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Giving Up Junk-Food Relationships: Recipes for Healthy Choices Paperback – January 28, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


"This debut self-help book asks readers to think twice about what they eat—and how they fall in love.

The market for self-help books about love and sex is seemingly insatiable. So, too, is the market for health and diet books. Life and relationship coach Barnes cleverly combines the two genres into one book that outlines the steps to maintain healthy bodies and healthy relationships. Barnes argues that just as chips, pizza and candy make us sick, so do relationships that fulfill temporary emotional cravings. They may feel good in the moment, she writes, but they soon lead to an emotional “crash” akin to a blood-sugar dip. Using templates created by the food industry to distinguish types of foods and portion sizes, Barnes reimagines love lives as a series of ingredients that make up a “Well-Balanced Meal,” or a lovely, decadent “Dessert” (Barnes’ term for casual dating). Self-respect, forgiveness, communication and proper boundaries make up a deliciously satisfying romantic partnership, she writes, while self-doubt and criticism are junk foods to be tossed out immediately. The author extends this conceit all the way through the book, expounding upon emotional “Food Poisoning,” “Between-Meal Snacks” (rebound relationships) and “Forbidden Fruit.” Although her numerous quizzes may strike readers as a bit trite, her food metaphors are so original that they give renewed taste to stale concepts. Barnes isn’t a nutritionist, but her health and diet tips are common-sensical and avoid the didactic tone of many diet books. She even destigmatizes such issues as sex addiction and emotional wounds by filtering them through the lens of nutrition, allowing readers to examine their own inner physical and emotional workings more objectively.

A welcome addition to the self-help genre that aims to heal body and mind."

