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Although this guide’s subject is weight loss, it isn’t a conventional diet book. Instead of prescribing what foods to eat or avoid, health writer Alvear focuses on howto eat, promising to guide readers toward healthier eating habits by borrowing principles and discoveries from the fields of anthropology, physiology, neuroscience, psychology, and biology. He asserts that food manufacturers have contributed to skyrocketing obesity and ill health by manipulating consumers into eating larger amounts of food, even as its taste and nutritional quality plummets. Standard portion sizes have increased dramatically since the early 20th century, the author writes; even dishes and utensils are significantly larger. He discusses how the general public is constantly bombarded with advertising for junk food and fast food, and how messages about “good” and “bad” foods are full of bewildering contradictions. However, he also notes that research into human biology and behavior can point the way to healthy, enjoyable eating without deprivation or guilt. For example, the book notes that strategies that involve quick, drastic changes are sure to backfire, but mindful eating practices that focus on sensory pleasure can make smaller portions more enjoyable and help people to naturally eat less. The author outlines clear, actionable steps for tapering off poor eating habits, substituting better ones, and rebounding from occasional lapses. Some of the detailed techniques, such reducing soda portions a few spoonfuls at a time, seem impractical, as somewhat less gradual tactics would likely be just as effective. Still, the writing is often persuasive, with plenty of humor, as when it calls dieting “the main exhibition at the Museum of Failure.” It also clearly explains challenging terms, such as “systematic sensitization” and “alimentary alliesthesia.” However, specific citations for research studies mentioned in the text would have been helpful.

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