Book Review: WYCWYC

It’s at last time to talk about the book What You Can When You Can: Healthy Living on Your Terms by Carla Birnberg and Roni Noone.

Now wait a sec, Charlie. Didn’t this book come out, like, months ago? Don’t you know you’re supposed to review books right when they come out, if not days or weeks before?

Yes, normally this is true. But here’s the thing. I’ve written and published several books myself and I can tell you this:

  1. A unique emotional high accompanies every book release; and
  2. By laws of symmetry, an equal and opposite low comes after the excitement dies down and the buzz all but stops.

So when I ordered this book on April 18, 2015, I decided right then and there to publish my review today. I wanted to give the authors a boost, however tiny, eight months after the book’s release. And I wanted to give my readership, however tiny, a solid tool to help with their inevitable healthy-living-related New Year’s Resolutions.

The Concept

Before discussing the book, it’s important to talk about the #wycwyc concept. And before talking about the concept, I need to get two things off my chest:

Thing #1

Truth is, I was the one who actually invented the whole what you can when you can idea. However I made a colossal marketing blunder and only applied the concept to pooping. Sadly, mine never took off. Fortunately, that means Roni gets full credit for realizing its true potential. I’ve since filed the whole affair under “lessons learned.”

The brilliance of wycwyc lies in its simplicity: six words says it all. Life isn’t about taking one or two gigantic steps and calling it done. It’s about thousands of little steps. Not one of them will get you to your goal by itself, not by a long shot. But if you keep at it, then little by little, you will see results.

For example: you know how when you go to a pizza buffet and you look at the thirty hot and delicious pizzas arrayed before you and you think, “Oh no! There’s NO WAY I’ll fit all those pizzas in my mouth at once!” Well, this kind of “all or nothing” attitude is exactly the kind of negative thinking that keeps us from reaching our goals.

Thing #2

Now for my second confession: I’m cynical by nature and I’m also extremely intense when it comes to projects. I pour my all into them (and then some (and then some more)). My philosophy is simple: nothing ever gets started by just wishing it and nothing ever gets finished by half-assing it. So my cynical and intense self first viewed the wycwyc philosophy almost as a cop out.

“Oh, you can’t run a full marathon? Well, just walk to the mailbox and back. Good job!” Really? That didn’t sound like inspiration. If anything, it sounded patronizing. Wasn’t this just the “everybody gets a trophy” mentality at work again?

As it turns out, no it wasn’t. I was wrong. Flat out wrong.

Why It Can Work

No one believes that a fifty yard walk to the mailbox is an achievement equal to running a marathon. But if you make that walk every day for a year, you’ll have walked ten miles that you wouldn’t have walked otherwise. Will you lose fifty pounds doing this? No. But here’s the thing, you’re not going to lose fifty pounds running a marathon either. (Trust me, I’ve tried.)

But what you will get out of that walk to the mailbox, far more than any immediate physical benefit, is a mental boost. All of this starts in your head. And even if that one tiny, three-minute, everybody-gets-a-trophy walk only burns two lousy calories, it mentally aligns you for the next challenge. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Grab an apple instead of a cookie. Missed your workout? So what. Life happens. Hit the gym tomorrow. Or Saturday.

In short, it’s a psychological device for defeating your defeatist attitude. “I’ll never walk a marathon therefore I will just sit here and eat chips and salsa the rest of my life” becomes “I may not be able to walk a marathon, but I will walk to the mailbox. And if I do that, then hell if I’m going to void the whole experience with a donut. And if I can resist a donut temptation then I can basically do anything.”

The Book

Oh yeah! I almost forgot I was supposed to be reviewing the book. Please don’t let me get off track like that again.

So when I first heard about Carla & Roni’s book deal, three things sprang to mind:

  1. I’m so happy for them!
  2. No I’m not. I WANT A BOOK DEAL.
  3. Wait. A book? The entire concept is six succinct words. What more needs to be said?

I admit I was initially concerned this might turn out to be a funny two-minute Saturday Night Live sketch that got stretched into an awful 110-minute film. It’s not. Because even though six words says it all, the book helps you properly internalize what those six words mean. For my sci-fi fans out there, the book helps you grok wycwyc.

As I read through the book, I began adding bookmarks on chapters I wanted to come back and read again later. But around halfway through I realized how pointless this exercise was as I’d basically bookmarked every single chapter. To me, that’s a good sign.

I used to call my own book an “anti-diet” book. I never meant that it was against dieting, per se. I just meant it was the opposite of a diet book. Although written in a completely different style (and with a completely different purpose), wycwyc is nonetheless written in the same spirit. You won’t find a strict diet plan or exercise program. Don’t expect a silver bullet or magic pill. It’s a book full of common sense and lifestyle secrets hidden in plain sight. The book is like the Pet Rock. You finish it and think, “Huh, why didn’t I think of that?”

But you didn’t. Neither did I. Carla and Roni did, so go buy it and read it and learn from it. Don’t allow the big things to get you down. Do allow the little things add up. And proudly take that walk to the mailbox each day.

Just don’t celebrate your small victories with a trip to the pizza buffet because that will never work. (Trust me, I’ve tried.)

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