How Not to Die By Dr. Greger – Plant-based nutrition book summary

I have long been a fan of NutritionFacts.org. Funded only by donations from individual visitors, Dr. Michael Greger and his team read every English-language journal article on nutrition every year and share their critical analysis free of charge. When it can feel like everyone is trying to manipulate and profit off of others, sources like these stand out as much more credible to me.

After a long wait from the library, I have finally read Dr. Greger’s book How Not to Die. Again, all proceeds go directly to fund his free educational website – he takes no compensation. For most books I discuss on here, I provide a comprehensive summary of the key takeaways as I see them. For this one, though, you can just go directly to NutritionFacts.org and search for any and all the information that interests you. If you’d still prefer a summary, check out the one done by Chewfo or the video published by Dr. Greger himself.

Instead, I’d like to share with you the little notes I took for myself to give you an idea of what the book offers.


First up, probably the most controversial: a whole foods, plant-based diet recommendation. This blog demonstrates how open I am to considering all different ways of eating and I still believe that there is no one right way – not only because we are individuals with different needs and different reactions to foods, but also because a good diet I can incorporate into my life is heaps better than a great diet I can’t keep up. All that said, this book devotes the first half to explaining exactly why a whole foods, plant-based diet is best for optimal health and avoiding the 15 leading causes of death.

One of those causes is depression. I’m aware that with the exception of the most severely depressed, anti-depressant medication has not been proven to be more effective than the placebo effect. If capable of exercise, 30 minutes of walking is at least as effective as those drugs without the negative side effects. And interestingly, certain foods are naturally beneficial for mood-enhancing neurotransmitters: apples, grapes, onions, green tea, cinnamon, and sesame, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds.

Plus, an intriguing theory was presented: since consuming a lot of manufactured highly-palatable foods can make a person less sensitive to the dopamine it continually spikes, which often leads people to overeat those foods trying to reach the original “high,” some people then find it harder to achieve their usual “reward” feelings from other sources in their lives – this can lead to the common symptoms of low motivation and reduced interest towards things enjoyed before depression. By eating mainly whole foods, not only will you soon better appreciate their tastes but you can also better appreciate the joys of life.

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Weight Science from Linda Bacon’s Body Respect – HAES Book Summary

We are constantly warned about the dangers of obesity and urged to manage our weight. These messages come from all directions, including authorities we trust and peers who judge us. But consider for a moment that our accepted assumptions may not represent fully what we know from scientific evidence.

To begin with, the following facts are from Body Respect by Linda Bacon, and you can confirm them in the peer-reviewed article at http://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-10-9

  • People who are categorized as overweight or moderately obese have shown time and time again to live as long as or longer than people with weight in the normal category (confirmed even by the CDC)
  • BMI standards were written by the pharmaceutical industry to increase weight loss drug profits, ignoring that health decrement hasn’t shown to occur until a BMI of 40 (they funded the international obesity task force that determined the WHO’s standards and therefore the U.S. standards)
  • Larger people are more likely to develop several diseases but fatness is not the cause – there are many confounding factors like fitness, stress from discrimination, and inflammation from calorie-restriction dieting and weight cycling – “blaming fatness for heart disease is a lot like blaming yellow teeth for lung cancer”
  • “There has never been a research study that has demonstrated long-term maintenance of weight loss from lifestyle change for any but a small minority” – the rare person who does maintain weight loss is as lucky as the smoker who lives to be ninety
  • Health can improve when diet and/or exercise improve – not as a result of weight loss – yet at the same time, health behaviours account for less than 1/4 of differences in health outcomes, while social differences (i.e. poverty and discrimination) are the main determinants (again confirmed by the CDC)

If you’re like me, you’re probably tempted to object to the above sample of facts because we fear fat so strongly. However, ignorance has hurt us through lifetime yo-yo dieting, obsession with food and body, disordered eating, weight discrimination, and even poor health, the very thing we think we’re helping by stigmatizing fatness.

Honestly, though… even if I can be healthy at my current weight, I still deep down really want to look the way I did when I was slimmer. In the past I was able to lose weight by manipulating calories – if only I’d just tried harder and longer! Mind you, I’m still stuck with these feelings years after I learned exactly why the belief that I can just force a caloric deficit long-term is, well, unfounded. So let’s forgive each other for not being without bias and just open ourselves up a little more to the possibility that there may be a better way than constantly forcing an attempt to lose weight.

Weight-Loss

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Sugar-Free! Day 1

I’m tired after about 7 hours of decent sleep but was able to get up at 6am on Day 1 because I’m committed to Dr. Hyman’s Blood Sugar Solution plan. I did 30 minutes of yoga (with Adrienne on Youtube) and felt good, though surprised how limited I was in twisting. By the end of the day, as usual, I was too tired with too much of a headache to concentrate at work. It’s hard not to get depressed when I feel like this so often.

The meals were good: smoothie, soup, veggies and dip, curried tempeh, and a lot of nuts (mmm nuts). The portions are large enough, I’m not hungry, but I do want more just because the act of eating and tasting is such a comforting habit. There were many times when I had to resist cookies, ice cream, even strawberries – and just as much, I had to confront my impulse to rationalize short term relief over long term vitality. I’ve read that if I weren’t addicted to sugar, caffeine, and flour, I wouldn’t think this much about eating. I’m excited to see if this no-sugar diet finally facilitates taking control of my health.

Eating Away Migraines

I’ve had a headache pretty much non-stop since puberty. It’s in the background of everything I think or do. My only respite is the perfect combination of ibuprofen, candy, a movie, and a good hug. My triggers for a higher level of headache include florescent lights, computer screens, noise, even just having to concentrate for too long. In those cases, my vision blurs and I get so irritated I need to curl up in a dark quiet room for hours. It takes a lot out of me, too, so I’m exhausted for the rest of the day.

I tell every health professional about my headaches. They recommend I drink more water even though I already drink so much friends tease me about it (and no, I don’t have diabetes). My search for an underlying cause has led me down a lot of paths and to a lot of bloodwork. Now I’m hoping I may have found my answer in Migraine Miracle by Josh Turknett MD.

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The Diet Fix Reset (Book Summary)

Day 1: Gear Up

  • Body weight scale for the start and finish of the 10-Day Reset
  • Digital food scale
  • Measuring spoons and cups (maybe 2 sets)
  • Journal or food diarizing app
  • First grocery shop: mostly real foods and minimal processed foods (avoid trans-fat) including solid proteins and complex carbs (i.e. whole grain instead of instant oatmeal)
  • Tupperware and Ziplock bags
  • Comfy exercise clothes and shoes
  • Clean and organized kitchen

Day 2: Diarize

  • Record in real time food and exercise without changing anything
  • Track hunger and cravings as well as any emotions or thoughts related to food
  • At the end of the day, rank from 1 to 10 the “day’s degree of difficulty”
  • Use for data, not judgement, to guide future decisions
  • Keep a food journal for at least 30 days – maybe forever for maintenance – and if you try stopping, start daily weighing to keep it within 3 pounds

Day 3: Banish Hunger Continue reading