Monday, February 11, 2013

Minding My Mitochondria

[Edit: I'll eventually rewrite this post because the current version may seem more critical than I intended to sound. The message I ultimately want to convey is that Minding My Mitochondria is a fantastic, helpful book.]

My copy of Minding My Mitochondria arrived in the mail today. If you're not already aware, Minding My Mitochondria is Dr. Terry Wahls's self-published book about how she used diet to overcome a number of crippling effects of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.

My first impression of the book: Misspelled words. (But read this entire post because the most important stuff is at the end)

Even though I haven't opened the book yet, I've already noticed three misspelled words. In fact, the second word on the back cover is misspelled, along with at least two other words on the back cover.

What does this mean? It doesn't mean anything, necessarily. Still, it's sloppy work--very sloppy work--and it's the kind of thing that would have taken almost no effort to correct before publishing the book, considering the misspelled words are neither big words nor homophones. Rather, the misspelled words that I've noticed so far are "practicle," "electical," and "strenghen." And these three misspelled words occur within the span of 63 total words. These specific misspelled words do not fool spell-check. Furthermore, they're on the cover of a book that cost 38 dollars!

The remainder of this post may seem harsh and overly critical. That is not my intention. I'm just sharing my first impression of the book, as well as some concerns my first impression elicited.

To me these misspellings are a sign of extreme carelessness and a rush to publish. And yes, it does make me wonder if I can trust the words I'm about to read. Not necessarily because I expect the information in the book to be wrong, but because the information may be presented in a similarly careless manner as the cover; because poor communication might render good information functionally useless, or even counterproductive. The misspellings suggest pretty clearly to me that this book is a rough draft.

I don't want to say these things, but they are legitimate concerns. In fact, before I even had the book, I already had an issue with the imprecise way the specifics of the Wahls diet are expressed (i.e., measuring food volumetrically rather than by weight). This kind of stuff matters to people who are serious about trying to replicate Dr. Wahls's results, and I'm growing more frustrated every day because I can't do it if I can't interpret the information that's being presented to me. No one can.

What I've just said may sound selfish, but it's not. I know Dr. Wahls is trying to help people like me. I know she wrote this book more to help people than to make money. But the effectiveness of her communication is at least as important as what she's trying to communicate, and her communication seems extremely ineffective sometimes.

If you go read every blog post I've ever written, throughout three different blogs, I'm sure you'll find a few misspelled words. But that's out of tens (or hundreds) of thousands of words, and I've never asked anyone for money in exchange for my words.

There's a reason why you won't find misspelled words in the things I write, and that reason is because it matters to me that my communication is presentable and as easy to absorb as possible. Usually whenever I publish a blog post, I read the post over and over to make sure it says exactly what I want it to say, using correct spelling and correct punctuation. I feel like if people are going to take the time to read what I have to say (which they don't, mostly), it's my responsibility to present the rhetoric in a way that makes it as easy to read as possible.

I don't think it's unreasonable to expect the same standards from anyone with "Dr" in their name. In fact, most people hold them to even higher standards than they expect from the general population. So I think it's time to raise the bar here, Dr. Wahls. And I mean raise the bar by a lot.

Nothing personal.

Actually, I look forward to reading the book and hopefully finding some of the answers I've had a difficult time finding without the book. Like whether kale is a green food or a sulfur food.

* * * * *

Here's something I noticed as I was getting ready to proofread this post: Apparently my copy of Minding My Mitochondria was printed on February 3, 2013. That's 8 days ago. At the very least, these misspellings on the cover surely could have been corrected before printing another batch of books, right? Is that not reasonable? Because I'm sure someone pointed out the misspellings to Dr. Wahls long ago.

Update (later the same day): Having started reading this book, I see that the text is very large. Regardless, it's difficult to read, probably because the text is in a sans-serif font. The words just don't stand out like they're supposed to. After giving myself a headache from trying to read this book, I flipped through another book, printed with a normal sized font with serifs, and it was a lot easier to read than Minding My Mitochondria.

The font and layout of the text in this book NEED TO BE CHANGED in future editions (which I now know is every new order of the book, as a new one is printed every time someone places an order). Right now it feels like trying to read a checkerboard (with red squares and green squares), and that's just not easy to do. This not my opinion; it's just common knowledge in the publishing industry.

Like so many others with MS, I have a hard enough time reading already because of the optic neuritis in my left eye. Due to the layout of this book, I have to shut or cover my left eye when I try to read it, which solves some problems but creates other problems. If there was more spacing between the lines, maybe the large sans-serif font would be OK. But there's not more space between the lines.


Update (the next day): After reading 50-some pages, I'm much less worried about the misspelled words on the cover (and what they may have indicated yesterday). In other words, the inside of the book is much more well written than its offensive cover. The size and font of the text is still giving me problems, though. If not for the text, I could probably have read twice as much by now.

Update (another day later): After reading Minding My Mitochondria, I have to say this is a good, helpful book. Yes, there are 10 or 20 typos/misspellings throughout the book, and they are a distraction, but it's not too bad. And yes, the font makes it very difficult to read. However, I was able to adapt enough to make it through the book. (Still, these things need to be fixed with any other future editions or new books.)

In the end, the things that stand out most are:
  1. That Dr. Wahls genuinely wants to help people.
  2. Dr. Wahls admits when she doesn't know the answers. Instead of pretending to know everything, she's real. And that's worth a lot to me.
  3. Dr. Wahls comes off as a true expert to me, rather than a typical doctor. Unlike most doctors, she knows what she's talking about, not just what she's been trained to believe. Consequently, she has surely done a 180 in a lot of different ways to reach this level of knowledge, rather than worshiping the pharmaceutical gods and keeping people sick, like most doctors do.
First do no harm.

It's been a long time since I've seen a doctor who followed that advice, and that's probably a big part of why I have multiple sclerosis. It's also why I mostly don't go to doctors anymore. Yes, I do see a doctor for my MS, but only because my mom wants me to. I don't blindly follow the doctor's advice, though, and I don't take any medications for MS. I never intend to, either, because I already know they will do me harm.

Thankfully Dr. Wahls takes those four words seriously. Even though I may express doubts about some of Dr. Wahls's communication skills, I trust her. I know she has her own doubts about some of the things she advises, which is why she's always rewriting the rules. I'm sure if she has read any of the criticism I've expressed, she's taken it seriously and used it as an opportunity to learn.

If you have multiple sclerosis, or even if you don't, I recommend reading Minding My Mitochondria and following the Wahls MS diet.

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