The Instinct Diet

instinctdiet.bmpToday, Sara Cabot of Little Lettice reviews Tufts University nutritionist/psychiatrist Susan Roberts’ The Instinct Diet, a resource for learning how to identify your food instincts, establish good eating habits, and manage weight loss healthily. Read of for Sara’s review, as well as to learn how to win a copy of this book.

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“Most authors of books about weight loss start out by saying, ‘I am not a diet doctor’. So by way of introducing myself, let me say I am a diet doctor, and I’ve been studying the science of nutrition and weight loss for more than 20 years.”

This is a confidence inspiring statement if ever I read one! And throughout The Instinct Diet this confidence and authenticity never wavers from page to page: Dr. Susan Roberts has written an incredibly well researched, scientifically based, yet down to earth and insightful book about how to establish good eating habits and lose – and keep off – weight healthily.

I first came across Dr. Roberts a few years back when I read Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health (a book that quickly became my bible!). In it, Roberts explains the science of nutrition and how it affects children’s bodies (and how they are different from adult bodies in terms of nutritional needs) and also - and crucially - the psychology and behaviors around eating, which helps explain problems such as finicky eating and fussiness in young children. As a professor of nutrition and psychiatry, Roberts is uniquely positioned to tell us not only what children should be eating, but also how and why they eat like they do. With The Instinct Diet Roberts turns her attention to adults.

Roberts’ main point about weight loss (and where other diet books fail us) is that weight needs to come off and stay off. So many other fad diets help people lose a lot of weight early on, but the weight eventually returns since the diet plans are short-term in outlook. Her longer-term approach is geared towards achieving healthy and permanent weight loss.

Roberts first conveys the importance of understanding what makes us eat (and therefore overeat), by helping readers identify which of 5 food instincts they most give in to: Hunger (the need to feel full), Availability (eating food simply because it is there), Calorie Density (our love for fattening food), Familiarity (the comfort of comfort food), and Variety (our attraction to variety and the tendency to eat more when presented with more choices). She then offers strategies to help manage instincts (even such simple things as tapping your forehead or brushing your teeth!), and concrete tips for changing up daily routines to reduce cravings. The second half of the book is dedicated to menu plans and recipes that reflect Roberts’ extensive research into nutritional science: meal plans that are designed to suppress hunger and comprise a variety of foods to help manage food instincts. She addresses the reality that most people don’t shop healthily and few cook at all from scratch, and strives to make the process easier for readers via recipes and a “Savvy Shopper Supermarket Directory” (a map of how most supermarkets are laid out) with product recommendations.

For me, the beauty of this book is that it is honest, realistic, and nutritious too. Following The Instinct Diet means changing eating habits that have been developed over many years, and Roberts takes on this daunting task head on with strategies that are both scientific and practical. And armed with this knowledge we can, hopefully, have the power to change.

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Congrats to winner Eliza!
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Now, want to win a copy of The Instinct Diet?

  • Simply email (with ‘Instinct’ in the subject) and include your shipping address. (Note: your information will be kept private; addresses are collected here solely for the purpose of expediting the book giveaway.)

  • One entry permitted per person; US entrants welcome.

  • Entry period closes tomorrow at noon EST, Tuesday, January 27, 2009.