Debunking the Many Diet Myths

Each day leading up to the April 16 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, and in collaboration with community editors from the award-winning Saint Paul Almanac, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2016 General Nonfiction finalist:

Secrets from the Eating Lab - The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet AgainSecrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again by Traci Mann
Published by HarperWave/HarperCollins Publishers
Category Sponsor: The Waterbury Group at Morgan Stanley


Most of what we find in the world of diet and health is not really meant to help us: it is designed as a marketing tactic to sell product. It is all part of the package that fits well into the supposed-to-look, which is why diets have long been a favorite topic of fashion magazines and infomercials. In Secrets from the Eating Lab, Traci Mann leaps past the corporate and commercial wizard to bring us some information for health’s sake, rather than corporate profits. She has received a lot of pushback that includes drawing the ire of the diet industry by taking two decades of research that explain how diets work—and mostly how they don’t. By paying close attention to the science and psychology of eating and dieting, she explains the physical and social components of food, dieting and our relationship with how we eat. This is an especially timely read in the wake of America’s obesity epidemic.

An Excerpt from Secrets form the Eating Lab:

“Much to my surprise, I’ve learned that nearly everything I thought was true about eating was false, including the three pillars of the commercial diet industry: that diets work, that dieting is good for you, and that obesity is deadly. The truth is that diets do not work and may be bad for you, and obesity is not going to kill you. I also learned that despite what most people assume, a lack of self-control is not why people become fat, and “harnessing” willpower is not the way to become thin.”

Author Bio:

Traci MannTraci Mann, Ph.D. is a Professor of Social and Health Psychology at the University of Minnesota. Her research aims to identify and understand the behaviors associated with eating regulation and body image as well as the process of self-control during health behavior changes. Traci is principal investigator of the Health and Eating Laboratory, which uses diverse research methods to study interesting topics such as increasing food consumption in NASA astronauts, increasing vegetable intake in elementary school children, and the ability of foods to reduce social and physical pain.

Traci Mann is on Facebook


“Using gold standard research, Dr. Mann exposes many companies’ desire to keep dieters in the dark from their secrets: they only provide the facts of short term dieting and change that are usually successful in the first four to six months, refusing to reveal the truth that in the long term, dieters often fail, regaining what was lost and often more. Dr. Mann explains how dieting is an unsuccessful hamster wheel on which the public places themselves in an often vain attempt to change what biology and genetics have given us—our bodies, our predetermined weight range, muscle mass, etc.”—Michelle Martinez, New York Journal of Books

“Mann puts what she calls the dieting industry’s “sacred cows” on the menu in a book that’s equal parts science and self-help. Diets don’t work, she argues, and obesity is not deadly. After summing up decades of research on the physical and psychological factors behind eating, starving and yo-yo dieting, Mann suggests common sense strategies to achieve a healthy weight — which has more to do with your genes than your jean size — and accept your body for what it is.”— Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine

“Diets don’t work. Psychologist Traci Mann, who runs the Health and Eating Lab at the University of Minnesota, convincingly explains why obsessively thinking about food can even cause weight gain… Mann cites study after study to make her case; titles her last chapter, ‘Final Words: Diet Schmiet’; and declares that no single eating plan will ever make the pounds melt away forever. ‘The fragility of willpower’ and ‘a culture of ubiquitous temptations’ conspire against the best-laid plans. Her bottom-line recommendation: ‘reach your leanest livable weight.’ Sold.”—Karen Springen, Booklist Advance Reviews

“I was hesitant on this book at first, because I’ve read tons related to health and diet, and I wondered, “What new can possibly be written on this subject?” Mann does touch on a very old idea in a fresh way that isn’t trying to sell a trend or a product. She does a good job providing evidence, truly lab tested evidence, in a personal way. Her humor captivates readers, making the scientific material much more accessible to her audience. In her efforts, she debunks trends. Well-organized with balanced, fresh divisions of ideas.”—Minnesota Book Awards Preliminary Round Judge


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

authors-at-googleGeeky yet fascinating, and about five times longer than a TED Talk (but worth a watch), author and psychologist Traci Mann, PhD visits Google’s Mountain View, CA headquarters to speak about her book Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again. This event took place on August 3, 2015, as part of the Authors@Google series.

Minnesota Book AwardsAward winners will be announced at the 28th Annual Minnesota Book Awards on Saturday, April 16, 2016 at the Union Depot in Saint Paul.

The evening features a Preface Reception with complimentary passed wine and cash bar, author meet-and-greet, book sales and signing; the Awards Ceremony with live music, celebrity presenters, artisan cheese plates and breads, complimentary wine and lemonade, with emcee Stephanie Curtis of MPR; and the Epilogue After-Party with complimentary champagne, sumptuous desserts, and additional live music. Tickets now on sale, or click here for more information.

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Today’s winner: Priscilla Swartz. (We’ll be in touch via email, and arrange getting the book to you!)

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