Why Diets Make Us Fat, Sandra Aamodt - Book Summary

Why Diets Make Us Fat disproves many common myths about dieting and the relationship between weight and health. This book will explore the scientific evidence behind the argument that diets are not only ineffective, but also unhealthy.

The book is the right choice for

  • Those who are trying to lose weight;
  • People interested in healthy eating;
  • People who want to improve their eating habits.

The person who brings this useful information is

Sandra Aamodt, a renowned neuroscientist and science book writer. She has been the editor-in-chief of Nature Neuroscience and co-author of several books such as Understanding Your Baby's Brain and Understanding Your Child's Mind .

Chapter 1. Why should you read this book? Because most of what we know about diets is wrong.

Today, people are almost "overeating" with a series of new diets. But after you try switching to vegetables, or strictly controlling calories or forcing yourself on a frugal diet, you will be disappointed to find that very few diets can produce the results you expect. wait.

Thanks to advances in neuroscience, genetics and psychology, we will understand why dieting only helps people lose weight in the short term, but in the long run it does not. effective. The book will show you, if you want to eat and live healthier, losing weight is not enough.

In the following chapters, readers will learn about

  • How evolution has made it so much easier to gain weight than to lose it;
  • Reasons why mental strength is not so important in healthy eating;
  • Exercise will save your life at some point.

Chapter 2. It's very easy to gain weight back after losing it because the brain thinks the body is starving.

If a woman weighing 49 kg lost 13 kg, people would think she was too thin and lifeless. But if another woman who weighs 1 pound lost 13 kg, we would congratulate her for having lost a significant amount of excess fat.

With society, there is a huge difference between these two girls' weight loss. However, with the brain, no matter how many kilograms it weighs, the body is still in a state of starvation if the weight is significantly reduced. In fact, the human body always maintains a safe weight, that is, it only gains or loses 4-5 kg. You can easily change your weight in this range with just a few simple exercises and diet. The safe weight level itself can change flexibly, but often it only increases, but rarely decreases. So, if the weight loss is too much, the body will try to make up for the lost weight.

The reason behind this phenomenon is the "energy balance" system, which is responsible for balancing the amount of calories people take in and burn. However, this system is often disrupted by the body's "reward system". For example, when we eat something delicious and energetic, the body transmits to the brain a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction.

This system was very useful in ancient times. For example, when our ancestors found a honeycomb or hunted a large animal, the body's reward system forced them to eat a lot because it could take a long time to get food.

However, in modern times with an abundant food supply, this system will cause people to consume too many foods high in sugar and fat. And as a reaction after overeating, we start dieting again. Unfortunately, intermittent fasting will only strengthen the "reward system", prompting the body to eat more in search of a sense of satisfaction for the brain.

Chapter 3. Willpower plays a very modest role in building healthy eating habits.

Most people mistakenly believe that dieters need great determination to resist the temptation of delicious food.

In fact, willpower is only really effective with short-term goals of a few hours, weeks or months like cooking a complicated dish or trying to finish homework. However, with goals that last several years like keeping a slim body, your willpower is sure to be defeated by cravings before you reach the desired weight.

In other words, will is a limited source of power to control human behavior, we must "recharge" when it is gradually exhausted. In addition, willpower also has different levels of effectiveness with different actions.

Besides, will also has the ability to control people's habits. In the next section, the author will demonstrate that using willpower to develop healthy eating habits is much more effective than trying to fight cravings. Because, when that source of power is exhausted, we will immediately "get used to the old way". The question is, for you, is the good habit of taking a daily walk or enjoying the satisfaction of rewarding yourself with a chocolate bar?

Chapter 5. Discriminatory use of weight and irrational body illusions can cause serious health damage.

If anyone has ever hinted that you should lose weight, you have suffered from weight discrimination. Not only does it not help others lose weight, this discrimination also aggravates the weight problem of obese people. Because when they are sad and depressed because they are criticized, they tend to eat more and because they think they are not neat and active, they also do not exercise.

Children and adolescents are the most vulnerable group to weight discrimination. A study in the US of 2,500 adolescents showed that the likelihood of gaining weight in the next 5 years of children who were labeled obese was twice as likely as the rest.

In addition, the prevalence of unrealistic body images in the mass media causes serious mental health problems related to weight.

A study investigating the relationship between body concept and media misrepresentation was carried out in Fiji. In the 1970s, there was a section of Fijian women suffering from eating disorders after a period of dieting while a curvaceous body was the ideal model here.

In 1995, researchers analyzed the effects of satellite television on people in Fiji. They believe that it is the Western physical standards that foreign television programs transmit that directly influence the perception of Fijian women.

Chapter 6. Genetic factors have a great influence on human weight.

Have you ever found that gaining weight is much easier than losing weight? The root cause dates back to hundreds of thousands of years ago, when humans first appeared.

