Summertime 2010 Book Review Series: ‘Feed Your Brain Lose Your Belly’ By Dr. Larry McCleary
Posted Jul 26 2010 5:41pm
Books, books, and more books! I got ‘em coming out of my ears for the Summer of 2010, so I’m doing this special series of reviews of the newest and best low-carb, health, and nutrition books that you may want to take a closer look at. Many of the authors of the featured books are scheduled to be guests on my podcast show in the coming months. My goal is to try to feature at least one new book review a day, every day all summer long. There’s a lot of great stuff out there you need to know about and I can’t wait for you to see what all is available! ENJOY!
Navigating through all the daily barrage of information that comes out about diet and health these days can be quite intimidating. There are thousands upon thousands of books telling you to eat this, don’t eat that, add these foods and supplements, avoid these things or they’ll kill you, so forth and so on. As a consumer living your life the best you know how, it can be extremely hard to know who and what to believe and whether any of it really makes practical sense for you and your family. How do you know who you can trust to tell you the truth about the relationship between what you eat and the effect that will have on essential functions of the body like your metabolism, heart and brain? It’s extremely rare to find someone (ANYONE!) who fits the bill when it comes to providing reliable information that is backed by solid research and not just some flippant opinion based on a whole lot of nothing. But leave it to a brain surgeon to be the one to assimilate all of the data, cut through all the complexities about it, and then make it all seem understandable and convincing for us common laypeople. That’s exactly what you get from pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Larry McCleary in his latest book called Feed Your Brain Lose Your Belly .
Dr. McCleary is the bestselling author of a fantastic book released in 2007 entitled The Brain Trust Program that closely examined the impact our diet has on brain health. But with this new book, he wanted to dig deeper into the unmistakable connection between the brain and the “other brain” commonly known as the metabolism. The thesis Dr. McCleary asserts in his book is that there is a very clear connection between the brain and the belly and that by feeding your body the right kind of nutrition to keep your brain healthy, you’ll experience a domino effect in your metabolism that will keep your hunger at bay, make you feel satisfied with the way you eat, and enjoy amazing weight loss success. And this isn’t some fast and loose diet thesis we’re talking about here–Dr. McCleary has tested this on real people who have been highly successful at shedding the pounds while improving their brain health dramatically thanks to some sound scientific principles explained within the pages of this book.
You’ll learn in the first few chapters of this book that the purpose of this plan is primarily to control the release of the fat-storing hormone called insulin. As long as insulin is present, weight loss cannot commence because the fat cells become “sticky” making it that much more difficult to remove them from your body. Dr. McCleary says insulin is the key in this process because it acts as the “on-off switch” for your fat cells which explains why so many people struggle with shedding the pounds despite eating less calories. And the more fat you have on your body, the more food you will want to eat because the insulin your body releases in response is making you hungrier and hungrier–a vicious cycle that is begging for an intervention! You’ll learn about five specific diets and how they impact insulin levels in varying ways, including a low-fat, low-calorie diet, a high-fat, low-calorie diet, a starvation diet, a cruise ship diet and the standard American diet. The example of diabetes is used as a prime example of why controlling insulin is life and death for some people and that failing to take action with the insulin issue can lead you down the same path to destroying your health (obesity, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease can all be directly linked to high blood sugar and insulin levels).
So what exactly does the Feed Your Brain Lose Your Belly program entail and does it work to control the insulin so weight loss and vastly improved health can occur? First and foremost there’s heavy a focus on the importance of consuming healthy fats as the primary fuel source for your brain and body. Dr. McCleary understands the unique role that ketone bodies play as the preferred fuel for healthy individuals and realizes the importance of getting adequate fat in the diet. In other words, if you want to lose fat, then you’ve got to eat fat! This is no doubt counterintuitive to everything you’ve ever heard before about a healthy diet, but he makes a solid case for this in Chapter 5. And one of the best sources of fat he advocates for is cold-water fish which he describes as “brain food” and “a key food source for fat loss.” Pastured eggs are also encouraged for the quality protein content and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids found in them. Shorter-chain omega-3 sources such as flax seeds, flax seed oil and other sources are also promoted as part of this plan as well as non-starchy veggies and berries. Additionally, you are urged to consume nuts and seeds to provide magnesium and potassium, herbs and spices for their antioxidant properties and variety, brightly colored foods which are generally chock full of nutrients, fresh avocados for a healthy dose of mono-unsaturated fat, coconut oil as a super-healthy source of medium-chain triglycerides which help suppress the appetite, and green tea and red wine as the preferred beverage choices. As you can see, the diet itself is quite appetizing and easy to implement as part of a healthy brain-belly nutritional regimen.
A full seven-day meal plan with recipes is included in Chapter 6 to help get you started off on the right foot eating this way which you’ll quickly discover is a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb diet that will nourish your brain, repair it from the damage brought on by low-fat dieting, and restore optimal functions in both the brain and belly. In Chapter 7, Dr. McCleary explains why exercise is a vital element in this equation as well, including regular walking in your neighborhood. Unlike the obsessed glorification of hours of daily cardiovascular exercise promoted on television shows like “The Biggest Loser,” you’ll find that’s just not necessary. Resistance training and walking at a mild to moderate level will give you the results you are looking for when combined with the prescribed diet plan outlined in this book. Chapter 8 deals with some of the head stuff that happens to people who are overweight and feel like they are trapped into being that way for life. He offers some much-needed inspiration that you will be successful if you, as he shares in Chapter 9, learn the lessons of those who have gone before you and risen above the challenges that faced them. Commitment and hard work will be rewarded handsomely when you have the right tools in place to make them happen. Practical strategies for implementing this strategy are shared in Chapter 10 while the ultimate answer to the question about whether it works is evidenced by the results of Dr. McCleary’s clinical trials detailed in Chapter 11.
Suggested reading material is provided by Dr. McCleary in the back of the book, including key studies and books like Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes for further investigation into the science supporting the information contained in Feed Your Brain Lose Your Belly. Interestingly, there is also a basic educational primer in the Appendix section that explains in layman’s terms the methodology used in scientific studies looking at supplements. All in all, this book is a fascinating read for people who are concerned about both their brain health and the health of their body. Curiously enough, the optimal diet for both is exactly the same. Whether you have the courage to buck the high-carb, low-fat trend of all the so-called health “experts” is the choice you’ll have to make. The evidence for high-fat, low-carb living is there if you’re willing to embrace it and implement it for yourself.