May 09

Book Review: The Hungry Brain

The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us OvereatThe Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us Overeat by Stephan Guyenet

I got a recommendation for this from a friend who knew how much I like to read about neurology and nutrition. This book is the intersection of the two. To be more succinct, it’s about how the brain affects how and what and how much we eat. It’s about why we gain wait so easily at Christmas and why it is so hard to lose it again. It’s why every diet works, but not for long. Read this book and you’ll have the ammunition to counter each and every one quacky pseudoscience diet tips your co-workers spout every other week. This book is the real deal.

So that’s the good news. If, like me, you read something about nutrition and food or neurology every time you’re between novels, a lot of what is written about in this book will not sound terribly new. It’s all based on studies, (some of them at my alma mater: go UW!) The bad news is that the science is pretty hard-hitting. I like science, but there’s only so much you can take of “so when the allele is expressed, it has the effect of activating the lipoprotein inhibitor, which causes aspects of this N-21 protein to be excreted into the bloodstream in times of low adiposity.” I’m making that up, but that’s kind of what it sounds like. After a while my eyes glazed over and I stopped caring about whether these mice were gonna lose weight. If you geek out over microbiology, this might be your thing.

I did have to notice that what I read in this book countermanded what the previous book I read said: Eating more delicious food will not help you lose weight, because you’ll eat more of it. Other tips include obvious stuff such as that keeping delicious high-calorie food in the house in easy reach is not good for your waistline. Bingeing at the holidays is not good for your long-term figure. And any diet in which you only eat one food you’ll lose weight, because it’s hard to get sated on more and more of the same thing.

I wouldn’t call this a diet book, however. It’s basically a technical compilation of all the nutritional science gathered in the past few years, written in a style that is (mostly) accessible to laypeople. I think it’s a great book, and I probably would have liked it better if the information were made a little easier to digest.

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