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by Kathleen DesMaisons, PhD
Simon & Schuster, 1998
Review by Margo McPhillips on Feb 12th 2000

Potatoes Not Prozac

Potatoes not Prozac is a very useful book. The multitalented author Kathleen DesMaisons writes from the viewpoint of an addictions counselor, specifically alcohol addiction, but the book is also useful if the reader is interested in losing weight, is taking Prozac or other psychopharmaceutical drugs and is interested in how they affect one, or in how various foods affect emotions.

The front cover of the paperback states the book is, "A Natural Seven-Step Dietary Plan to

  • Control Your Cravings and Lose Weight
  • Recognize How Foods Affect the Way You Feel
  • Stabilize the Level of Sugar in Your Blood
The author combines "natural," easy-to-understand instructions with slightly complicated, body chemistry facts. The seven steps include keeping a food journal, eating three meals a day at regular intervals, and taking vitamins as three of the steps but another step is, "adjusting your carbohydrate intake..." and one of the book's chapters is titled, "Brain Chemistry 101." Sometimes I felt the book was being obvious or had been written by my mother but other times I felt like a race car being tuned and hoped the brain that earned a "D" in high school chemistry has somehow improved enough since to understand or care about some of the arguments and assertions.

DesMaisons' main premise is that people's blood sugar is out of whack and needs stabilizing. Her argument is this correction needs to be done using complex carbohydrates that the body breaks down more slowly and evenly than sugars; the levels of which can rise, peak and fall rapidly in the blood, causing a whole host of nasty problems, mostly, I gathered, having to do with the brain chemical, serotonin. Prozac also affects serotonin, to counteract the effects of rising and falling sugars, but it is the author's premise that consuming complex carbohydrates and staying away from sugar do the affecting/stabilizing better than drugs.

Potatoes are a nice complex carbohydrate and their consumption is recommended just before bed, for natural, restful sleep. We're back in motherland and "complex" carbohydrates are defined (for those who got a D in chemistry and home economics) as those which do not fall in the category of "white things." White things are "bad" and to be avoided; bagels, cake, cereal, cookies, croissants, doughnuts, white bread, white rice, pasta, pastry, muffins, crackers, etc.

Despite its sometimes uneven reading levels, I enjoyed this book for its "Emperors New Clothes" aspect. It took the obvious, folklore and facts, such as what happens to children who eat too much candy or adults, too many doughnuts for breakfast, and pointed them out to be seen, commented on and agreed to. Many times the author seemed to say, "Yes, what your mother told you and what you've observed in yourself and others is true and here's why." It's a practical book whose assertions are easily tested. I'm glad it was written.