Before I get into the review, I just want to say that TLC Book Tours, if you haven't heard of it, is a really great way to read book reviews written by bloggers around the web. There are links to several bloggers' reviews for each book, as well as purchase links and the book description. It's similar to Goodreads, but smaller, more focused, and the reviews are more in-depth (the reviews aren't on the site--just the links to them--which I like, because I enjoy reading more in-depth reviews, particularly about books like this).
If you're a blogger, you can also sign up there to be a "tour host", which is what I am.
When a book comes along that looks like something I would like, they send me an email and ask if I want to review it, and then send me an advanced copy. Since I'm working on reading more books this year, this comes in handy!
Anyway, I was recently asked to review a book that sounded right up my alley: Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann. Here is a description from the publisher:
A provocative expose of the dieting industry from one of the nation’s leading researchers in self-control and the psychology of weight loss that offers proven strategies for sustainable weight loss.
From her office in the University of Minnesota’s Health and Eating Lab, professor Traci Mann researches self-control and dieting. And what she has discovered is groundbreaking. Not only do diets not work; they often result in weight gain. Americans are losing the battle of the bulge because our bodies and brains are not hardwired to resist food—the very idea of it works against our biological imperative to survive.
In Secrets From the Eating Lab, Mann challenges assumptions—including those that make up the very foundation of the weight loss industry—about how diets work and why they fail. The result of more than two decades of research, it offers cutting-edge science and exciting new insights into the American obesity epidemic and our relationship with eating and food.
Secrets From the Eating Lab also gives readers the practical tools they need to actually lose weight and get healthy. Mann argues that the idea of willpower is a myth—we shouldn’t waste time and money trying to combat our natural tendencies. Instead, she offers 12 simple, effective strategies that take advantage of human nature instead of fighting it—from changing the size of your plates to socializing with people with healthy habits, removing “healthy” labels that send negative messages to redefining comfort food.I never read "diet books" anymore, but considering my struggle recently, I hoped that it would offer some new tidbits of info that would help me get back on track with my eating. Also, I like that it's not a "fad diet" book.
I like the idea of the book--I'm not a fan of fad diets, and this is definitely not a fad diet (or any diet at all, really). The book is divided into four sections: 1) Why Diets Fail You; 2) Why You Are Better Off Without the Battle; 3) How To Reach Your Leanest Livable Weight (No Willpower Required); and 4) Your Weight is Really Not the Point.
The first section, Why Diets Fail You, was something I've read dozens of times before--if you've read about intuitive eating at all, then you know how diets don't work in the long run. The author backs this up with studies, of course, but the gist is the same: diets just don't work, so we need to find another way to reach a healthy sustainable weight.
Part two explains why obesity isn't as unhealthy as the media makes it out to be. Again, the author backs this up with studies, so I'm sure she knows what she's talking about. I just have a very hard time believing it, because I've experienced both being obese and being at the low end of my healthy weight range. I feel much healthier at a lower weight, and not just because of the number on the scale. I can't imagine it's healthy to gasp for breath at the top of a flight of stairs, or to not be able to tie my own shoes. The book doesn't mention the quality of obese life in this chapter, however; just that obese people don't die younger than people of normal weight.
There is one particular paragraph that I found very interesting, though! You know how I finally came to terms with the fact that my weight range for the past 7 years has been about 30 pounds (about 125-155). I tend to reach my highest weight (high 150's) at the end of summer; and then my lowest weight at the end of winter. I always used to see this as "failure", but I finally just accepted that my body might like a bigger weight range than the ideal five-pound range.
