Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Towpath review of Novak Djokovic's "Serve to Win"

Barbara Youel | Towpath Member Contributor

Serve to Win: The 14 Day Gluten-Free Plan for Physical and Mental Excellence 
by Novak Djokovic (Zinc Ink, 2013)
Forward by William Davis, M.D. 
Book rating: 

“…I have a very simple diet: vegetables, beans, white meat, fish, and fruit. Most of the food is natural and hasn’t been processed.”  This pretty much sums up tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s way of eating since he made drastic changes to his diet in 2010. This very readable memoir takes the reader back to his upbringing in Serbia, his family’s struggles during the NATO bombings of his native Belgrade, his unlikely path to professional tennis, and his climb to ATP’s No. 1 in the tennis world after he changed what he ate.

Too Much, Too Little, Too Wrong
The tie that binds all of these is food…too much, too little, or too wrong. Djokovic remembers eating lots of bread and dairy, and especially pizza (wheat crusts, cheese, tomatoes) with abandon at his parents’ pizza parlor, The Red Bull.  He also reports having to live on simple fare during the bombings, and then eating as he wished as wealth and fame came through professional tennis.  When his persistent health issues showed up time and again during matches despite his excellent physical condition and training regime, neither he nor his doctors could determine what was wrong.

Enter the Right Doctor
As recently as 2010, Dr. Igor Cetojevic, while watching Djokovic play at the Australian Open from his home in Cyprus, (8,700 miles away) knew what was wrong with this distressed player…his digestive system was causing breathing problems. The two men quickly connected and devised a new plan for his eating which according to Djokovic, led to his record season in 2011. (In all fairness, Djokovic was already competing and winning at the highest levels before his diagnosis of gluten sensitivity – his natural abilities and superior conditioning however, surely contributed to his success)

Gluten-Free at Last
 Djokovic admits that a gluten-free existence, while perfect for him, is not for everybody, and encourages readers to find “what’s slowing you down?” His humble and friendly approach in this memoir avoids a “preachy” tone, which from his world-class athletic status would be easy to assume and even forgivable. Djokovic reminds the reader that he is no doctor nor nutritionist, but shares what works for him in a weekly menu plan, plus easy–to-make recipes from “The Champion’s Plate” that include breakfasts, smoothies, lunches, snacks, and dinners. 

A Realistic Invitation to Try
Novak Djokovic invites the reader to try his plan for just two weeks. There are no magic pills, potions, or promises here. In our current culture, laden with fad diets and ‘easy’ fixes, two weeks seem to be reasonable enough. I admit that my view of this tennis superstar changed after reading Serve to Win.  I see now a more serious, committed, and aware person, grateful for his life, his loves, his heritage. While he didn’t achieve his goal at the 2014 French Open, he is walking the talk. “All you have to do is try. And to me the worst kind of defeat is not failure pre se. It’s the decision not to try.” Well spoken, Nole!

Special note: After reading Serve to Win, as well as The Wheat Belly Diet by Dr. William Davis (father of Cleveland local and junior tennis prodigy Lauren Davis), Towpath owners Dallas and Nancy Aleman have since made the commitment to a gluten free diet and have already lost 10lbs! 

(Serve to Win is available at local bookstores, public libraries, and online.)

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1 comment:

  1. Novak Djokovic is a star tennis player won several big tournaments with the winning record of 12 Grand Slams Single. I was really wondering about the performance and consistency of this player and we are also thankful to get his diet plan and routine structure from this article. Really he has a lot of dedication and potential towards his game.
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