How Not to Diet - The Groundbreaking Science of Healthy, Permanent Weight Loss by Dr. Michael Greger
1. You can get rid of obesity once and for all
Obesity is one of the hottest topics in nutrition and medical science. This is because a good percentage of the population is affected by it. There are millions of books, articles, and courses flying around on the Internet that claim to help people reduce the extra body fat they carry around.
Many of such materials have no solid foundation in science, nor can they be explained by it. Most of them are products of trial and error and rely upon testimonials to convince people into using them. But “How Not to Diet” is different from every such material. This summary is based on results from scientific research that has been going on for decades.
Michael Greger is a researcher and teacher who loves digging up facts and making them plain to the public. His book was born out of a research project he embarked upon with his research team. This summary has condensed the most important takeaways for you, so sit back and enjoy the ride.
"When it comes to weight loss, scientifically proven techniques are the only sure bet you have."
Let's start with the basics. What exactly is obesity, and how do you know if you're obese or not? Most people think they know the answer to these questions, but they don't.
You don't consider someone obese simply because they seem to have extra weight. There's a difference between being overweight and being obese. People are obese only when they have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is classified as overweight, while the ideal weight is between 18.5 and 24.9.
It's easy to calculate your BMI on your own. You could either visit an online BMI calculator or do it manually. For the manual calculation, multiply your weight in pounds by 703, then divide the number twice by your height in inches.
For example, if you weigh 250 pounds and are 70 inches tall, your BMI is (250×703÷70÷70) 35.9.
"Obesity starts from a BMI of 30, but you're considered overweight if your BMI falls between 25 and 29.9."
2. The food industry is primarily responsible for the increase in obesity
Many people are confused. Have humans always been obese or is it something that started only recently?
If we're to answer this correctly, then we need to go back in time. Historical records show that obesity has always been around. But we know that the numbers shot up drastically in the 1970s (at the time, obesity in America and other developed nations moved from 1 in 30 people to 1 in 3).
Many theories have been developed to explain this sudden rise in obesity that refuses to drop, but none of them hold water. The real culprit is the food industry. The way we eat has changed dramatically since the '70s. This resulted from the boom in technology. Machines were created to make fast food a possibility. And in addition, the food industry became more intelligent about manufacturing sweet, high-calorie foods. Since we naturally are attracted to sweet and delicious foods, it became easy for almost everyone to be obese. It was only a matter of time.
"The low nutrition diet we consume these days is the leading cause of obesity."
Apart from personal discomfort and the dent that obesity has on your physical appearance, there are terrible health risks that accompany obesity. The most popular among them include arthritis, low back pain, blood pressure problems, diabetes, and fertility problems, as well as heart diseases. But the good news is you can overcome obesity and all its troubles through proven lifestyle changes that will be discussed in subsequent chapters.
"People who lie to themselves about investing are the same as overweight people who blame their genes for their obesity."
Did you know? Most of the world's population live in countries where being overweight or obese kills more people than being underweight.
3. Going natural is the most reliable solution to obesity
There is a reason humans who walked the earth millennials ago lived more healthily than people in the 20th and 21st centuries. They had more healthy diet diets. That's it.
We may be better advanced and more sophisticated than them, but we have lost touch with the vital ingredients our bodies need to be healthy. The following are the major ingredients you need in your ideal weight loss diet.
For long, fiber was neglected as a weight loss solution. We focused our attention on protein and paid little attention to that one ingredient that should be added to our protein intake. Studies show that less than 3 % of Americans consume an adequate amount of fiber daily, while the reverse is the case for protein — over 97 % take the right proportions of protein.
There are various health benefits of fiber, but here are the two major benefits. Number one, fiber is an appetite suppressant, which means when you take adequate fiber, you won't feel the usual urge to consume too many calories than you can burn. Secondly, fiber serves as nutrients to the mutual bacteria in your gut. These bacteria help facilitate processes like body vitamin production, while they are in turn fed and sheltered by the body.
