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How Not to Diet

The Groundbreaking Science of Healthy, Permanent Weight Loss

By Michael Greger, M.D.
19-minute read
Audio available
How Not to Diet by Michael Greger, M.D.

How Not to Diet (2019) explores how a healthy, plant-based diet can achieve effective, healthy, and sustainable weight loss. It also explores why so many people are overweight and offers a clear and detailed guide for tackling the issue. There are no quick-fixes or fad diets here, just rigorous science-based advice you can trust.

  • Dieters looking for a rigorous, evidence-based approach 
  • Anyone who wants to live a long, healthy life
  • People who’ve tried and failed to diet in the past

Michael Greger, M.D., is an American physician, author, and public health advocate. The best-selling author of How Not to Die and the How Not to Die Cookbook, Greger has also published multiple academic papers. Greger aims to be a source of information you can trust, donates all profits from his books and speaking engagements to charity, and runs a free website, NutritionFacts.org. 

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How Not to Diet

The Groundbreaking Science of Healthy, Permanent Weight Loss

By Michael Greger, M.D.
  • Read in 19 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 12 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
How Not to Diet by Michael Greger, M.D.
Synopsis

How Not to Diet (2019) explores how a healthy, plant-based diet can achieve effective, healthy, and sustainable weight loss. It also explores why so many people are overweight and offers a clear and detailed guide for tackling the issue. There are no quick-fixes or fad diets here, just rigorous science-based advice you can trust.

Key idea 1 of 12

Obesity is a normal bodily response to an abnormal situation – the abundance of highly calorific and processed foods. 

Let’s start with a sobering fact. One hundred years ago, just one in 30 people were obese. Today? It’s one in three. In fact, in the United States, 71 percent of adults are overweight, and 40 percent are obese. Fat is the new normal. 

Why has this happened? Why have so many people piled on the pounds? To understand this, we have to look back in time. Way back. 

Here’s the key message: obesity is a normal bodily response to an abnormal situation – the abundance of highly calorific and processed foods. 

Humans were born to eat. 

For most of our history, we lived in survival mode. Food was scarce, and its availability unpredictable. If you found food, you ate it. 

And you’d hunt out calorie-rich foods in particular. After all, if our ancestors were gathering a pound of food per hour, with a total of 250 calories, then they might need to forage for up to ten hours just to get their daily intake. But if they could find a pound of food with a total of 500 calories, they could wrap up their daily forage in half the time. Result: Five extra hours to focus on cave paintings.

Thus, humans developed an evolutionary preference for eating and storing calories when possible. And they developed an inbuilt understanding of – and preference for – calorie-dense foods. 

We still have this inbuilt understanding today. What foods do you lust for? Lettuce? Cucumber? Or fatty, rich, sugary, starchy foods, packed with calories? In fact, studies of young children show that their preferences are correlated with calorie-density. They’ll pick a banana over berries, and even potatoes over a sweet peach: it may not taste as good, but it has the calories. 

But what was a necessity for millennia is a problem today. Our biology is still built for scarcity, but our environment is a land of plenty. Bananas, with around 400 calories per pound, no longer top the calorie-dense scale. Chocolate, cheese, bacon, and other processed foods can contain thousands of calories per pound. And while we can naturally perceive the difference between bananas and lettuce, at the top end of the scale, we struggle to tell the difference. Hardly surprising, as chocolate chip cookies and grilled cheese weren’t on the menu for our ancestors. 

The reality is, weight gain isn’t unusual or unexpected. Overweight bodies are doing what nature has taught them to do when confronted with excess calories. And today, we are confronted with more excess calories than ever. 

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