June 9, 2016

Book Review: "Always Hungry?" by Dr. David Ludwig

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Always Hungry?, by Dr. David Ludwig

Always Hungry?: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells & Lose Weight Permanently
By Dr. David Ludwig
Grand Central Life & Style / Hachette
Reviewed by Jason Pettus

The bad news about Dr. David Ludwig's newest book, Always Hungry? -- and this is only minor bad news at most -- is that what he calls "revolutionary" information is not actually that revolutionary, essentially repeating the same story from half a dozen other nutrition books I've read that have been published in the last year or two. But that's the good news about this book as well, which is much more important, that Ludwig is preaching a message here that has essentially been confirmed by all the other medical professionals who are currently writing about the absolute newest things science has learned about health and eating in the last couple of years; that the way we've been taught for decades about weight management is essentially worthless BS, that there is no such thing as a simple math formula for "calories in" and "calories out" of our bodies, and that the key to weight loss is not how much food one eats but rather what kinds of foods you're putting into your system.

Specifically, Ludwig (a longtime professor at Harvard Medical School) is confirming something that's becoming more and more of an accepted reality in the 21st century -- that the main reason the US has seen an epidemic in obesity rates since the end of World War Two is because of the growing amount of corporate processing we've been doing since World War Two to the food we eat, innocently begun in the Mid-Century Modernist "Plastic Age" years but that has turned into an overwhelming tragedy by now, with the main culprit being the way that we are now systematically stripping nearly every carbohydrate in our diets (flour, wheat, pasta, rice, chips, potatoes, corn, breakfast cereal, etc) of the things nature puts in those grains to make them slower to digest, and therefore easier to burn off at a small and regular rate over the course of an entire day. The lack of such elements makes our bodies convert these carbs into sugar much faster, which makes our insulin levels go through the roof, which means we burn off that food frighteningly fast (think for example of the crash you experience a couple of hours after a lunch at McDonald's), which in turn sends signals to our fat cells to "hoard" those sugars because it mistakenly believes we're not getting enough to eat (but see this book for a more detailed explanation of that process). Eliminate this processed stuff from your diet, Ludwig argues -- basically, all fast food and all frozen dinners, plus "white" versions of any of the things listed above -- and you're already 95 percent of the way towards a healthy diet that will bring you back to your genetically "natural" weight, whatever that might be; the only thing left at that point is to balance out the food that remains to levels that we as contemporary Americans are usually a little off from, including a little more protein than what most of us typically get right now, and a substantially greater amount of what nutritionists call "good" fat (found in things like nuts, olive oil, fish, avocados, and the unprocessed versions of dairy products, i.e. the "full fat" versions of milk, butter and yogurt).

The book is conveniently laid out in two distinct halves; so for people like me who are mostly just interested in the theory of it all, the first half is devoted to nothing but that, but for those who are actively overweight and are looking for an actual practical diet plan, the second half of the book is devoted exclusively to that, including literal day-by-day menu plans for the first month of the program (with accompanying recipes), templates for recording your process, and plenty of appendices giving you nutritional information about nearly every food involved. Combined with some very simple lifestyle advice to go along with the diet (get more sleep, exercise a bit each day, reduce your stress level through things like mindfulness), it's a pretty comprehensive and convincing plan for not just temporary weight loss but a profound and permanent change in the way you live your entire life; and the only reason it's not getting a higher score today is that you have to be very specifically into these subjects in order to find the book of any interest at all. For those who are, it comes recommended, although with the warning that there are at least another dozen similar books on the market right now that you could read instead.

Out of 10: 8.0, or 9.0 for those interested in nutrition

Read even more about Always Hungry?: Official site | Amazon | GoodReads | LibraryThing | Wikipedia

Filed by Jason Pettus at 7:00 AM, June 9, 2016. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Nonfiction | Reviews |