Monday, September 12, 2022

Guest Post: It's All in Your Head by Joseph D. Pianka MD

Behind the scenes look at how my book came about and the first scene of the book:

The events described in the opening chapter really happened, and I tried to describe what I was going through to the best of my ability. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted each of us in different ways, but it also affected our way of life and perceptions as a society in general. Our lives haven't been the same since, and we seem so far from getting back on track. Furthermore, the virus, in terms of variants, simply hasn't gone away. I believe those who suffered the loss of loved ones or became personally ill were most impacted; however, those in the healthcare industry were hit particularly hard as well. I think, in a moment of recognition of my own human frailty, in what for me was a perfect storm during what seemed the darkest moments of the early days of the pandemic, I unexpectedly discovered my own path to salvation in writing.
This also involved some pretty heavy-duty soul searching, confronting some inner demons that had been hanging around for far too long, and the eventual re-discovery of all that was most important to me; thereby, allowing me the opportunity to start anew and grow. There is an old saying, “When you ain’t got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose.” This idea, combined with my physician instincts if you will, kicked into overdrive, and I decided to lay it all on the line, hoping my experiences would ultimately benefit some of the patients I cared for in my practice who might face unique challenges of their own. And why stop there? Why not lay it on the line for all the world to see? My personal philosophy has always been that I would never regret the things I tried and failed, including writing this book, but would always regret opportunities and experiences I let pass me by. I sincerely hope this touches some lives in a positive way. If so, I would consider it a success. I’m donating all profits from book sales to Ukraine relief.

On the significance of my cover art:

This is actually an interesting story. When my book was first published, I wasn't crazy about the original cover. It never moved me, but being an absolute inexperienced novice in the writing and publishing space, what did I know? Plus, it had a retro feel that I thought might be complementary to my numerous references to past events and distant memories. The idea of rejecting it and waiting months for a revision seemed more than I could bear, so I eventually accepted it. It was publicist Marika Flatt, who, during our initial conversation, point blank said, “Hey, what's with this cover? This won't do and has to go.” I immediately knew she was right. It didn't reflect me or the message I was trying to send whatsoever.
So, I was introduced to the graphics company Mexelina. I sent them a brief summary of the book, bio, and what I had in mind, and they absolutely nailed it, first shot, with very few modifications. The concept of fitting the puzzle piece into the brain made up of stars against the backdrop of an infinite universe of possibilities is the vision of the book in a nutshell. If you combine the apparent overall dark color scheme with the faint glimmer of light on the horizon, this encapsulates absolutely everything I wanted to convey. Finally, the silhouette of the individual on the rock could essentially be me on numerous trips and excursions throughout my life but could also represent absolutely any individual who holds the book in their hands. 

Top ten things you didn't know about the book:

1.   Although there are many song lyrics directly quoted or referred to in the text, there are many more buried and not referenced within the text as well.
2.   The book has inspired the concept of a medical documentary addressing provider burnout now in the early production phase.
3.   The earliest intent of the work was intended to be a simple handout for my patients including some helpful nutrition and exercise tips.
4.   The book was not initially intended to be a bio-narrative. 
5.   Completing the publication process has been my greatest professional challenge to date but also one of my greatest learning experiences.
6.   Even after publication, I have a difficult time considering myself a writer.
7.   I have writer insecurity.
8.   Although I don't fear criticism or questioning of my beliefs or ideas, I do care what people think.
9.   Most patients who have read the book and provided me with feedback were most impressed by my willingness to express vulnerability.
10.  I was approached by an individual who received and started reading the book on what she described as her darkest day, and it helped her eventually find her way. For this reason, I will always be grateful and consider the book a great success.

About the Book: 

It's All In Your Head

A Guide to Health, Fitness, and Discovery in the New Normal

by Joseph D. Pianka, MD

The world is full of sexy advertisements, revolutionary gadgets, and cutting-edge diets which all promise instant results. But these ads, gadgets, and diets target a small subset of young, highly motivated, advanced enthusiasts, and they often don’t address the real health and fitness issues that plague a larger aspect of society: obesity, anxiety and depression, liver disease, substance abuse, poor self-care practices. The vast majority of people often don’t have the time to complete fitness regimens or the personalized motivation to stick with specialized diets.

Joseph D. Pianka wants to start a conversation about everyday concepts that have made an enormous difference for both himself and his patients. He strives to reach as many people as possible who may be overwhelmed, confused, or intimidated by the abundance of diet and fitness regimens available and to educate and motivate them to discover fitness practices which complement their lives and balance among all the regular activities they enjoy. It's All in Your Head was written directly for everyday individuals with busy lives and varied hobbies. Rather than another "how to" manual, it is a "why to" guide through the complicated space of fitness and nutrition. Incorporating the fundamental principles universal to successful diet and fitness programs and teaching self-motivation skills, It’s All in Your Head unlocks doors to previously unrecognized potential and the ability to maintain fitness dreams. 

About the Author 

Joseph D. Pianka, MD, FACP, FACG, has been a board-certified practicing gastroenterologist in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, for over twenty years. He has always found ways to rise above the dark moments medical practitioners face through his athletic hobbies and focus on family, but early in the COVID-19 pandemic, he fell into a spiral at the prospect of being unable to care for those who depended on him. With a television announcing early statistics about pandemic mortality playing in the background while he learned that a significant portion of his practice—and ability to care for patients—was being restricted, he had an emotional breakdown. Facing physician burnout and depression, Pianka decided to sit down and write an outline about staying fit and healthy in a seemingly chaotic existence, and he kept writing until the sun came out (literally and metaphorically). What began as a simple reference guide for his patients, conceptualized prior to the COVID- 19 pandemic, evolved into an unexpected second career as an inspirational writer. 

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