Favorite books about health and wellness

Hi friends! How’s the morning going? I hope you’re having a great day so far. We are off to the park with some friends, and I’m excited to catch a dance class later today. 

For this morning, I thought we could talk about books! Specifically, health and wellness books. I feel like there are SO many out there, and it can be tricky to weed through the *junk* (sorry not sorry) and find the true treasures. I feel like there are always trends and hypes coming out, but there are many books that stand the test of time and offer sage advice that doesn’t change as time goes on. 

Here are some of the best books about health and wellness that I’ve personally read, plus what’s on my “to-read” list.

Must-read books about health and wellness. Add these to your reading list for 2017! fitnessista.com


Books about Nutrition

Radical Medicine

To be totally honest, this book is a bit extreme and a little freaky. I feel like with anything, you have to take it with a grain of salt.

I found this book absolutely fascinating, and often use it as a health resource. It provides valuable insights as to what’s going on within our bodies, especially how everything is connected. It also includes proactive tips on a healthy diet and lifestyle. It’s dry, it’s enormous, but it’s packed with information. 

In Defense of Food

This is a book I read years ago, and it was a catalyst for my diet transformation. This is when I switched from diet foods, to whole, plant-based foods. (“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”) There is a solid emphasis on choosing real foods, and Michael Pollan suggests that the more obsessed we become with nutrition, the less healthy we can become. He also describes the current Western diet and the science experiments that have overtaken grocery store shelves. The key is to look at food as a whole (aka something our ancestors would recognize), exercise moderation, and include fresh produce in our diet for nutrients and antioxidants. 

Nourishing Traditions

This was a recent purchase, and while I won’t be cooking everything in the cookbook (um, brains? WHAT.), I love the focus on whole foods that our ancestors would have enjoyed. It’s very “slow food movement” and making everything from scratch: from butter, to yogurt, and fermenting vegetables. My great-grandparents lived until their mid and late 90s, and I think so much of it has to do with the fact that while they weren’t eating “health foods,” they ate real foods. They cooked beans and tortillas in lard, they ate real butter, and they had their own chickens running around the yard. It’s great inspiration to go back to the old school way of living, and take the time to create your meal from start to finish. While the recipes are pretty “basic” (aka they’re not fancy), they still include beautiful herbs and aromatics. It’s a great recourse if you’re looking to make more of your food at home.

The Body Book

I feel like some health books written by celebrities can be a little wacky… and this one pleasantly surprised me. Her message is moderate and body-loving, which is something I genuinely appreciate. I feel like it’s an educational and motivational read, and while it’s a lot of info, it’s presented really well. I recommend this book if you’re looking at a whole-body view of women’s health. 

The Microbiome Solution

This book was a huge eye-opener for me. At first, I didn’t even know what the microbiome WAS, and next thing, I was super interested in the balance of the bacteria in my gut. This book is written by a gastroenterologist who encourages us to “live dirty and eat clean.” She includes helpful information on restoring your internal balance, which in effect can positively affect healing and prevention of various diseases and ailments. If you have any type of digestive, hormonal, or autoimmune conditions, I think this can be a great resource to potentially aid in healing (with doc’s approval and all that good stuff).


Books about Fitness

Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises

The older version of this book was an invaluable resource to me when I first started training clients, 8 years ago. I was just learning about muscle splits and how to effectively train my female clients, and constantly used this as a resource to keep my workouts fresh. I’d be like, “Ok, we’re working chest, shoulders and triceps today” and look at this book to plan out the workout, making sure that we never did the same thing. Over time, it helped me become so familiar with strength training exercises, and helped to expand my horizon. I highly recommend this if you’ve been doing the same ol’ thing in the gym and want some new strength ideas.

New Rules of Lifting for Women

While the Big Book of Exercises is the “what,” this book is the “how.” It’s all about HOW to train effectively and create a balanced and smart routine for yourself. It found it inspiring to push myself, and an important reminder to prioritize strength training for the health and physical benefits. It’s a great one if you’re looking to change the way you’re training, or if you want to really emphasize weights in your routine.

Alignment Matters

I loved this book so much I wrote an entire post about it. I think that if you want to promote full body strength, flexibility, and stabilization, this is a must-read, especially if you don’t want to go to physical therapy. (After going to PT for 8 months after P’s birth and my surgeries, I feel like EVERYONE should go to PT.) This book takes your entire body, from head to toe, and describes methods you can utilize now to encourage optimal alignment and health. I highly, highly recommend it, and all of Katy Bowman’s work because #obsessed. 