From the Author

We all have our favorite drive-thru or take-out meal. A burger and fries can taste really good when you're out and about or in the airport rushing to get on a flight. It might even be a guilty pleasure that you go out of your way to devour. Sometimes when your stomach is growling out loud, you'll simply settle for what's readily available to satisfy your hunger.
            How do you typically feel shortly after indulging your craving? Do you feel a little bloated? A little nauseated? Maybe you have some heartburn. Do you feel guilty and wish you had eaten something healthy instead? And have you noticed what happens to that scrumptious fast food when it cools off and isn't hot anymore? It's pretty nasty, isn't it?
            Well, bad relationships are pretty much the same as junk food. They usually start out with a hunger or craving for companionship, but if this healthy craving escalates into loneliness and neediness, such people tend to make bad choices. They might just grab whoever's available or seek out a particular type that at first glance always appears appetizing. When it's hot, it's fabulous! It's exciting and fun--very enjoyable. But as the euphoria of the new relationship starts to wear off and the "can't get enough of you" passion cools down, what's left isn't exactly satisfying. Sometimes it's even harmful, and the long-term effects can be devastating. (Ever see Fast Food Nation?[1])
            The difference between consuming actual junk food and indulging in emotional junk-food is that with food, at least you usually know what you're consuming isn't really good for you. With relationships it's not always as easy to tell it's not good for you until you've already digested a lot of it. As a relationship coach, I see a lot of people who don't really know if their relationship is right for them. I even see people who are in downright toxic relationships but don't know it, or refuse to acknowledge it. Many people think they know, or at least have an idea of, what they want in a relationship. But most people don't know what they don't want in a relationship until they've experienced it and didn't like it. I think knowing what you don't want in a partner is more important. This book is intended to empower you with knowledge--to help you create virtual nutrition labels for potential partners and make healthier relationship choices.
            My greatest hope is to prevent you from suffering through a long list of dysfunctional "been there done that" liaisons to acquire knowledge, as I did. I always thought I was a great catch, and I hope you think you are a great catch as well. But if you're reading this book, your relationships probably aren't working out the way you want them to. They weren't working for me either, until I realized I needed to change some behavior. I was junk-food, and I learned that the hard way.
            At age eighteen, my modeling agency got me an apartment in New York City. I was thrilled to be in the heart of America's biggest singles scene. I felt like a kid in a candy store! Parties, late night clubs, even in the dressing rooms of my modeling and acting bookings, I saw and heard a lot of dating tales and disasters. Personally, I was a serial monogamist (always had a boyfriend); I didn't want to be alone. But I never managed to make the right choices. My friends and family were frequently concerned. When you're in love (or think you are), you don't want to listen to anything negative. You certainly can't hear it. I made it through my twenties thinking I was doing okay. Then I turned thirty and had my heart broken for the first time. I was blindsided, actually, and I was having a hard time catching my breath. I was left questioning, "Why doesn't he want me anymore?" For the first time, I started to think, What's wrong with me?
            A lot was wrong with me. Not just to suit any guy; negative behavior was affecting my life. It just took a guy to make me see that. I then had an epiphany: If I was ever going to have a healthy relationship, I needed to learn exactly what one was. A girlfriend turned me on to self-help books, and I discovered knowledge was the only thing that made me feel better. I became a knowledge junkie. I enlisted the help of a great therapist and serendipitously began a new career.
            After years of dating without becoming someone's exclusive girlfriend, pining over a man I couldn't have (at least not full-time), starring in a reality show,[2] cohosting a talk show,[3] and writing a magazine column,[4] New York City started to call me "the real-life Carrie Bradshaw."[5] I have to admit that the title fit. I finally learned how to enjoy being alone; and then I met a wonderful well-balanced meal. In 2006, I enrolled at New York University[6] to officially become a life coach. Clients frequently tell me I give them a unique perspective--a combination of practical hindsight, intelligence, and academic knowledge. It's incredibly validating when they call to simply say, "You were right!" I can't help but think, "It's about time I got it right." Almost three decades later, I feel I have earned the title of dating and relationship expert. My favorite part is helping people make better choices than I did.
            As a teenage model whose only income came from what she looked like, I was obsessed with working out and trying to eat right. I'm from Philadelphia, and cheesesteaks and hoagies (which come on a twelve-inch Italian roll) were my favorite comfort food. It was a constant battle between enjoying what I ate or enjoying how I looked. At the same time, I was struggling with my relationships. I had no idea what boundaries were, and looking back, I definitely had a few "What was I thinking?" relationships. If I had thought then to put a food value on men, I would have known exactly whom to indulge in and whom to throw away. That's how the idea for this book was born. Like attracts like; therefore, you are who you meet, just as you are what you eat. I'm going to give you a detailed nutrition label for all the most common--and some obscure--behaviors and personality types so you can become a smart shopper. I intend to help you figure out what kind of situation you are currently in, what your personal deal-breakers should be, and how to make your relationships better.
[1] Fast Food Nation is a 2006 American/British drama directed by Richard Linklater that examines the local and global influence of the US fast-food industry.
[2] Single in the City, 2002 WE Network USA, Bravo Canada, a.k.a. To Live and Date in New York 2002 Metro TV, New York, a.k.a. The Real Sex in the City 2002 Sky Broadcasting in thirteen countries. Produced by September Films out of London.
[3] Naked New York with Bob Berkowitz 2002-2003. 205 episodes. Metro TV, Cablevision, New York.
[4] New York Moves 2003-2004 Dish Relationship Column
[5] The lead character in HBO's Sex & the City, 1998-2004
[6] New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies 2006-2007, Personal and Life Coaching Certification

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (January 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1475972784
  • ISBN-13: 978-1475972788
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #907,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book was an easy read, well written and well worth the investment.

It's packed with the kind of wisdom about good and poor relationships that has the power to change someone's destiny for the better. I totally understood the comparisons of how we become what we eat. If we eat healthy food on a regular basis, we will have a healthy body. The author shares that the same applies to our relationships. If we interact with emotionally healthy people, who treat us with genuine love and respect, then those relationships have the potential to stand the test of time. The problem seems to be in discerning what is a healthy relationship and what's considered Junk-food.

The author does an excellent job of educating her reader of what the many signs of a relationship that's headed for disaster look like. She also gives remedies that have the potential to bring healing into an unhealthy relationship.

