Blog: Effective Eating

Who am I to give a book review? Maybe the biggest nerd you know. 😀 Do you want proof? I read 1-3 books (depending on the size) every week and have for years. Saturday night? Well, you will often find me at the local bookstore. Oh yeah and I know a lot of the people who write the books too which brings me to todays awesome post. My friend, Jeff O’Connell, graciously took a moment from his crazy busy schedule and allowed me to interview him about his book, Sugar Nation.

Billy: Jeff, how did you get started in the fitness industry?

Jeff: I was pursuing graduate studies at UCLA, with an eye toward joining the FBI or DEA, when I began freelance writing to help pay for school. I quickly realized that’s where my passion lay—not to mention whatever ability I might have—so I took that path. Struggled mightily at first but eventually secured the bottom-rung editorial position, copy editor, at FLEX.

Through years of hard work, I eventually rose to editor-in-chief of Muscle & Fitness, then executive writer at Men’s Health, and now editor-in-chief of Bodybuilding.com. I’ve also been the literary accomplice for various celebs (LL Cool J, Mario Lopez, etc.) on their health-and-fitness books. Hyperion Books recently released my first solo work, Sugar Nation.

Billy: I recently read Sugar Nation. I believe everyone should read it. It is exceptionally written. The book plays out like a movie while packing your head with powerful information. Can you share with our readers what inspired you to write Sugar Nation?

Jeff: First, thank you for the kind words and critique, Billy. The book was inspired by personal experience. Back in 2006, I heard that my estranged father, a man I hadn’t spoken with in 20 years, had lost a leg due to diabetes. Literally a week later, previously drawn blood work of mine came back significantly prediabetic. Even though I was thin!

I was totally blindsided—despite working at Men’s Health. Which made me wonder, how many other people of all body types were walking around unaware of this stealthy disease? I wanted to help them, and I wanted to help myself as well. So I found out everything I could about preventing and treating type-2 diabetes en route to writing a feature called “The Thin Man’s Diabetes” for Men’s Health. That feature became the blueprint for Sugar Nation.

Billy: Can you give a quick summary of what this book is all about?

Jeff: My book explains why and how type-2 diabetes and its precursor, prediabetes, have gone from being medical footnotes a century ago to an epidemic today, one so vast that one in three adult Americans now have a major blood sugar problem. I examine the disease as a prediabetic thin person whose father recently died from type-2 diabetes. As a result, I challenge many of the assumptions about the disease and its prevention and treatment. I’ve concluded that lifestyle change is the only society-wide solution that can work, and that major health organizations (A) fail to make this imperative sufficiently known and clear and (B) often give the wrong lifestyle advice when they do attempt to convey the message.

My publisher describes the genre as prescriptive memoir, meaning I try to teach readers how to manage their blood sugar and avoid type-2 diabetes through the prism of my own experience and family history. The book weaves together personal anecdotes, some investigative reporting, and Men’s Health–style how-to tips and strategies.

Billy: Thanks Jeff! That was Awesome!

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