Book Corner 2022.15

by Stephan J. Guyenet, Ph.D.

A similar conclusion to SALT, SUGAR, FAT by Michael Moss as to why American obesity rates are skyrocketing: the food just TASTES TOO DAMN GOOD.

To find a time when things were different, we don’t have to go back to hunter-gatherer times – although Guyenet does; we spend a hypothetical day with a few hypothetical members of a non-hypothetical tribe of East Africa, who eat a certain fibrous tuber as a mainstay of their diet. You chew the flesh and then spit out the pithy stuff. It’s not very good. Nobody’s very excited about it. Likewise until 20th century convenience foods and ubiquitous restaurant cooking, you had to eat your own household’s cooking. I’m betting that often wasn’t very good either.

It wasn’t Oreos. It wasn’t Big Macs. Now it is. Mmmmmmm.

This particular book is about the brain science behind metabolism, hunger cues, etc. Along the lines of the main thesis I’ve described above, his biggest weight loss tip is to eat food that isn’t very good. Of course you’ll eat less of it, for starters; but it may also have some effect on the brain, and on the levels of something called leptin, to expose yourself less often to the utter deliciousness that is the American supermarket diet.

(He doesn’t phrase it as “eat food that isn’t very good.” He calls it “simple food.”)

But nooooooooooooo I refuse to give up deliciousness. That said, point taken, and it’s always good advice to eat simple food close to the source.

One surprising thing I bookmarked was his allegation that we tend to put on most of our yearly weight gain as a result of the extended holiday season. I always thought that what you did the majority of the year would far outweigh some indulgence at the end; but maybe I’m not really admitting to how lengthy the holiday season is in proportion to the year as a whole. Anyway, to avoid upward creep of poundage, he says to focus on strategies to minimize holiday overeating.

I thought those were a couple of unique tips.

2 thoughts on “Book Corner 2022.15

  1. (He doesn’t phrase it as “eat food that isn’t very good.” He calls it “simple food.”)
    Simple food can be very, very good. What it can’t be, unless you gorge on avocados and maple syrup, is good by dint of mind-numbing concentrations of sugar, fat, salt or alcohol. Much of the problem with processed packaged convenience food, snack food and restaurant food is that they compensate for flavor deficiencies by appealing to our atavistic endotherm hypothalamus which was raised in the Church of Hunger, the cardinal faith of which is that famine is just around the corner and if we aren’t overflowing with nutrients today we may be too weak to glean enough tomorrow. A useful weight loss tip: if you eat food that needs to be cooked, cook it yourself. You’d be hard pressed to find ingredients as crappy as what goes into most prepared food, and doing your own cooking forces you to at least notice if not think about what you’re eating. I used to make huge batches of tempura, which is insanely delicious as well as fun to make, until I measured the oil before vs. after and realized each of us was consuming easily 100ml of oil at a sitting. There’s ~900 kilocalories before even considering the actual food part of the food. I didn’t and don’t much care about Calories, but if they mostly come from highly refined fat (which is what you need for frying) that ancient hypothalamus response says “enough” before enough other actual nutrients pass the portal. When you know what goes into your food, you tend to be more discriminating about what and how much goes into your mouth. Cook at home.


    1. Yes! I love my Penzey’s Spice bumper stickers: “Heal the World. Cook Dinner Tonight.” I feel like a minor superhero every time I cook. And sometimes I’ve thought of trying the “Eat ONLY what you cook at home” “diet”… think of it, I could eat all the brownies I wanted, as long as I made them at home… I guess it’s not supposed to work exactly that way. Speaking of the avocado-and-maple-syrup non-diet, this was (Part I of II) Maple Open House Weekend! Visiting far-flung farms drinking hot maple syrup out of dixie cups never gets old, especially as it happens only once a year.


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