So, when I read this paragraph, you can imagine how interesting I thought it was:
"So how do you determine your set range? It's more of an art than a science, at least given the current state of knowledge, but we do know that it will encompass the weights you tend to be at when you are not dieting and not engaging in extreme overeating. If there is a particular weight that you seem to keep coming back to after changes in either direction, it might be in the middle of your set range. One expert [cited from a study from the American Journal of Public Health] says that you can comfortably lose about 15 pounds below your set point before your body starts trying to defend a higher weight. If it works the same on the high end as on the low end, that would mean that your set range reasonably covers about 30 pounds." (pg. 30-31)Reading this was a coincidence and actually kind of a big relief! I feel like a 30-pound range is crazy, but it's what my body does. And it's nice to know that there is a reason for it. My body doesn't start really fighting the gain until I reach the top of my range, at around 155-160. And it doesn't start fighting my low weight until I'm at around 125. Out of the entire book, that last sentence fascinated me the most, because it was so relevant to me right now.
In the third part of the book, there are 12 dieting strategies that the author describes. The overall goal of these strategies is to eat well and lose or maintain your weight without "dieting". Most of them are things you have probably heard or read about before, especially if you're familiar with intuitive eating principles. There were a few unique ideas in the book, though.
One of the principles is to "Think of junk foods in an abstract way; not the specific taste/textures you expect." This was a new idea to me, but it works very well when I manage to remember to think about it. Basically, when we start craving a junk food, we imagine eating that food and we think about the textures, smell, taste, temperature, etc... and it makes us really want that food!
According to the book, a way to combat cravings like that is to think of foods abstractly, instead of thinking of the details. For example, you might just dismiss a doughnut as a "breakfast pastry" if you think of it no further than just "a breakfast pastry"--when you start thinking about the cream filling, the chocolate icing on top, the fresh fried dough, exactly how it will taste and feel when you bite into it, etc., it's much more difficult to resist. Does that make sense? Surprisingly, it really works (for me, anyway, and only when I remember to do it). I've been trying to put tempting foods into a broad category and not give any thought to the experience of eating them.
When it comes to healthy foods, we can do just the opposite--we can think of how crisp and sweet an apple will taste, and imagine the juice bursting into our mouths when we bite into it. Thinking of healthy foods that way will make them more appealing.
|I cannot remember why I was making this face; maybe|
because I ordered salad, and I never order salad? Haha.
It just looks like I'm trying to sell this one!
There are ten other strategies, but these two are the ones that I can actually see myself doing. The others are nice ideas, but it's just so much to remember and plan for that I would have to read the book several times over to really drill it in.
The fourth part of the book was very similar to the second part, explaining why losing weight really isn't that important as long as you are eating well, exercising, and taking care of yourself. There is a chapter about exercise and the real reasons to do it (not just for weight loss). I like that! I think my life has been dramatically improved with exercise, but exercise has never really had a big effect on my weight. I think it's important for all people to do, regardless of weight, so I enjoyed this chapter.
In a nutshell: The book is well-written and very well-researched (there are 46 pages of citations at the end). I enjoyed reading it, and found myself nodding along with a lot of what the author wrote. I felt motivated and even excited to try out the principles. BUT, as soon as I closed the book, I forgot everything I'd just read. It was nice to read, but very difficult to put into practice. I think maybe working on one principle at a time is the way to go--once that becomes habit, then choose another.
Overall, I found the book worth the read, but perhaps a little redundant because I've read so much about weight loss and intuitive eating over the years. If you are looking to just change habits into healthier ones, and you aren't too worried about losing weight quickly or anything, this is probably a helpful book to read. On the other hand, if you've read all the intuitive eating books out there, this one probably won't give you information you haven't already read. That's my honest opinion.
If you are interested in the book, here are the purchase links from TLC Book Tours:
Amazon (affiliate link--if you purchase through this link, I get a small commission)
Barnes & Noble
In going with the theme, I've really liked reading about healthy HABITS--things that we do on a daily basis that helps us to be healthy--rather than weight loss TIPS. One of my habits that I got into when I first started losing weight in August of 2010 was to drink a full quart of water first thing when I get up each day. It has helped in so many ways--I don't really get thirsty during the day, so I don't drink my calories; my eyes aren't dry (they used to feel very dry when I woke up); it keeps me from feeling bloated; I don't need to carry water on my morning runs; and I just feel better in general. I'd love to read about some of your healthy habits, if you're willing to share!