Literary (health) classics

“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” Mark Twain

There have been many iconic health books over the years that influenced society’s behavior and thinking at the time. While with the benefit of hindsight we may find some of the advice outdated, the philosophies at odds with current practice and the covers much less subtle than we’d ever print today, they are a product of their time and were a valuable, relied upon resource for new parents, couples, fitness-conscious people and budding cooks.

Let’s take a look at a few literary health legacies that captured our attention.

Pritikin Program For Diet and Exercise

The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise is based on a diet developed in the 1980s by Nathan Pritikin. The diet focuses on unprocessed or minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, starchy veggies, lean meats and seafood.

An emphasis on the importance of at least thirty minutes daily exercise, a regular weights program and daily stretching are also a component of the program.

The book, co-authored by Patrick M. McGrady, became an international bestseller and sold more than 10 million copies. It remained on the New York Times bestseller Top Ten list for more than 54 weeks.

Fit For Life

Published in 1985, ‘Fit for Life’ recommends diet and lifestyle practices that claim to help people lose excess body weight and maintain good health.

The diet categorises food into two groups, ‘dead foods,’ that clog the body and ‘living foods,’ that cleanse it. ‘Fit for Life’ recommends eating fruits raw and fresh, not combining carbohydrates and proteins, reducing dairy and not drinking water at meals.

The book appeared as a New York Times bestseller and, according to author Harvey Diamond in his book ‘Fit for life, not fat for life’, it has sold over 12 million copies.

Men are from Mars Women are from Venus

American author and relationship counselor John Gray’s ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ was first published in 1992. It was marketed as ‘A practical guide for improving communications and getting what you want in your relationship’ and asserted that fundamental differences between genders are the cause of most relationship problems.

Widely popular, a film adaptation of the book starring Reese Witherspoon is currently in pre-production and a French stage adaptation has been running in Paris for six years.

John Gray’s books have sold over 50 million copies in 50 languages.

What to expect when you’re expecting

First published in 1984, ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ is written by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel and offers pregnancy advice in a question and answer format.

Now in its fourth addition, the book is listed as one of USA Today’s “25 most influential books’ of the past 25 years and covers the phases of pregnancy from when a woman suspects she may be pregnant through to the postnatal period.

Described as ‘the bible of American pregnancy’, the concept for the book came about during Murkoff’s own pregnancy when she was searching for reassuring information.

Joy of Cooking

One of the most published cookbooks in the United States, ‘Joy of Cooking’ has been in continuous print since 1936 and sold over 18 million copies.

Written by Irma Rombauer and illustrated by her daughter Marion Rombauer Becker for a private print run in 1931, the book today is in the hands of the fourth generation of the Becker family.

‘Joy of Cooking’ has been an indispensible resource for the American kitchen and celebrated its 75th anniversary edition in 2006.

“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” Mark Twain

For more health information Medibank members can visit Health Hub

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