Angela Hicks Published by Spring Hill Books, an imprint of How to Books Ltd www.howtobooks.co.uk 1st Edition, 2008 Paperback, 240 pages, price £8.99
(Reviewed by Maureen Cromey, EJOM Vol. 6 No. 2)
Angela Hicks has been a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine for over 25 years. She is also a qualified Chinese herbal medicine practitioner and regularly practises qi gong. She is the co-founder and joint principal of the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine in Reading.
In her introduction to this lovely book Angela describes how, until she studied Chinese medicine some thirty years ago, she had thought that good health was a matter of luck. She realised through these studies that there are specific causes of disease and that by understanding these and following suggestions within Chinese medicine for staying well we can avoid illness.
She has broken this traditional Chinese medicine theory into 77 ‘Wellbeing tips’ which make the task of incorporating this complex knowledge into a daily lifestyle easy and accessible. She explains that going to a Chinese medicine practitioner for treatment can be an important step when ill, but if the lifestyle that made a person ill is not changed they may not stay well.
The book is part of the ‘How To Books’ series and as such is aimed at ‘all of us who want to sustain health’. In fact it is a good read for TCM practitioners and would be very useful for anyone receiving acupuncture or Chinese herbal treatment.
Angela has divided the book into eight chapters: Chapters 1-6 contain Wellbeing tips 1-77. These cover healthy eating, emotions adjusting work, rest and exercise, staying healthy, environment and respecting your constitution.
Chapter 7 discusses eighteen common diseases or pathologies from asthma to skin conditions. Chapter 8 covers ‘Sixteen tips to improve your lifestyle.’
There are seven pages of notes which are excellent references for the main body of work. There is also a glossary, a suggested reading list and some useful addresses. The book is comprehensively indexed at the back.
Angela introduces her book in Chapter 1. She discusses the positive and negative effects of lifestyle and explains that prevention is always better then cure. To practitioners, she is of course preaching to the converted; however it is very refreshing to see this outlined so simply and clearly for everyone to read.
In each chapter she introduces the core subject. So in Chapter 2, The Secrets of Healthy Eating, she discusses the TCM theory and history relating to diet. She moves on to each tip. The tip is clearly titled and numbered. She explains simply why it is important and uses examples and diagrams. With each tip there is an ‘Action Box’. In here is a summary of the tip and how to achieve it practically. This is fantastic as it stops the reader feeling overwhelmed with information.
Angela constantly refers to taking small steps, giving a new habit time and being easy on your self.
She manages in Chapter 1 to explain the bulk of TCM dietary theory in small accessible chunks. This is quite an achievement, especially as at no point does she sound judgmental or over zealous. This effortless style flows through subsequent chapters. Within all the Wellbeing chapters Angela uses case histories to illustrate the principals she is teaching and draws on TCM theory, contemporary research and statistics to reinforce each tip.
I particularly enjoyed Chapter 6 on respecting your constitution. This reflects all the advice that I try to pass to my patients: the idea that our essence is like our internal battery and that we should be careful to conserve it rather then use it recklessly. Her Action Box for Tip 66, ‘Conserve your constitutional essence’, is so simple I can’t believe I did not think of it before now. She suggests we write two lists. The first is what we do to conserve our essence the second is how we deplete it. We should then compare and think of anything that we may change on the second list.
The penultimate chapter, ‘Staying healthy and preventing disease’, discusses eighteen of our most common disharmonies such as constipation, asthma and PMS. It explains their possible TCM diagnoses, lifestyle changes that may help and highlights the Wellbeing tips that may be particularly relevant. A reader can usefully cross reference their main health problem with the earlier part of the book.
In the final chapter Mrs Hicks gently explains in sixteen tips how to use the book and improve lifestyle. These tips are encouraging and practical. I particularly liked Tip 10 ‘take teeny tiny steps’, Tip 11 ‘do what you find enjoyable’ and Tip 14 ‘it takes a month to change a habit’.
This book is so accessible that it could be required reading for many of us. For me, a slightly jaded TCM practitioner, I loved this fresh low-key approach. I liked its small bites and comfortable language. The layout is clear, the print a good size and the pages are filled with nuggets of useful information and suggestions. It has given me fresh ways to explain TCM theory to my patients and it has also inspired me to improve my own lifestyle.
Angela Hicks has cleverly managed to make TCM theory on lifestyle accessible, comprehensible and achievable without dumbing down the subject, patronising her readers nor confounding them with jargon.
I will recommend this book to many of my patients and I will continue to dip into it myself. Well done Angela.
Maureen Cromey Maureen Cromey studied with Dr Lily Chung in 1982, finishing at Guangzhou, PRC in 1986, later returning to complete Chinese herbal medicine studies. She was part of the CFA prior to the formation of BAcC and is a member of the EJOM team. She contributed significantly to redrafting the CoP and setting Standards for Practice within accredited colleges. She practises in London and is a visiting TCM consultant to spas in The Maldives and Far East.