Being able to tell the difference between a potential loser and a keeper can be clouded by our own denial. I certainly can see more clearly now what the warning signs are of an healthy Junk-Food relationship. I also feel I've been equipped with the proper "verbal" diet plan that can help mend a relationship that's been heavily weighted down due to poor communication skills.

The author created a test that offers multiple choice answers. When the test is completed you are able to score your results. If you score low, you are in a "Junk-Food" relationship and should consider finding someone with healthier attributes to spend your time with.

I found the book to be intuitive, creative, informative and an asset worth holding on to for future relationship references.

Jordy C.
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Format: Hardcover
This may be the most uniquely helpful books I have ever been privileged to read.. By using the analogy of food to help you define your relationships Donna has given me the easiest way I have ever seen to keep my love and interactions under control. My Mom sent me this book after seeing me get involved with several really bad situation in a row. By repeating my mistakes I had become an emotional cripple. I had said to my family that I was finished. That the pain of it was not worth the potential pleasure. I had accepted loneliness as my natural state. My family decided that was not going to be. My Mom had read this and sent me a copy. At first it was just not understandable. But I had promised to read it. A co-worker wanted to set me up with a friend. After one date I realized I was able to see this as another potential mess. It was then I realized that Donna's concept were real. I have not found the one yet but I do have several good friends now that are healthy choice relationships. These ideas work. Give this to someone you care about. Even yourself.
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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book that really has the potential to change your life for the better. I would recommend it to anyone, man or woman, single, dating, or married. It has so much useful information and tips that will make a huge difference in they way you pursue your love life. I absolutely love the unique take on (junk food) relationships that the author uses.. It somehow makes it so much clearer and relevant. By using such a metaphor, the author does an excellent job at pointing out how the relationships we are in and the people that we involve ourselves with affect our emotional and physical health. You can tell that the author is a professional with the experience and knowledge that it takes to give meaningful and useful advice, and it is obvious that she cares about people. This book is very thought-provoking.. will truly make you stop and think about the decisions you've made. It is written in such a fun way (there are even quizzes!) that it will keep you interested and motivated to better your love life. It even offers advice for mending broken/unhealthy relationships, and teaching yourself to recognize and avoid toxic relationships. This book helps you get down to the bottom of your own actions and how to look inward to make improvements for yourself instead of relying on the other person to magically change. This is the best relationship book out there right now.. offers such great insight and advice that is useful for anyone looking to share their life with a significant other. If people had to read this book, it could save a lot of people from a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering. Sometimes we forget that a healthy relationship is based on love and respect, and this book will make sure that you never forget that! Highly recommended.. should be a staple in everyone's collection.
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Format: Paperback
The dating world can be rough for a multitude of reasons, reasons which are confusing, frustrating, and at times exhausting. There are a plethora of relationship advice books that have explored the intricacies of relationships, but no author has guided my friends and I through this dizzying maze with such ease, clarity and simplicity as certified life and relationship coach Donna Barnes. Using food metaphors to not only make the explanations easy to understand, she also adds a funny wit to her writing, which kept me turning pages, not wanting to put this book down. Not just another relationship book, Donna begins by helping you look inward; "Do I Have Junk Food or a Healthy Meal?" (Intro) and describes the "Junk Food Ingredient List". She goes on to explain the "Symptoms of Junk Food" (Chapter 1) which for me, really resonated because she not only pointed out what was dysfunctional, but why, and more importantly how to recognize types of junk food partners to stay healthy in a relationship. My favorite section is Chapter 2, where she explains "Dating Disorders" because I was able to see what types of disorders I have come across, and how to spot them going forward. The quizzes she provides enables you to take moment and really assess yourself, and not only help you look inward but also teach you how to rectify bad choices (i.e. junk food relationships). Giving Up Junk-Food Relationships: Recipes for Healthy Choices is a new and smart approach to help us realize what a junk food relationship is, and how to change our bad habits. Finally - a relationship book that is real and full of truly useful insightful guidance. A must read for anyone searching for love or just simply looking to keep and maintain any healthy relationship.
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