HIIT It! <— I had to give this one a little shout out. This is the book I wrote all about High Intensity Interval Training, plus nutrition tips and recipes. I would love it if you added it to your real-life or virtual bookshelf. <3

Want to read…

Thinner, Leaner, Stronger. I just received this one from Amazon and am excited to dive in. I’m always excited to learn more about training methods, and to see if I can discover new ways to train or design my workouts for classes and the blog. I’ll definitely let you know what I think!

Roar. The cover caught my interested and the reviews are pretty good, so this one is next on the list.

Yoga, meditation, mental wellbeing:

Books about well being

Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga

We read this one through yoga teacher training, and I think everyone should read it. He breaks down each day to include a specific purpose (for example, Friday is the Law of Detachment, so you focus on letting go of the things that don’t serve you) and it’s a great way to give your meditations and daily life a bit of extra guidance. It’s a quick and inspiring read, and basically anything Deepak Chopra does is amazing so there ya go. 

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

This is another yoga teacher training read. I feel like it’s even more beneficial to take your time on this one, and if possible, discuss the sutras with a group. If you read it alone, I’d do up to 3 sutras at a time, and journal your thoughts and the significance of the sutras. It takes a while, but it’s worth it. 

Want to read…

Sleep Smarter. I LOVE Shaun Stevenson, so naturally, I’m interested in reading this book. I’ve always been a fan of sleep haha, so any excuse to push for more quality sleep is always a good thing. Sleep can dramatically impact our health and wellbeing, so it makes sense that we could focus on good sleep just as much as we focus on exercise and solid nutrition. 

A Mind of Your Own. As someone who has experienced depression, this is definitely a book that calls to me. I’m always looking for ways to manage and balance my emotional wellbeing, and from the reviews, it seems like this is packed with helpful strategies. Might be another one to take with a grain of salt, but informative nonetheless.  

You Have 4 Minutes to Change Your Life. I’m so thankful I’ve had the opportunity to meet Bex in real life, and she’s just as fun, kind, bright and wise as you would think. I was going to download her new book, but think I’d rather have a physical copy. Ordering now… 

So tell me, friends: what are your all-time favorite health and wellness books? Anything on your to-read list?



More: my top 5 favorite books. This list is still pretty much the same!! Awesome comments and suggestions here, too. 

Favorite healthy cookbooks

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  1. Anais on March 7, 2017 at 6:02 am

    I love all your posts and appreciate the time you put into them, it’s a pleasure to read you everyday, thank you and have a beautiful day!

  2. Sam @ Hygge Wellness on March 7, 2017 at 6:09 am

    You picked a lot of great ones! I, too, totally changed my life after reading In Defense of Food in undergrad. I actually changed my focus to food policy while still in undergrad & went to law school because I wanted to change our food system. Then I read Food Politics by Marion Nestle (the godmother of food policy) and my mind was *blown*. From the food policy perspective, I’d also add Food Inc., Fast Food Nation, Food Rules, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Although it’s more of a mindset/inspiring creativity book, I’m also loving Big Magic.

  3. Christina @ montessoriishmom.com on March 7, 2017 at 6:12 am

    Yay, thanks for the great suggestions! I particularly want to read Nourishing Traditions and Alignment Matters. I find weeding through health books (and parenting books!) So overwhelming, so it’s great to see the ones you recommend!

  4. Nathaly @NathyCure on March 7, 2017 at 6:56 am

    Roar is one I’ve been wanting to read for a long time!! I’ve read the whole kindle sample and it looks very interesting. However, I still have many other books on my list that I need to read first lol. I’m a book lover so the struggle is real.

  5. Andrea B on March 7, 2017 at 7:07 am

    I received You Have 4 Minutes to Change Your Life last week and am loving it so far! I also am in the midst of May Cause Miracles by Gabby Bernstein. I work full-time & have my own natural skincare biz so I’m currently loving anything that can give me peace of mind & calm in the midst of the daily chaos!!! I’ve been thinking about getting The Body Book too, so thanks for your comments!

  6. Jessica @ Semi-Sweet Tooth on March 7, 2017 at 7:57 am

    In Defense of Food was brilliant. It’s completely changed, and simplified, my overall outlook towards nutrition!

    I’m, frankly, surprised to hear that The Body Book is a must read! I haven’t read it, though I’ve been considering for a while. I’ll definitely have to check it out now!

    Also, Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga sounds absolutely divine. I can’t wait to read and attach it to my daily meditation practice. It’s amazing how powerful our minds can be when we’re intentional about our thoughts. My practices have shifted everything, from my intentions to going throughout the day to the actual niche of my blog. It’s beautiful when we can pay attention to the beautiful moments we are currently in rather than getting swept up in the mundane.

