The Hungry Brain, Stephen Guyenet (Book Notes and Hypothesis Pre-Registration)

This week’s book is The Hungry Brain, by Stephen Guyenet, is an interesting and engaging pop-sci tour of the neurology and endocrinology of nutrition, concluding with some actionable suggestions for improving health and weight management from both an individual and public policy perspective. Check out this SlateStarCodex review for a detailed summary:

There’s a sort of fatalism to talking about “food reward”. If the enemy were saturated fat, we could just stick with the sugary sweetness of Coca-Cola. If the enemy were carbohydrates, we could go out for steak every night. But what do we do if the enemy is deliciousness itself?

Calorie-dense, highly rewarding food may favor overeating and weight gain not just because we passively overeat it but also because it turns up the set point of the lipostat. This may be one reason why regularly eating junk food seems to be a fast track to obesity in both animals and humans…focusing the diet on less rewarding foods may make it easier to lose weight and maintain weight loss because the lipostat doesn’t fight it as vigorously. This may be part of the explanation for why all weight-loss diets seem to work to some extent – even those that are based on diametrically opposed principles, such as low-fat, low-carbohydrate, paleo, and vegan diets. Because each diet excludes major reward factors, they may all lower the adiposity set point somewhat.

I enjoyed the book, and found it persuasive enough to justify a one-month experiment of following the Hungry Brain protocol. (Basically: minimizing added sugar, grains, salt, and fat from my diet. Everything that tastes good must go! I will also be minimizing the use of spices and seasonings, with the goal of making every meal as bland and boring as possible. So, the majority of diet will be unseasoned lean meats, vegetables, beans, and nuts.

Starting stats: 6’3, 233lbs, 21% Body Fat (according to my Fitbit Aria scale). I would like to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 210lbs, 12% BF. If I can make 5-10lbs of progress toward that goal over the coming month, I will take that as evidence in support of Guyenet’s interpretation of the research.