Book Review – Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat

by Naveen Agarwal

in Product Reviews

The author of this book Michelle May, M.D., is a contributor to my Ask the Expert column. That is why when she told me that she had published this book, I was immediately interested even though it did not directly apply to toddlers. I think Dr. May has a very interesting thesis here which flies in the face of typical advice on diet and weight loss. Her own personal and professional experience make it all the more credible. No wonder, it was hardly a surprise to me when she told me that this book was recently selected by TIME.com as one of the Top 10 Notable New Diet Books of 2010 and won the National Book Award for Best Health Book! I am so happy for her and wish her continued success.

Overview

Dr. May’s main message in this book is for you to answer a simple question Am I Hungry? It is amazing that children know this notion very well and eat only when they are hungry. Yet, adults no longer have that sense because they tend to eat in response to their emotional needs, not necessarily the sensation of hunger. In this book, she teaches the notion of the Eating Cycle and explains what it means in the case of overeating, restrictive eating (diets) and instinctive eating (eat when hungry and stop when full). The eating cycle is based on 6 fundamental questions – Why, When, What, How, How Much and Where – which will help you determine your eating patterns and underlying drivers.

In short, she wants you to develop a clear understanding of your own personal eating cycle, and not simply obsess over what you eat and how much you eat.

That is why the title of her book is so powerful. Once you understand your own eating cycle, you can pretty much eat what you love without feeling guilty. Balance, variety and moderation along with awareness of where you are on the Hunger-Fullness scale will help you get to the weight you desire and, more importantly, stay there.

Here are a few practical tips I really liked in this book -

  • Great point of view on mindful eating – it means eat with intention and eat with attention
  • A very practical and intuitive Hunger and Fullness scale to help you judge when you need to eat. I also liked the balloon analogy. Bottom line, eat when you are hungry, don’t wait until you are starving and stop eating when you feel full and not stuffed!
  • Each chapter ends with a list of strategies you can immediately apply.
  • The FEAST method to understand why you feel like eating when you are not hungry (Focus-Explore-Accept-Strategize-Take Action)
  • Strategies to deal with difficult emotions, particularly anger, and not let them lead to overeating.
  • Triggers for overeating and how to recognize them.
  • Provides a tool to understand feelings and how they drive actions – TFAR (Thoughts-Feelings-Actions-Results)
  • Very good overview of the fundamentals of nutrition in common sense language – carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins, metabolism etc.
  • The whole book is sprinkled with nuggets of wisdom called Mindful Moments – very practical, scientifically balanced nutrition advice.
  • Personal stories from clients and Dr. May’s analysis and advice based on principles of mindful eating.
  • Collection of healthy recipes with practical suggestions under Chef’s Notes, Doctor’s Notes and Family Notes.

10 things I learned from this book I did not know before

  1. High-fat, high-sugar processed carbohydrates can temporarily activate the pleasure centers in the brain by triggering the release of serotonin and beta-endorphins. No wonder, they are so addictive!
  2. Hormones produced when you feel stressed actually accelerate storage of fat.
  3. Your taste buds are most sensitive when you are hungry and when you start eating. That is a great tip for fully enjoying the food – eat when you are hungry!
  4. Medical research has proven that even a 5% weight loss can significantly improve your health! Small is indeed beautiful!
  5. Many people are chronically dehydrated and don’t even know it!
  6. Excessive salt can lead to more water retention.
  7. The more you weigh, the more fluid your body needs.
  8. Basal metabolism consumes the largest portion of energy. Basal metabolism is the amount of energy (calories) your body needs to support vital bodily functions like heartbeat, breathing, brain function, even eating and digesting.
  9. Muscle cells burn more energy than any other type in your body. They also require more energy for maintenance.
  10. The American Heart Association recommends that you limit your intake of saturated fat to less than 7% and trans fat to less than 1% of your total daily calories.

What I did not like so much

  • I think a 10-point scale for assessing the sensation of hunger or fullness may be a little difficult for most people to fully internalize because it is hard to tell a 1 – 2  point difference. For me, the balloon analogy for your stomach of 1 being empty, 5 being a gentle natural shape and 6-10 being overstretched works better. The scale could be simpler with only a 4-5 levels.
  • There are a lot of tables and sometimes the information tends to be repetitive.
  • I would have loved to see a chapter on how you can apply these principles not only to yourself but to your whole family including children.
  • I love pictures, so it would have been nice to see pictures of the recipes.

Recommendation

I think Dr. May’s book is based on a very powerful idea, one that asks you to be first in tune with your inner self instead of prescribing a miracle diet. This book is a great resource for anyone trying to not simply lose weight, but change their entire outlook on food and eating! I think this book can be very effective if you:

  • fully understand the fundamental principles of mindful eating first
  • make an effort to apply the tools – Hunger/Fullness scale, FEAST, TFAR etc
  • practice strategies for mindful eating
  • keep a journal to track your progress

This is not a quick read rather a handy reference that should occupy a prominent and rather permanent place on your bookshelf.

Overall, I give it a big thumbs up! Visit Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat to download the first chapter, read other reviews, listen to an interview and learn how to order.

Leave me a comment if you found this review useful.

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