or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk



Reference Question of the Week – 8/2/09

   August 8th, 2009

diet booksThis week's question made me feel bad: I don't feel I helped the patron much, but I also don't think there's much he can do.

A kid in his twenties came to the desk and asked for books about losing weight. During the reference interview and process of searching for books, he revealed all kinds of factors working against him:

  • Lives in a group home, and does not have much (if any) control over his food
  • Has epilepsy, so he
    • has a hard time remember things (like what foods to eat)
    • can't use the treadmill in the home
  • The home has a hot tub, but they won't let anyone use it because there is no lifeguard (he told me this after he happened to see a book called The Spa Directory on the shelf
  • Is the youngest person in the home, so
    • no one will hold his feet for situps (he also said there is nothing in his room to put his feet under)
    • when they go for their weekly walks, he has to walk at the pace of the group, which is much slower than his own

Also, this patron is male, and many weight loss books are written specifically for women.

We looked through a lot of books, and ended up with two that were promising:

He was hopeful, especially about the exercises. His group was leaving, but since they come in once a week, I'll see next week how he's doing. In the meantime, I've been trying to find other resources for him, but there really just doesn't seem to be much.




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7 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 8/2/09”

  1. Charlie Says:

    Very cool interaction. I think you did a great job. Kudos to the kid for being so honest and open with you.

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    Thanks Charlie. He’s been coming for at least a year, but I am glad that he feels that comfortable with us. But I was worried that, with each revelation, I was growing more skeptical about finding something, which made me worry I was giving up prematurely. I still haven’t found anything else to help, so I am certainly open to ideas.

  3. Liz Says:

    I think you did a great job helping him Brian – please don’t feel bad that you didn’t have just the exact right thing for him.

    I don’t know if he has access to free weights, but if so, there is a great book called The College Dorm Workout – the authors are Joyce Vedral and her daughter Marthe – and it’s a workout and eating program designed for people living in dorms (limited space, college eating plans, etc). Since this gentleman is in his twenties and in a group home with a set eating plan, this could really help him – the food sections help you make good choices from what’s available to you, and the workout section is designed for those with limited space and just a chair.

    If he doesn’t have free weights and can’t afford them (lots of times you can get them second hand for about a dollar each), he can use things that have the same weight, like two soup cans or two bottles of water, to get started. I did this in my freshman dorm and lost 20 lbs, and the exercises were challenging but the eating plan was pretty easy. Plus, he can do the exercises while someone else is there watching TV or reading or something to make sure he doesn’t have a seizure on his own. You never know – he might even find someone who would like to do the exercises with him.

    The book is in your catalog but it doesn’t look like you have any holdings and I think it’s out of print; if so, you can see if you have any of Ms. Vedral’s books on hand, as they’re all pretty much the same. However, if you can wrangle that dorm one, I think it would be an excellent match for his set of circumstances. Good luck.

  4. Lynn Says:

    I think you did a fine job with your patron. I would just add that just because he is in a group home does not mean that the home holds all the cards regarding his food.

    Someone is paying for his stay at the home – him, his family, the state – and those paying have the right to encourage healthy food options. If cost is an issue, the home might see if they qualify for CACFP (http://www.doe.mass.edu/cnp/nprograms/cacfp.html). Even though this program focuses primarily on K-12, it does assist qualifying adult programs. Your patron may also qualify for individual assistance.

    Lynn (who has a relative in a group home in the U.S.)

  5. Anneh Says:

    You might also recommend the websites http://hundredpushups.com/ and http://www.twohundredsitups.com/. These two training programs “hold your hand” through six weeks of workouts, and also allow you to repeat weeks if you didn’t make your target from the week before. There are also instructions on proper form, which show you that sit-ups do not require anyone/thing to hold your feet.

    Good luck with your continuing search!

  6. Mike Says:

    Hey Brian… As much as I think portion control and exercise is the best way to lose weight in this case the Atkins diet may be helpful. I remember learning in school that epileptics can control their seizures by a diet low in carbs and high in fat called the Ketogenic Diet. I’m sure this kids Doctor has a lot of information on this diet but if you would like, I can see what info I can find at work. Let me know. Mike

  7. Mary Ellen Petrich Says:

    Sometimes success doesn’t mean having the perfect solution, but showing that the striving is worthwhile.