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The Hungry Brain: Outsmarting the Instincts That Make Us Overeat

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,371 ratings  ·  168 reviews
From an obesity and neuroscience researcher with a knack for engaging, humorous storytelling, The Hungry Brain uses cutting-edge science to answer the questions: why do we overeat, and what can we do about it?

No one wants to overeat. And certainly no one wants to overeat for years, become overweight, and end up with a high risk of diabetes or heart disease--yet two thirds
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Flatiron Books
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  1,371 ratings  ·  168 reviews

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May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 stars because I want so many people to read it: nutritionists, primary care doctors, people who want to lose weight, people who are prejudiced against people who are overweight, reporters, and many more!

The great: all the research that Guyenet carefully explains. You may have heard snippets of this information before, "Sleep deprivation makes it harder to lose weight!" "Stress increases belly fat!" But reading about it in some depth with all the pieces put together hel
Mario Tomic
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved it! The Hungry Brain is a much-needed breath of fresh air bringing the science and evidence-based approach to weight management in an industry that has been deeply polluted with decades of dogmatism, fearmongering and pseudoscience. For all of you that know Stephan's work from his blog, the Hungry brain puts it all in one place. My favorite thing about the book is how Stephan breaks down very complex interactions between eating behavior and the brain in a simple easy-to-understa ...more
Jay Pruitt
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it
The Hungry Brain describes testing and experimentation conducted in recent years on lab rats and humans alike, attempting to explain how the brain, genetics and chemical reactions, influence our eating behaviors. Obviously well researched, the book was a bit more technical than I was hoping for. For the layperson, the medical jargon became difficult to follow. Towards the end of the book we are presented with recommendations for those wanting to control our state of "adiposity", many of which ar ...more
Feb 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The best book about obesity currently on the market. However, since Guyenet is a scientist true to science, he is sometimes a little bit vague on things I feel he ha some very strong views on in private.

Therefore, this book is the best summary of the best obesity research to date, and really gives you the best framework for thinking about obesity as a whole.

If You want to lose weight, read this in conjunction with Guyenet excellent blog.

This book is the one book every layman need to read about
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a very concise book, but not written for the layperson. It was an extremely scientific overview of why humans are becoming fatter. I got a bit lost with the academic language throughout the book, even though it was absolutely necessary when describing the various brain centres and their roles in hunger. I quite enjoyed the last couple chapters as they were easier for my non-scientific brain to grasp. A great book by Mr. Guyenet, but not a quick, easy read.
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really well-researched and well-written book on how the brain controls hunger and eating behavior.

My notes are below. The practical tips for everyday life are in bold.

The conscious, rational brain cares about abstract concepts like health, appearance and the future. The non-conscious intuitive brain only cares about concrete, immediate things. The conflict between the two explains why we overeat even when we don't want to.

Overeating and obesity are caused by a mismatch between a
Leslie Goddard
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is the first book I’ve seen that explains the brain science behind things like why sleep deprivation increases obesity, how stress impacts the brain’s reaction to food, and why we crave so strongly foods that aren’t healthy for us. It took some paying attention for me to gather up all the science, although it’s presented in terms that a layman can get. I’m not sure that knowing this will make the a-ha difference for someone trying to change their eating (for me, the advice to get enough sle ...more
Alex MacMillan
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ever since high school I’ve understood how people get fat, but I like to read books like this one to periodically remind myself why. During high school I ballooned, going from 170 to 220 pounds over a 6 month period, until I read David Kessler's The End of Overeating and proceeded to lose the fifty pounds and keep them off throughout college. Knowledge is power. However, between Graduation 2013 and Halloween 2018 I proceeded to gradually gain all that weight back, despite my exercise regimen and ...more
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: health
"Information alone isn't always an effective way to change behavior...It's quite rational to care about your health, and therefore how you eat, because health has a major impact on your wellbeing, life span, and performance in many areas of life. If our eating behavior is primarily guided by conscious choices based on rational thinking, then educating the nation on what to eat should be a highly effective way of making us slimmer and healthier over time. The [Dietary] Guidelines [for Americans r ...more
Ms. Yingling
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Public library e book

I am constantly fascinated by the increase in obesity since 1980. The convergence of technology, high fructose corn syrup, and other factors does seem to be a factor, but it can't be the whole reason. I loved the combination of history, science, and psychology in this book.

