Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #88: "How to Make Almost Any Diet Work" by Anne Katherine

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Dear kids,

If you’ve never been pregnant and therefore need a different excuse for any extra pounds you might gain along the way, this book delivers. Also, a lot of what it says about individual differences in appetite control hormones is probably true.

The basic idea of How to Make Almost Any Diet Work: Repair Your Disordered Appetite and Finally Lose Weight by Anne Katherine is that hormones cause overeating and overweight . . . and that fortunately, there are a few supplements and simple eating habits that can help.

Notable quotes:

  • “Each cause of appetite disorder is related to an imbalance of the brain chemicals that control eating. One of the most potent of these is also the simplest to fix: excessive neuropeptide Y (NPY).”
  • “NPY is a chain of 36 amino acids. When it is released in the hypothalamus it makes a person eat—a lot . . . also tells the body to stop burning calories.” Too much NPY, and you’ll gain weight. You increase your stores of NPY when you skip meals, but it doesn’t “kick in” (isn’t released) until you actually start eating. (It assumes there was no food around until then.)
  • “If someone injected you with NPY, you couldn’t stop yourself from eating.”
  • “To combat this problem: never skip a meal. This also has the effect of increasing your levels of peptide YY (PYY), which counteracts NPY. PYY is also a chain of 36 amino acids, but it promotes satiety, acting as a “stop eating” sign.
  • “. . . When you started eating after a fast, your body held back on the PYY so that you would consume extra food.”
  • Normally, “Fifteen minutes after you begin eating, the PYY in your bloodstream should rise, reaching a plateau about 75 minutes later. At this point, you wouldn’t eat if somebody paid you to.”
  • “Your PYY levels remain high until long after you eat. This is why you aren’t hungry the morning after a large meal. However, if you skip breakfast, you won’t get your daytime PYY.
  • Solution: never skip breakfast. “Once your body receive its regular dose of PYY, your food intake could naturally be reduced by 33 percent every day, with no further effort on your part.”
  • Protein is the raw material for repair. Frequent feedings of protein give your brain a steady supply of the materials it needs to repair itself. The author recommends 50 percent complex carb, 50 percent protein snacks.
  • On “the addictive cycle:” In a primitive part of the brain called the VTA, neurons manufacture “the neurotransmitter dopamine, and then deliver it to the nucleus accumbens . . .” which is “your euphoria center.” Although different addictive substances act on various other parts of the brain, all addiction involves the VTA and dopamine.
  • “Almost every substance abused by humans has been shown to increase dopamine . . .”
  • Food acts on the VTA by promoting an endorphin release.
  • “An unexpected finding was that obese women were more anhedonic than overweight woman. Anhedonic means, literally, ‘no pleasure’ – that is, having a threshold resistant to the experience of pleasure.”
  • On sugar addiction: May also be exacerbated by opioid dependence, which can occur due to “intermittent, excessive sugar intake . . . Eating an excess of sugar on a regular basis actually changes the way genes express themselves in the brain, causing physical alteration. The brains pleasure receptors in the nucleus accumbens increase in a profile similar to morphine dependence.”
  • Stress and trauma also contributes by depleting our stores of “relief and effort neurotransmitters” (serotonin and norepinephrine).
  • Q: “If serotonin increases when eating sugar, why doesn’t satiety increase, too, since serotonin usually increases satiety?
  • A: “If you have sufficient supplies of tryptophan, serotonin will be readily released after eating starch, decreasing your appetite. Here’s the catch: As dopamine in the nucleus accumbens rises, serotonin simultaneously declines.” (137) Dopamine trumps serotonin. “Addiction trumps satiety.”

For more information, get How to Make Almost Any Diet Work: Repair Your Disordered Appetite and Finally Lose Weight on Amazon.



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