Book Review: Always Hungry?December 21, 2015 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Conquer food cravings. Check! Retrain your fat cells. Check! Lose weight permanently. Check! These are the bold pronouncements made on the cover of the new book, Always Hungry? I’m fully aware that such claims are typically associated with fad diets and weight loss schemes. But, I hope that my history and reputation will encourage you to stick with me for the remainder of this review. As you may know, several years ago I lost over 80 lbs by adopting a high-fat, nutrient-dense, lower carbohydrate diet. Since then, I’ve mostly maintained that initial weight loss. In fact, right now I weigh less than I did at the end of my weight loss journey. Hopefully that gives me some credibility in this arena.
Ultimately, I decided to review Always Hungry? for a few reasons. First, the dietary guidelines presented within its pages differ from the eating plan I used to lose weight and maintain my progress. Then there’s, Dr. David Ludwig, the preeminent author of the book. He’s been at the forefront of nutrition and weight related research for over two decades. Dr. Ludwig is a highly respected endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. What’s more, the book is not only the sum total of Dr. Ludwig’s clinical findings and research but, most impressively, the diet program itself was tested in a large pilot study prior to putting pen to paper. This is a rarity indeed!
To start, Dr. Ludwig closes the door on the antiquated “calories in, calories out” theory of weight balance. Instead, he postulates that a combination of inflammation and insulin resistance detrimentally affect the way our fat cells and metabolism behave. And, this dysfunction directly contributes to destructive eating and lifestyle habits. Thankfully, this can be changed rather quickly by applying the principles outlined in a three-phase protocol.
Phase 1: This two-week period consists of a high-fat (50%), low-carbohydrate (25%) and moderate protein (25%) diet that is free of added sugar, alcohol, grains and most starches. The goal with this initiation is to “jump-start weight loss”.
Phase 2: The bulk of the body and brain’s transformation occurs here. This phase varies in duration based on how much weight loss is needed. A less restrictive food plan is followed for this period: 40% fat, 25% protein and 35% low glycemic load carbohydrates. Small amounts of alcohol, starchy vegetables (but, no white potatoes) and whole-kernel grains are permitted. This middle phase is intended to rev up your metabolism and lower your body weight set point.
Phase 3: The final stage of the program is meant as a long term lifestyle approach. The macronutrient breakdown shifts slightly to a more Mediterranean diet formula of 40% fat, 20% protein and 40% carbohydrates. The third phase allows for experimenting with some previously off-limit foods, including occasional refined carbohydrates and sweets. Reverting back to the second or, even, the first phase is an option for those who find that Phase 3 leads to cravings or weight gain.
According to Dr. Ludwig, this approach works exceedingly well because it retrains fat cells to release stored energy – primarily in phase two. This, along with the higher fat content of the diet, promotes a pleasant feeling of fullness, enhanced energy and mood and a reduction in a variety of cardiometabolic risk markers.
In addition to diet, tips are offered to slowly increase physical activity, improve stress management and promote healthier sleep. All three are vitally important to the success of the program. Supplements play a lesser role. In fact, only three are specifically recommended: fish oil, probiotics and vitamin D3.
High Glycemic Carbohydrates Stimulate Craving & Reward Regions of the Brain
Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Sep;98(3):641-7. (link)
Unlike many diet programs, Dr. Ludwig doesn’t emphasize quick results. Instead, he offers daily worksheets to aid with a more mindful, progressive strategy for long term weight loss and wellness. And, he believes that changes in body composition, such as a decline in waist circumference, are more important than the often temporary changes in overall weight that occur on more severe diets.
There’s a lot more to the Always Hungry Solution than I’ve described here. There are plenty of practical suggestions to ensure success for anyone who’s willing to try it out. For instance, prior to beginning phase one, there’s a one week lead-in which helps you to slowly prepare yourself for this lifestyle shift. There are tips about eating in restaurants, food preparation, kitchen tools you’ll need, a shopping list and dozens of recipes that most people can manage in less than a half hour. Dr. Ludwig even delves into the arena of consumer and governmental approaches that he believes can help turn the growing tide of obesity.
I do have some minor quibbles with certain aspects of the book. For instance, if I were to attempt this diet, I would likely omit select groups of foods that are allowed in the program – grains, most legumes and soy. In my opinion, there are better tolerated and more nutritious alternatives available. But, in fairness, one is encouraged to modify specifics of the diet based on one’s own needs and preferences. If you do better with fewer carbs, go for it. Don’t do well with dairy? Skip it. Is gluten a problem? There are plenty of other options to choose from. This is where the mindfulness-inspired Daily Tracker worksheet and Monthly Progress Chart come in handy. You keep close tabs on how food combinations, meals and snacks affect your emotions, hunger and overall well-being and adjust based on your findings. All told, I consider Always Hungry? an outstanding example of a holistic take on weight and wellness management, and encourage those seeking to make these important changes to read the book.
Pre-orders for Always Hungry? are now being accepted here. If you order prior to January 5th, the official release date, you’ll receive three free gifts to help get you started. Finally, if you’d like to learn more about Dr. Ludwig’s nutritional philosophy, please check out our follow up Q&A. (link)
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
Tags: Body Fat, Inflammation, Vitamin D
Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Heart Health