional and work through together. This of course isn't necessary as you can use it for self-help purposes on your own, but I do think it would be a good tool to use in the therapy situation.
The information is realistic and down-to-earth, offering practical and possible suggestions and routes you can take. It's something you can pick up and read at your leisure, taking away with you whatever bits you find useful and applicable. You needn't feel like you have to follow it 'by-the-book'; there were many bits in here that I didn't feel comfortable with or didn't feel were suitable, and these can be put to one side for consideration without necessarily acting upon. If it's structured, realistic ideas you're looking for, however, this is a good book to start with.
What wasn't I so keen on? Aside from what I felt was too much in the way of personal stories, I didn't find there to be anything greatly new in this book. There wasn't anything that made me think this stood out from the crowd and it didn't resonate with me in a way that really stuck in my head or give me a particular 'light bulb' moment. Unfortunately, this didn't particularly resonate with me in a profound way and it didn't stand out, in my mind, from some other books I've read of a similar nature. That's not to say it won't work, or be beneficial, for someone else. It obviously is because of other good reviews it has received, but the thing with these sorts of 'self-help' tools is that they vary so much in their appeal and usefulness. What's good for one person isn't for the next, so it really is a case of needing to try it for yourself.
I would recommend this for someone who wants a more serious, formal step-by-step guide with practical advice or knowledge on binge eating and/or bulimia, because you should try it to see for yourself if it suits. For me personally, I would have liked something a little more ground-breaking, something that resonated with me and provided me with compassion as well as practicality, with fewer story snippets and more behind the psychology of digging deeper in to the disorders at a personal level. In my opinion, this was quite a pricey book over which I would have chosen a cheaper, more useful to me, alternative (such as something by Geneen Roth, or Overcoming Overeating).
Produced by Routledge, which does a lot of mental health / self-help books (see here for more info & other recommended reading : www.routledgementalhealth.co.uk)
RRP £13.95, selling on Amazon for £11.53