The most intriguing (and useful) part was the admonition to construct a healthy food environment, high in foods that have a high satiety factor and low in processed "yummy" snacks that are quick to grab.
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very enjoyable evidence based look at food and nutrition. This book made me change the way I look at food, eating, dieting and such.

Stephan Guyenet dismisses some myths about food and then proceeds to give compelling, research backed reasons for which people overeat. In general these ideas seem to have validity.

What he states and that I previously generally agreed with is that calories in and calories out is what causes weight gain. All calories are roughly equal, but it's a bit more complex a
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A solid and fun to read book about the science of what causes us to eat and overeat. The information contained within is super interesting, though sometimes a bit... disheartening.

If you're looking for a book that gives you strong, clear directions on how to lose weight... well, this book isn't it, and after reading the book, I am even less trusting of those "lose weight fast" schemes. (I've been pondering writing my own weight-loss guide from the book, which will sort of be a "safely and health
Brenna Dittmar
Aug 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a technical read, but I took a high school anatomy class that helped me find most of the terms relatively familiar. The author does a good job of explaining terms quickly and clearly, which is invaluable for staying attentive through the book. There's tons of tidbits hidden in the discussions in each chapter that I found sparking ideas about ways to try out a concept he talks about, and I really appreciated the various ways he gave different approaches that scientists have studied (even ...more
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Those who know me know I'm a bit of a science nerd and won't be surprised that I loved this book.

It's not, despite how it's marketed, really a book for the lay person. Yes, the author adequately breaks down the science into understandable chunks, but the average person who doesn't get a hard on for neuroscience will be bored before the end of chapter one. But if you are, like me, fascinated by the brain, this was fantastic; really well researched with a ton of references, and a smattering of hu
Sabina Schmitz
Imagine your brain like an auction house, where hunger bids the highest amount. This book is a deep dive into the neuroscience of the brain and how it handles hunger.
After reading Guyenet, I feel more aware of how my brain tricks me into choosing the least best options. Thankfully he provides plenty strategies to handle this.
For my taste, there were too many tests on rats and monkeys.
Also very scientific at times, probably more suitable for reader that have extended knowledge in neuroscience.
Guilherme Zeitounlian
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's easy to find weight loss and diet books that talk about insulin. Or sleep. Or behaviour. Or counting calories.

It's not so easy to find a book that tries to encapsulate all that, and therefore talks about the systems that govern our desires and our hunger - and that drive us to overeat.

The Hungry Brain is a great book because it shows how complex the interactions inside our bodies can be.

And it is interesting to realize how the author travels a different path than the other books, but arrive
Wendi Lau
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
When I realized how much time my family spends eating, particularly the soccer player and runner, I thought this might be a good read. And it was. I understand why potato chips are so appealing to me but why yogurt, beets, and lettuce are way better. I would rather have both categories of food in my diet instead of only healthy, but now I understand the things that make me want to eat chips and fries as well as how to avoid putting my brain in that cravey place. Fiber, less yummy, less stress, m ...more
Alex Sadzawka
Sep 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Great first half of the book (the science).
Apr 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating compilation of research related to brains perception and processing of food and how we are influenced by that.

A special bonus is the list of tips, driven from the research reflected in the book on mastering your own brain.
Ryan P
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
More for a scientist than ordinary people. And the tips it does eventually provide towards the end are things we've heard dozens of time.
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help, medical
A very complex book that tackles a very complicated medical issue: obesity, satiety, the pathophysiology of food metabolism. Not. An. Easy. Read. Even with my medical background, I found it quite challenging to read and understand parts of this book. It is the type of book that I would plan to read twice, with heavy highlighting, and constant review of previously read chapters in order to understand the topic thoroughly.

