Let’s face it, most diet/health & wellness books just plain suck. They tend to be incomplete, biased, myopic, hyper-focused, conspiracy laden, ill-informed, fad driven, flavor of the month texts that likely won’t help you accomplish much of anything other than passing time. Reading them may make you (temporarily) feel better in knowing that you are trying to do something to better yourself; unfortunately, the vast majority of these books are NOT the answer to the questions you should be asking: how do I eat better, live better, and feel better?
But don’t despair, there are a few select books out there that are well-written, absolutely extraordinary and are SOOOOOO worth reading. These texts can help you build a framework with which you can approach health & wellness in the coming year and if you are serious about improving your health and well-being I would suggest reading one or several of them. I’ve read 5 of the eight books and will introduce them to you in the order that I read them.
1) The Power of Habit. Brushing your teeth, backing your car out of the driveway, driving to work. These are all automatic behaviors. We do them without even thinking. This text was the first to introduce me to how so many of the things we do throughout the day are pre-programmed. It also gave me the idea that this is how we need to approach health & wellness, take behavior out of the equation and make your (healthy) actions automatic.
2) The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains make FATTY FOODS, Orgasm, EXERCISE, Marijuana, GENEROSITY, VODKA, Learning, and GAMBLING FEEL SO GOOD. Truly a remarkable read. Neuroscientist David Linden demonstrates how the brain is a pleasure-seeking machine. Whatever brings us pleasure is what the brain seeks out; even volunteering may not be all “that” altruistic as it makes us feel good. The Compass of Pleasure begins to explain why we seek/crave food and makes numerous relevant comparisons to the world of addiction.
3) WHOLE: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. T. Colin Campbell had a long and outstanding academic career publishing nearly 400 research papers. Here he outlines how the “reductionist” approaches of the scientific method are insufficient for studying what makes a food healthy and how nutrition proponents of today cherry pick research to support their products, claims, and causes. Truly eye opening. A sometimes dense read but well worth it.
4) Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think. The environments in which we live and work have an enormous impact on the quality and quantity of the food we eat. By changing food labels, food presentation, portion size, lighting, food convenience, and a variety of other variables, author Brian Wansink shows us how making simple changes to your food environment causes drastic changes in your food consumption (and most likely your health). Amazing work.
5) The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts that Make Us Overeat. Take books 1-4 in this list and combine them into one. Probably my favorite book to date as it covers neuroscience, behavior change, and the environmental impact on your food decisions all at once AND science based suggestions on how to overcome them. The text is neuroscience heavy at times and is written for a more professional audience, but is a fantastic read nonetheless. I will be reading this again! I can’t say enough about this text.
6) Lift Like a Girl: Be More Not Less. A girl after my own heart. A no nonsense, I am going to call out your bullshit, I am going to destroy your pathetic, bourgeois, health & wellness norms and tell you exactly what you need to do to be healthy, kind of girl. If you need motivation and a new direction, author Nia Shanks is a must read. She also has a ton of free content on her website, check it out. One of my all-time favorites!
7) The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work. Although I have not yet read Dr. Yoni Freedhoff’s book, his premise is absolutely, 100% correct. Written through the lens of an obesity doctor with years of experience, Yoni not only knows the academic literature but also knows how to apply it. Based upon his social media feed and blog I am confident this is a great book for anyone wanting a step-by-step how to guide to fixing your diet.
8) Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy. Again, I haven’t read this book yet either; however, Dr. Brad Schoenfeld is one of the world’s premier experts in muscle development. I don’t know anyone who has contributed more practical knowledge to muscle hypertrophy than Dr. Schoenfeld. I have learned a tremendous amount from him over the past couple of years by following him on social media. Unlike bodybuilders, Muscle & Fitness, and your run of the mill, meathead, Dr. Schoenfeld is able to blend real world experience with cutting edge science. Interested at all in building muscle? This is your read.
Well, there you have it. These are my favorite diet/health & wellness texts. All of them, in my opinion, are worth reading. If you think there are some that I am missing, please let me know. I’d like to read them.
Todd M. Weber PhD, RD