Along the spectrum of approaches to health and fitness, most would consider veganism an extreme option. That said, it is an approach that becomes more popular and seemingly more possible as we learn more about the dangers of processed foods, pesticide-laden produce, and hormonally altered meat. Author Rea Frey sees veganism as a worthy way of life—and a practical option—for anyone who wants to live more healthfully.
Frey, a Chicago-based nutrition specialist and certified trainer, provides readers with a pathway to a healthier lifestyle in Power Vegan, published this year by Agate Publishing’s Surrey Books imprint. Frey argues that her approach is not a diet. She instead proposes that being a “power vegan” is about bringing power to one’s life by eating a plant-based diet and embracing exercise and lifestyle habits that improve health. Frey’s approach is encouraging and well-argued, but let’s call a spade a spade: Power Vegan is a diet book.
That said, it is not a diet book that instructs readers to give up all carbs or to survive on only low-fat foods or to avoid all sweets. Instead, Frey focuses on adding to one’s diet those foods that improve health and empower bodies. And, although she does, indeed, argue for a plant-based diet, she is in no way dogmatic about the notion, understanding that plenty of readers have no intention of giving up their seitan or steaks.
That understanding is in and of itself refreshing and even inviting, and because of that open-mindedness, Frey subtly lures readers around to her point of view. By tempting readers with notions like “the power of food to heal” and urging readers to “figure out what your health is worth to you and go from there,” Frey expertly guides readers toward the possibility of living healthier lives in a way that doesn’t require deprivation or guilt or superhuman feats of willpower.
Frey offers a three-pronged approach to power eating and shares with readers tips for eating for health and for fitness. She addresses the changes our bodies undergo as we age and how we can use food as an antidote to various ailments, aches, and pains. Power Vegan also provides readers with a number of exercises, recipes, and self-assessment tools, making the book both practicable and actionable.
The notion of going from a meat-loving, Cheetos-eating couch potato to a fit-and-trim raw-food-eating vegan may seem too much for some readers. Frey understands this, too, suggesting that readers make small changes over time rather than trying to completely switch gears all at once. She suggests adding in one new vegan food every week, arguing that we can actually eat more food when we eat the good stuff.
Some of the information Frey provides may not seem particularly revelatory to some readers, especially those who have struggled with weight or health issues and have read more than even just a few diet books or health-related articles. But many of the tips are insightful, and, even if they’re not new ideas, serve as good reminders of how to achieve good health.
In addition, Frey can be repetitive at times, suggesting time and time again that spinach or kale can be slipped into a smoothie or that slow cookers are great tools for readers who hate to cook. And, it would be nice if the recipes included in the book featured nutritional information for those readers who, for example, might have issues with sodium or sugar.
And, although Frey does say that all-out veganism isn’t the only way to health, she does press the point more than just a few times, especially when it comes to the ethical issues surrounding meat and processed foods.
But these are minor negatives and easily overlooked in a guide that, overall, provides at the very least some thought-provoking advice. Veganism may scare some readers, but that’s no reason to avoid this helpful guide. Frey offers plenty of practical advice that anyone can implement, regardless of where they stand on the ethical issues surrounding food or where they are on the health and diet spectrum. Power Vegan is about achieving lasting health, and Frey expertly and gently guides readers along a customizable path that they can follow in their own individual ways.
Learn more about Rea Frey.
May 2013, Agate Publishing/Surrey Books
Health & Fitness
$15.95, 295 pages, paperback