And, after this challenging read, the recommendation for how to mange one's
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Guyenet takes us on a tour of the brain, and as he describes the brain’s various systems, one can’t help but feel that our brains – in cahoots with the food industry – conspire to make us fat and keep us fat.

Start with the reward system of our brain in the basal ganglia. Dopamine, also called the ‘learning chemical’ is designed to reinforce behaviors that meet with success. Unfortunately, foods that are high in starch, sugar, fat – especially combinations thereof – are highly reinforcing. “Will
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the most accessible, yet information-packed tour of the brain systems which lead us to overeat and gain weight. Full of tips to translate the knowledge gained from cutting-edge research in neuroscience, endocrinology and metabolism into simple tips one can use to get one's brain "on track". The book also delves why the current lifestyle choices and toxic food environment created by food companies have led to the current obesity epidemic.
Cannot recommend this book enough.
Arjun Rao
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biol, nutr
Eating behaviours are dominated by our hormonal and neural regulatory systems.
Will power has laughably little role to play in what we eat and how much we eat.
But if your current eating habits are Garfield-esque, does that mean there's no hope for you
to ever get back in shape ? There is hope... but it involves deliberately staying away from
foods that hijack our hormonal and neural regulatory systems (esp the leptin signalling
pathways which signal fullness to the brain)
Shane Duquette
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
A well-sourced and scientifically honest look at the mechanisms behind weight gain. This is a must-read for people who are fatter than they'd like to be, and even more essential for people who judge fat people harshly.
Guilherme  Tomishiyo
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Everyone trying to lose weight knows the drill. You need to eat less and exercise more. But yet doing just that does not work for the majority of us. How can that be?

Then we turn to the Oracle of our ages, the Internet, and ask for guidance. And we find out, annoyingly, that people claiming to know the right answer to our problem are Legion, and most of them provide inconsistent advices. You learn that pretty much any claim regarding nutrition, physical activity and weight loss will be conteste
Peter McCluskey
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Researchers who studied obesity in rats used to have trouble coaxing their rats to overeat. The obvious approaches (a high fat diet, or a high sugar diet) were annoyingly slow. Then they stumbled on the approach of feeding human junk food to the rats, and made much faster progress.

What makes something "junk food"? The best parts of this book help to answer this, although some ambiguity remains. It mostly boils down to palatability (is it yummier than what our ancestors evolved to expect? If so,
Cindy Dyson Eitelman
Mar 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Looking at the raving reviews that the publisher chose to post on the back cover, I see that the Paleo Diet people read no further than the first couple of chapters. And that's sad! It's like a person who goes to the Smithsonian and only looks at the Anasazi pottery from Arizona. Yeah, it's there, but there's a whole lot that comes after it!

Whether or not farming started 12,000 years ago or as early as 23,000 (interesting article --, I take offense at th
Trevor Kidd
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Why I picked up the book

I picked up The Hungry Brain from my local library after watching an hour long interview/conversation Stephan Guyenet had with my favorite bodybuilding Youtuber, Jeff Nippard. They discuss, among other things, different approaches to fat loss including low carb and low sugar diets. Here is the link, but spoilers: the answer is simply the balance between calories consumed vs calories spent more than any specific fad diet. And from there they turn a little bit to ideas that
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Guyenet presents a very compelling alternative explanation for obesity and prescription for weight loss in contrast to the Taubes / Ludwig / Atkins low-carb axis, the Campbell / Ornish high-carb camp, the Cordain / Paleo camp, your cousin who is on a ketogenic diet, and whatever Dave Asprey is doing these days. In the first chapter, Guyenet asserts that figuring out the correct macronutrient ratio to go after actually doesn't make sense. Assuming someone is strictly held to the same number of ca ...more
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Stephan J. Guyenet, Ph.D. is an obesity researcher and health writer whose work ties together neuroscience, physiology, evolutionary biology, and nutrition to offer explanations and solutions for our global weight problem. He received a B.S. in biochemistry at the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in neurobiology at the University of Washington. He is the author of the popular health website, Who

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