    Can’t wait to read some of your favorites!
    XO, Jessica

  7. Caitlin on March 7, 2017 at 8:15 am

    I love In Defense of Food! I read it a few years ago when Michael Pollan spoke at my university! I have been thinking of reading it again because i loved all of his concepts so much! Thanks for sharing these books!

  8. Jillian on March 7, 2017 at 8:17 am

    I just started reading “The Case Against Sugar” and I have found it to be incredibly interesting and compelling! I highly recommend it.

  9. Sara on March 7, 2017 at 8:49 am

    I refer to HIIT IT often, and I also LOVE Tosca Reno and have several of her books. I have Thinner, Leaner, Stronger on the shelf (recommended by chiro/nutritionist <- he's both!), but haven't finished it.

  10. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on March 7, 2017 at 9:35 am

    I’ve always wanted to read In Defense of Food. Once I graduate, I’m on it!

  11. Jamie @ madrediem on March 7, 2017 at 10:37 am

    One of the books I have and haven’t read yet is called “It’s My Ovaries, Stupid”. I struggle with terrible PMS and raging mood swings on and off throughout the month and this book is supposed to have a lot of information on how to help. I also just bought a book called “Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks Fast” which a lot of people have had a lot of success with. I’m hoping to start it this weekend so I can start managing these dang anxiety attacks I keep having.

  12. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on March 7, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Hi Gina! Such a great list! Of course, I’ve read Sleep Smarter, and I LOVED it. I truly took on some of his tips and transformed my sleep. You should put that one high up on your list. I’m surprised to hear great reviews for The Body Book, but now I’m intrigued. Thanks for this resource of books I need to consume! 🙂

  13. Ashley @ A Lady Goes West on March 7, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Oh and I forgot to mention that I just opened up Dr. Lissa Rankin’s “The Anatomy of a Calling” about purposeful healing, so that’s what I’m getting into now.

  14. Juliana on March 7, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    Yay thank you for this post! I read “The Healthy Shoulder Handbook” when I was recovering from a complicated shoulder surgery and found it really interesting – that’s definitely one part of the body you don’t realize you use as much as you do.

    I was just in a leadership workshop this morning that recommended this book, which I plan on reading soon!

  15. Bethany on March 7, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    I might have to read The Microbiome Solution next! I’ve been listening to so many podcast about it lastly. #wellnessmomma

    I just pre-order Wired To Eat by Robb Wolfe for my next read =)

  16. Vanessa | THE REAL LIFE on March 7, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    I love this post to pieces! My favorite read included is In Defense of Food, which I dedicated a whole blog post to. It’s SUCH good eating advice… and reignites a guiltless, childlike love for food. <3

  17. Leah on March 7, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    I enjoy your book :). The workouts and recipes are great!
    I need to read the microbiome book as a mama of two kids with IBD. We are working on managing with diet but would love more research on the topic.
    I want to read the Robb Wolf book also.

  18. Carrie (This Fit Chick) on March 8, 2017 at 7:09 am

    I LOVED the new rules of lifting!! I honestly hardly ever read, but these are some great suggestions. Wish I could add more!

  19. Alana on March 8, 2017 at 10:37 am

    I’m fascinated by gut health! The Microbiome Solution is a good one, I also thought The Good Gut was a really good read. Full of evidence based information to make it easy to follow and understand even if you aren’t a scientist or doctor. 🙂

  20. Christina on March 8, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Thank u soo much for this post!!

  21. Janice on March 8, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Amen on seeing In Defense of Food on your list! I also love his Food Rules book. My favorite health and wellness books lately are Kicking Sick by Amy Kurtz, and Radical Beauty by Kimberly Snyder and Deepak Chopra. I’ve found both to be books I return to again and again. I’ve just started reading Light Is The New Black by Rebecca Campbell and it’s easy to pick up, flip through a few different pages and shift your perspective. If you like Gabby Bernstein, you’ll like this.

  22. Claudia on March 14, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    A Mind of your Own sounds fantastic!! Thanks for sharing so many helpful books for the body and the mind! I thought I would add one to the list that has helped me immensely called “The Worry Free Mind” (http://drscarolandbill.com/). It is so easy to let stress and anxiety ruin your day and I have found as I get older it’s harder to handle. This book is written by psychologists who not only give the biological reasons for stress but also a way to retrain the way you think and conquer these thoughts and feelings. It is an easy, informative read that will leave you feeling motivated and prepared to handle the worst. Sometimes it’s a simple as shifting our focus and attention onto something else. If you are looking for something different to try and a way to permanently change how you handle stressful situations you have to read this book. I would love to know what you think and maybe it will make it to a future list.

    • Fitnessista on March 15, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      will definitely check it out. thank you!

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