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Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,569 ratings  ·  265 reviews
A provocative expose of the dieting industry from one of the nation’s leading researchers in self-control and the psychology of weight loss that offers proven strategies for sustainable weight loss.

From her office in the University of Minnesota’s Health and Eating Lab, professor Traci Mann researches self-control and dieting. And what she has discovered is grou
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Harper Wave (first published April 1st 2015)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  1,569 ratings  ·  265 reviews

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Start your review of Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again
Michelle Burton
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I will never diet again after reading this book. No Weight Watchers, no Metabolic Reasearch Center, no nothing. No Dr. Fuhrman, no Dr. Atkins or Dr. T.Colin Campbell. Vegan or Paleo. It does not matter. Diets do not work. Period.

What I learned from this book is that all diets are only designed to last for about 6 months. That is it. You read it SIX MONTHS! Oh and get this, a diet is considered successful if you lose between 5-10% of your weight. So if you weigh 300 pounds and lose 30
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

This award-winning book from a Minnesotan psychologist has as its main point that diets don't work, you're better off with some eating strategies. Pretty much all diets are full of fail, and merely help to ease you to yo-yoing your diets. The book is laid out like this:

Pt.1: diets = fail, why they fail, it's not about willpower but more due to circumstances that we fail to keep the goal weight
Pt.2: the miseries of diets, and why obesity is not as bad as we
Christopher Lawson
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
SECRETS FROM THE EATING LAB is a very unique book. I don't believe I've ever read a book on eating that is based upon research from an eating lab. The author conducted her experiments on eating in a pretty sneaky way: “I tell our research participants that we are studying other things entirely, such as their memory or their moods or how they communicate with their friends. But being the hospitable people we are, we just happen to offer them snacks while we study them. They have no idea that it's ...more
I bought this book after reading an interesting excerpt posted on While the article seemed to rely on an actual review of research, this book seemed to instead just heavily reference the author's own findings without offering any explanation of whether the findings were being debated in any way. I had expected the book to really be just an informative piece on the science of how people eat and why diets don't work, but about 2/3 of the book was a bunch of "not dieting" diet type tips. ...more
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I have mixed feelings about this book. She makes a lot of good points and all, especially about exercise and about the pernicious nature of the diet industry. She successfully argues that adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious foods and exercise is a much better idea than "going on a diet." But part of her argument is that willpower is a myth and that you shouldn't feel guilty for eating something but also somehow that you shouldn't deprive yourself. But then she's basically, "Get ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: borrowed-hoopla
This book was recommended by the weight neutral, HAES dietitian I'm working with. I was highly skeptical, since the back cover blurb mentions the "obesity epidemic" among other things that give me pause.
It's telling that the dietitian made me promise only to read the first half, about the science, and NOT read the second half (which is apparently nigh undistinguishable from diet advice).
After reading the preface, I already knew it was full of toxic weight bias. In the first few minutes (p
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Impressive book! It's highly scientific. Uses the current data are on Behavioural Economics. And it offers a good critical view of our current worldview while offering a soundly based set of recommendations to reach a realistic goal in fitness and health.
Book Riot Community
I am a total sucker for nonfiction books about both food and science, so the combination of the two makes me ecstatic. Even if you’re not prone to dieting, Secrets From the Eating Lab has a lot of fascinating information about what drives our dietary habits. I loved reading about the eating studies and how certain cues affect everyone who eats food (which is pretty much everyone, right?). Very informative, very even-handed, and steeped in actual science instead of opinion. — Susie Rodarme
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, health
First, I'll say that the author comes across like she is your long lost friend. She isn't banging the table to make her point but using humor and familiarity with the reader. Sometimes that makes me feel manipulated, but I didn't get that feel here at all. It could be true, but I didn't feel it. I think I liked her informal approach.

This isn’t a diet book. It doesn’t tell you what to do other than ‘don’t diet’. This is a scientific look at the psychology of eating. It is the “why” of
Dec 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
This lifted a weight off my shoulders (pun intended).

"Your body is not your masterpiece--your life is." Glennon Melton
May 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017, kindle
I read a lot of books of this type — not diet self-help books, but sciency books about diet and dieting — the facts, the myths, eating psychology, nutrition, health, and general cultural craziness about weight, body shape, and body image.

This is among the best and it’s also highly entertaining. Traci Mann is a health psychologist and runs an eating lab at the University of Minnesota. She’s been doing research — sneaky studies — on dieting and dieters, eating habits, etc., in her lab and out in
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Chatty and conversational, informative and accessible. Traci Mann's approach is completely relate-able, like having a chat with your super smart and funny friend.

Finally, someone has gathered all the dieting and obesity studies together. Some will take issue with her claims that diets don't work and obesity won't kill you, but, she has the science on her side. And she's taken the time to come up with 12 strategies that can help us focus on being healthy rather than obsessed with weight and size
May 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, non-fiction
Easy and accessible, yet very informative. She cites her sources and makes the science easy to read without dumbing anything down. And now I can feel a little bit of justifiable smugness whenever someone traps me and describes their crazy diet. (I never want to talk about anyone's crazy diet.)
Apr 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Traci Mann received a Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University and taught several years at UCLA before moving to the University of Minnesota where she founded the Health and Eating Lab. Her research is focused on the psychology of eating.

