Margaret Weiss’s inspiring book, Eat Your Rice Cakes— aimed at both patients and healthcare providers—focuses on the emotional fallout that occurs when a new diagnosis requires major dietary changes.
From the book’s first line, readers are thrust headfirst into the desperation felt by those grappling with difficult food-related conditions. “There I was with the door locked, cocooned in the tiny space of my main floor powder room, on full alert for unwanted observers,” writes the dietician and diabetes care specialist diagnosed with celiac disease 25 years ago. “I had grabbed an entire unopened sleeve of Oreo cookies from our family snack closet and was systematically chewing and then spitting each cookie into the toilet …”
As the author explains, Rice Cakes isn’t a textbook but a tool to help process the emotions surrounding the life-altering change that comes with losing one’s long-held eating habits. The title comes from an insensitive gastroenterologist who jokingly told Weiss, “You’ll be fine. Just shut up and eat your rice cakes!”
The book’s first part is largely devoted to information regarding celiac disease. The narrative then broadens to include other diagnoses. Each chapter begins with an anecdote—a defiant 10-year-old angry about his condition, two elderly brothers with diabetes and a shared penchant for daily trips to buffet eateries—followed by a mix of medical, emotional and behavioral information related to dietary challenges. Each ends with “Essential Highlights,” a page of bullet-point notes and short recaps.
This is a warm, immersive book that comforts and clarifies with relatable descriptions of, for example, what it feels like to give up the “moist and spongy consistencies of breads.” Weiss seamlessly shifts between her two intended audiences—patients and healthcare providers—while inadvertently appealing to a third: those trying to understand their suffering loved ones.
Overall, the author easily achieves her goal of shedding light on the emotional side of working toward a new normal, offering patients plenty of useful information.