Monday, February 21, 2022

Book Review: The Hungry Brain

The Hungry Brain points out how the brain works. The brain (your brain) is conditioned by past food choices and conditions you to make future choices. There are strong cues at play and the stronger ones win. Most of what happens is nonconscious. The author credits Daniel Kahneman, author of "Thinking, Fast and Slow" for the two brain systems. System 1 which is fast, effortless, intuitive, and nonconscious. System 2 which is slow, effortful, rational, and conscious. System 1 usually wins when it comes to food choices.

I was surprised by how food decisions are made in the brain and how the brain continuously reinforces those decisions. I was also stunned to discover how irrational our/my thinking can be. This supports the two systems Kahneman describes. For example; "The 1970 Stanford Marshmallow Experiment" gave children the option of one marshmallow now (which sat on a table right in front of them) or two marshmallows in 15 minutes. The kids were basically given a choice of a small reward now or a larger reward in the future. Most kids ate the one marshmallow right away. We/I tend to value the now more and the future not so much. This is a psychological trait called "delay discounting".

This book is a very technical read

I know I am one of those people who do/did not value my future self. I started smoking cigarettes when I was twelve. As an adult I smoked two and one-half packs of cigarettes a day. One day, after 32 years of smoking, I finally quite "cold turkey". As a smoker I totally discounted my future health. I've been smoke-free for 20+ years. For me, it's time to refocus on my future self and lose the weight. While a brown sugar cinnamon pop tart will definitely give me a 10 minute pleasure high it does not help my future self one bit. 

This book is a very technical read. You could probably get away with reading only chapters 10 and 11. However, you would miss out on some of the little stories sprinkled throughout the other chapters. 

This book has caused me to want to read two other books. The first book, which I purchased, is "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman. I was originally introduced to Kahneman a few years back. I'm very much interested in storytelling and Kahneman links effective storytelling to emotions not rationale. So I am very interested in learning more about the two brain systems. 

The second, which I checked out from the library is "Salt Sugar Fat" by Michael Moss. I've had a tacit understanding that processed foods are the new crack cocaine. I figure by reading this book two things will happen: 

  1. I will change my perspective on processed food and see them for what they truly are. 
  2.  By learning exactly how food scientists tweak the salt, sugar, fat ratios every so slightly to keep their food irresistible, I will view these foods as traps, and see myself for what I really am... nothing more than a commodity (a tick mark on the balance sheet).

Please use the comments to give your recommendations for other, related books worth reading.

Semper Fi
Gunny Mike