"Fiber is, unfortunately, one of the most important weight loss ingredients that are missing in our diets today."
Fiber is extremely important to weight loss, but, sadly, not many people know about it. You know the situation is bad when you check for the best sources of fiber in America and find French fries topping the list. Some even believe fiber can be taken from steaks and other animal sources. But the truth is, plants are the only genuine sources of fiber. Fruits, legumes, and whole grains are wonderful sources to consider.
Just like fiber, Michael Greger explains that water-rich foods “add bulk to food without adding calories.” Foods like vegetables and fruits which have high water content will get you satisfied easily, and reduce your appetite for any high-calorie food.
Scientifically, most vegetables have over 90% water content, while fruits have an average of 80%. Your diet should consist of more of these two classes of food. Processed or junk foods like candy, pizza, and hamburgers have very little water content, that's why you're able to keep eating them and not get easily satisfied.
Meat and bread have about 30% water content. You can't make up for the water content of such foods by taking plenty of cups of water when eating them. You will get filled easily, but that doesn't translate to eating less.
You should also consider foods that are low in fat and added sugar. Foods like leafy greens (spinach, lettuce, and kale are good examples), beans, legumes, and fruits.
"Water-rich foods like fruits and veggies are effective in combating obesity."
Excess salt or refined grains aren't good for you either. Those foods have high-calorie content, so consuming them will not favor weight loss at all.
"Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
Did you know? The top seven water-rich foods are cucumber, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oranges, and apples.
4. Your biological drive can become your greatest enemy
A study conducted by Columbia University researchers showed that in the absence of pleasure and fun, people will consume only the amount of calories required by their bodies. Two sets of subjects were used: obese and normal-weight individuals. Both categories were to feed on a feeding machine, they were allowed to eat as much or as little they wanted, and at any time of the day.
It was found that the normal-weight individuals consumed the number of daily calories naturally required by the body, but the obese people surprisingly ate less food than the normal-weight people. This came as a surprise because obesity is known to be associated with overeating. But that observation led to a discovery: in the absence of pleasure and fun, the body is smart enough to limit your consumption when you're overweight.
Does this mean people are obese because they intentionally go against the natural restrictions of their bodies? In part, yes. But it's a little more complex than that. You see, we have two appetite control systems: the homeostatic system (which seeks to maintain weight balance) and the hedonic system (which responds to pleasure and palatability). When food appeals strongly to our senses of sight, taste, and smell, then the hedonic system kicks in immediately, making us eat as much as — or even more than — our stomach can take.
The same thing happens to the hedonic system when we see different food varieties that appeal to our senses.
"Diversifying your choice of good foods will motivate you to eat healthily."
The food industry knows this well, and they use it to produce junk and rake in profits. It's a natural biological drive in us, so there's almost nothing we can do against it. However, you can use this drive to your advantage. Always stimulate your hedonic system by diversifying your choice of good foods. For example, you could have a large variety of appealing fruits and vegetables in your home. It also pays to learn creative ways to prepare attractive and tasty meals from healthy combinations of natural plants.
"There is no love sincerer than the love of food."
5. Accountability is a great weight loss tool
By now, you would have seen how plant-based diets work more effectively than animal-based diets. However, feeding on healthy plants alone didn't prove to work fast for some people. The reason is that it's easy to relapse when on a private diet with no accountability structure.
Most habits cannot be changed easily because habits are formed over a long period. If you want to get more feedback on your weight loss journey, you need to hold yourself accountable for your tasks and diet. Informing the people around you is a good step. You can also monitor your progress at all times.
"Accountability is what makes you stick to your weight loss goal, even when relapsing seems so tempting."
You could fill the accountability gap on your own accord by getting a scale and checking your weight regularly (experts recommend once or twice daily), or you could take it a step further and join support groups. Or at least, you could have that one friend or coach you regularly report to. The point is, the better the accountability structure around your weight loss, the better your chances at sustained weight loss. Besides the weighing machine and accountability structure, other tools for fast-tracking weight loss include appetite suppressants like saffron, black pepper, and cumin.