An overriding theme driving the narrative of her book is her assertion that diets don't work. According to Mann, the research is clear. The majority of weight lost through dieting is regained. She argues (at times successfully, and at other times not so suc
K. Lincoln
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Regardless if Traci Mann's review of dieting and willpower studies convinces you or not-- this book will make you rethink the way the United States treats dieting and the "obesity epidemic."

Alot of the things Traci discusses about why diets fail and the nature of willpower, and how best to get people to exercise and eat healthy are more or less common sense. Nothing too massively revolutionary here.

However, the main concepts behind the book--dieting not only won't help yo
Kaitlyn Dennis
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Even if you're not particularly interested in a book about diets, this is a fascinating read on food psychology. What affect does comfort food have on actually comforting you? Are people more likely to choose a snack when it's labelled 'healthy'? In this regard, Mann's book is a nice companion to Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, which covers some of the same ground on how psychological cues affect eating behavior. But, while the books similarly cover food/eating psychology experiments a ...more
Amy (Other Amy)
Echoing other reviews, the first half of the book is superbly good, but the second half is a bit wanting as the strategies she offers are nothing you haven't heard before. Mann and her team have done the world a good service by pulling together an unbiased review of the available research on diets. Her writing is not at all dry; she has a well balanced wit and sense of humor so it makes a very enjoyable read. I do wish there were some discussion of diabetes and other nutrition related disorders, ...more
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Nice quick read with super interesting compilation of study results regarding dieting. The writing itself was entertaining, but I loved that the focus was on statistics and human behavior/psychology rather than being just another diet book.
Sep 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
Although the author raises a couple of good points: that diets don't work and are harmful, she also seems to give a pass and says that it's OK to be overweight because there are no health implications. I completely disagree with that.
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
I really liked parts of this book- I don't really like books that tell me what to do and much prefer those that just present the facts and let the reader draw their own conclusions.
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even with all of the statistical flaws in obesity studies, the actual difference in life expectancy that they find between people who are obese (class I) and people who are normal weight is one year. And that difference goes away for people age sixty-five and older. You know what that means? Your life expectancy is about six years shorter if you have the initials F.A.T. than if you are fat (class I obese). (83)

It's pretty great to read a book that basically approaches diet research with the peare
There were no magical tips about losing weight without diets (which are crap, just as I've always suspected) but I didn't really expect magical tips. I liked how this book made me think about habits, body image/satisfaction, and the real purpose of exercise. I would really like to change my frame of reference away from feeling guilty about the willpower I seem to lack and toward habits I'd like to form (and I don't mean that as "it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle" bullshit but more as how can I t ...more
Oct 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-book, health, 2017
Some of the author's tips are helpful for me like the one about eating your vegetables first or making it more difficult to reach for sweets by putting them out of arm's reach. Having an if/then plan for healthy eating like always ordering salad when you eat at a certain restaurant might be a good idea, too.

But a lot of the information is well-known. Exercise "works as well as drugs in preventing death among people with heart disease, stroke, or pre-diabetes" and is more important th
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic scientific take on actually being healthy

Finally someone pointing out the complete lack of causal proof in all these obesity studies! Being overweight will not kill you and may even help you recover from some illnesses. Stress is the culprit you should be worried about. Highly recommended for everyone but especially women sick of being yelled at for being fat. I especially loved that she said you don't have to 'love' your body, that's hard, you just need to be okay with it. So now I'
Alison Reidmohr
Dec 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's amazing how much medical and health advice about diet gets passed off as the gospel truth when it lacks even the tiniest amount of actual evidence.

This book does an excellent job of doing a deep dive on the state of research on obesity, dieting, and even food marketing. I think it can do a lot to help Americans understand obesity and separate themselves from harmful public narratives about weight loss and diet. At the very least, it's an interesting read.
Whitney Ordemann
Feb 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Nothing earth shattering on the research side here for me. But I think there is a great deal of value in reading books like this as reminders if you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle. You never know when something will trigger to help you with motivation and will power. Dr. Mann does a great job with the organization and writing of this book.
May 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting and depressing: dieting doesn't work, long term willpower doesn't exist, exercise doesn't help you lose weight, our set points are immutable. 3 stars because it was poorly organized and heavy on the mundane details of college psych experiments.
If you're recovering from chronic dieting, as I am, or if you're still riding the dieting roller coaster, this book will offer you so much sanity. Mann does an excellent job of breaking down a variety of myths about diet and exercise, using plenty of science to back it up--not just her own, but that of other researchers too.

I read up on nutritional and exercise science enough to not have been surprised by everything she says here, but I imagine that to many people a lot of the book will be very
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
As someone who has struggled with weight and dieting for most of my life, I found this book to be incredibly insightful and eye-opening. My entire thought process about obesity and weight loss has completely shifted after reading this book, and my guilt and negative feelings about my size have started to ease up, too. That’s quite a feat!

Traci Mann has done extensive research on weight loss, self-control, and dieting in her unique eating lab. Perhaps one of the biggest things I took
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