Book Review by Sapphire Ng
Secrets From the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again
by Traci Mann
Copyright January 2017
Paperback, 272 Pages
An effortless and quick read. Informative and packed with interesting empirical studies and research. Refreshing insights and findings are presented along with simple and yet practicable strategies. A pleasant read for both dieters and non-dieters alike, with an emphasis on informing and empowering those grappling with weight issues.
Mann coherently tackles the various myths and misconceptions that plague the weight loss industry. She persuasively argues that dieting is counterproductive—dieting strengthens the brain response to “images of food and to actual food” and causes the deterioration of one’s impulse control—, convincingly debunks the myth of comfort foods, and analytically highlights the disproportionately inflated health risks of obesity. She continues by cogently elucidating biological and evolutionary rationales underlying weight regain, and cites studies challenging the exaggerated role of willpower in “resisting highly tempting foods.”
Explorations of food labeling, with fascinating and occasionally ironic findings, represent one of the more interesting areas of studies incorporated in the book. It is apparently an unwise strategy to include labeling that explicitly declare certain foods as “healthy.” On the other hand, an example of a rather surprising but intriguing studies-based assessment found in the book is as follows, “Your life expectancy is about six years shorter if you have initials F.A.T. than if you are fat (class I obese).”
This book delightfully covers a further assortment of absorbing content and concepts. Learning about perceived flaws of prevailing diet studies and the concept of weight cycling is beyond enlightening. Mann’s candid spotlighting of the poignancy of weight stigma and discrimination additionally prompts reflection. The shaming and negativity to which obese people are subjected plunges them further into the vicious cycle of weight gain. Glimpsed as an attempt to speak up for the obese populace, Mann even produced shocking findings that bluntly display the prejudice against overweight people by obesity researchers and doctors, members of society obligated to care for, and supposedly more empathetic and sympathetic toward, obese patients.
Of the sampling of functional strategies provided in the book to guide the reader to attain his or her “leanest livable weight,” a particularly intriguing one included adopting an abstract and general versus a specific and detailed pattern of thinking about temptation foods. Mann further acquaints the reader with what she calls the “i-intentions” statement, and other strategies cleverly based upon proven social psychological theories, for example the pressure to conform in eating patterns.
In line with Mann’s powerfully healthy and positive message to dieters and non-dieters alike, it is fitting that she wrote, “Eating is not a moral act,” and that “there is no cause for guilt or shame about things you eat.” I will venture to surmise that Mann would probably consider her book a greater success should the reader/dieter come away liberated—spiritually, psychologically and physically.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours for this review.