"At the end of the day we are accountable to ourselves — our success is a result of what we do."
6. The knowledge of chronobiology will help you lose weight sustainably
Chronobiology is a branch of biology that studies how rhythms of the sun, moon, and seasons may affect our natural — physical, mental, and emotional — cycles.
How true are the claims of chronobiology? Well, there is sufficient scientific evidence to prove seasonal and environmental changes do affect our bodies and soul. Although there are many superstitions and misconceptions around this subject. For example, there is this popular notion that skipping breakfast contributes to weight loss. The proponents of this theory argue that skipping breakfast means having lesser calories to deal with during the day, but this is simply not true. Matter of fact, if you're going to skip any meals regularly, it should be dinner because most foods we eat late into the night have difficulty digesting before morning.
"It's not true that skipping breakfast will make you lose weight, but skipping dinner might help in that regard."
Here are some chronobiological tips that encourage weight loss:
• Sleep at night so you can be active during the day
• Sleep 6–7 hours a night
• Go to bed early
• Don't go to bed immediately after dinner; dinner should be served at least two and a half hours before going to bed
7. Dr. Michael Greger's guide to eating healthy
It's wonderful to conclude this summary with Dr. Greger's expert advice on how you should eat. This guideline is a product of decades of research into how what we eat and how we eat them affect the results our bodies produce.
Firstly, Dr. Greger recommends drinking two cups of (unflavored) water before you begin eating. This should be followed by “negative calorie foods” — foods like fruits and veggies that fill you up easily without adding calories.
You could drink vinegar if you want, but not directly. Either take it as a flavor or add it to your drink. Finally, consume your meal without unnecessary distractions. Shut down the TV, drop your phone, and just eat. Try hard not to rush your eating. Studies show that the more time people spend eating, the less their chances of overeating. So, drop distractions and eat slowly. You could increase the number of chews before you swallow, or decrease the bite-size, whatever you want to do. Just don't rush the meal. Greger calls this“the 21 minutes rule.” As much as possible, don't take less than 21 minutes to eat.
Dr. Greger also recommends the following day and night practices:
• Black cumin (¼ tsp), once a day
• Garlic powder (¼ tsp), once a day
• Ground ginger (1 tsp), once a day
• Nutritional yeast (2 tsp), once a day
• Cumin (2 tsp with lunch and dinner)
• Green tea (3 cups a day)
For the night,
• Begin your fast by 7 pm
• Get 6–7 hours of sleep
"It took more than a day to put it on. It will take more than a day to take it off."
Obesity is something millions of people all over the world suffer from. But there doesn't seem to be a simple, clear-cut solution to obesity. Because of this, obese people jump from one shiny solution to another, hoping to solve their problems to no avail. Many have even lost hope that their obesity can be cured.
However, sustainable (and healthy) weight loss is possible, if you follow science-proven strategies. You don't have to necessarily grind it in the gym if that's not the sort of thing you like. In this summary, we have gone over several strategies you can use to gain your normal weight back. And they work whether your obesity was caused by a disease, resulted naturally, or is something you have in your genes.
The first thing you should embrace on your journey to ideal weight is a plant-based diet. It has been proven over and over again that plant-based sources are more effective than animal-based weight loss programs. The reason many people find it hard to follow through on purely plant-based sources is the lack of palatability. But you can work on this yourself by creatively enhancing the palatability of your meals. Add more fruits and vegetables to your daily meals — especially high – water–content fruits like watermelons, apples, and oranges. Try to sleep well at night, so you can avoid taking naps in the afternoon, and do not eat less than two and a half hours before your bedtime.
Follow the 21 minutes rule. Spend at least 21 minutes eating your meals from now on. There's no point rushing.
References & Further Reading
Be Blessed by the Divine!
Dr. Achyuthan Eswar