Until food became abundant and readily available in the last century, in order to find food and avoid predators, humans had to hunt and gather every day, so they certainly had no chance. society to "overeat". In a situation of always lurking famine, to ensure survival, human biological genes are forced to promote weight gain rather than weight loss.

Genes play a huge role in obesity, a very small change in a gene can lead to uncontrolled weight gain. Claude Bouchard and Angelo Tremblay did a study with two identical and dissimilar twins. For 3 months, in addition to their normal diet, the twins ate an extra 1,000 calories a day. As a result, while identical twins gained about the same amount of weight gain, there was a huge difference between two dissimilar twins.

Another study of weight loss when burning an extra 1000 calories per day with identical and different twins for three months also produced similar results. From here can be sure about the influence of biological genes on the problem of human weight.

So, if you want to know if you are prone to gaining weight, take a genetic test or observe the waist circumference of your family members at an upcoming gathering.

Chapter 7. Focus on what you eat, you will feel it more and eat less.

Indulging, or in other words fully enjoying the present moment, will help you eat smarter. Mindful eating is the ability to be aware of and control what you put into your body.

Instead of relying on diet and external cues like cravings for convenience store junk food, mindful eating helps you listen to your body's true hunger. To know what you really want, you have to listen to the signals from your energy balance system that your stomach is full.

Here are some ways to eat mindfully, the natural way to stay lean, healthy, and avoid eating disorders:

First, sit down at the table when your stomach is only slightly hungry. Because, intense hunger will make you eat uncontrollably and ignore all signals of the energy balance system;

Next, eat slowly, putting down your chopsticks after each time you put food in your mouth. Besides, instead of rushing to think about the next piece, focus on the amount of food still chewing in your mouth.

Finally, only eat when you've eliminated all other distractions. Instead of using your phone while eating, focus on enjoying your meal to the fullest.

Chapter 8. The link between a slim body and good health is not as close as you might think.

People often think that losing weight makes the body stronger because after a period of diet and exercise, we often feel comfortable and relaxed. However, weight loss is only a side effect, it is physical exercise that makes people healthier.

Regular exercise is a sign of abundant health, because people who work hard no matter how much they weigh are still very healthy. Numerous studies have shown that, when predicting age of death, exercise level is a much more accurate predictor of age than obesity.

The first study to analyze the importance of exercise and weight for health was conducted with transport workers in London in 1949. British doctor Jeremy Morris collected data from 31,000 documents bus drivers and bus fare collectors.

Obviously, the driver will have to exercise less because they only need to sit in the driving position all day. Meanwhile, assistants have to climb an average of 500 steps a day to collect fares on London's double-decker buses. Research shows that the rate of heart attack in the passenger car is 30% lower than the driver. Furthermore, their heart attacks were also milder.

In addition, Morris found that even the fattest co-drivers had a lower risk of the disease than small drivers who sat in their seats all the time.

The thin link between weight and health is most evident in the elderly. When people turn 60, losing weight is much more dangerous than gaining weight. At that age, certain fats act as a stepping stone to combat the debilitating effects of diseases that accompany weight loss.

So, to be healthier, focus on exercise instead of worrying too much about weight problems.

Chapter 9. Build healthy habits and get rid of bad habits gradually for a healthier life.

Repeating an action makes it our habit. A good habit is that you look ahead carefully before crossing the street, but rushing to the refrigerator to eat an ice cream every time you are bored is not recommended.

Instead of trying to strengthen your mental strength, you will lead a healthier lifestyle if you practice building good habits. The more we use something, the more we lose the opportunity to reuse it. So, if you practice building healthy habits, you can use your mental strength for something else.

It varies from case to case, but on average, people take about two months to form a habit. If you want to build a habit, follow these steps:

First, set yourself realistic goals. If the goal you set is too far away, the result will only be discouragement and disappointment in yourself. So instead of forcing yourself to walk 5 times a week, start with 3.

Second, be persistent! You can stop doing it for a day, but if you delay for a week, you won't be able to return to the previous build. A little trick to always stick to the habit is to always mark the days when you do it.

Third, it's easier to break a habit if you replace it with another positive action. Every habit includes certain activities, so you won't be able to give it up if you don't do anything, it's better to replace it with healthier activities. For example, instead of trying in vain to give up snacking, replace the greasy snack pack with a plate of fresh and healthy fruit.

Remember: When you change your habits, you change your life!


The human body is better able to regulate weight than any diet. So, if we learn to listen to the signals from the body and exercise regularly, we will have an abundant health and a lean body.

Lessons learned from the book

Choose a healthy habit and develop it slowly.

Don't try to change your diet, exercise routine and watching TV at the same time as it will shock your body. If there's one habit that can change your life forever, it's exercise!