Books about sugar and weight loss

20 January 2021

Fat Chance by Dr. Robert Lusting and The Economists’ Diet by Christopher Payne PhD & Rob Barnett and That Sugar Book by Damon Gameau

When it comes to weight loss diets, the proof is in the pudding (or the lack of pudding).

In Fat Chance, obesity expert Robert explains “the hidden truth about sugar, obesity and disease”. In a campaigning style, he gives detailed information on the science and politics of sugar consumption. On p.69, he says “I gained 45 pounds during residency, and I haven’t taken them off yet.” His residency was thirty years before the book was written.

In The Economists’ Diet, economists Chris and Rob explain their weight loss habits through analogies to economic principles. This one isn’t just about sugar — the focus is on developing habits to control your impulses — but limiting sugar consumption is certainly part of it. There are before-and-after photos of the authors, showing one of them at 220 pounds in fall 2003 and 174 pounds in winter 2007/2008 and the other at 250 pounds in fall 2013 and 175 pounds in summer 2017.

In That Sugar Book (and That Sugar Film), actor and director Damon relates how he experimented on himself under medical supervision for 60 days. Not having eaten refined sugar for nearly three years and being in good health at the outset, he consumed the equivalent of 40 teaspoons of sugar daily (chosen because it’s an amount that many Australians consume every day), all hidden in foods marketed as healthy, such as muesli bars and juices. During the study, he maintained his usual intake of 2,300 calories but with different proportions of fat and carbs. His usual diet had 50% of calories from fat, 26% from carbohydrates, and 24% from protein. During the study, he got 18% of calories from fat, 60% from carbohydrates, and 22% from protein. He became overweight and developed fatty liver disease within three weeks. He then reversed the damage by eliminating sugar from his diet again.

I recommend The Economists’ Diet and That Sugar Book, and I think they are complementary. Both are motivational and practical. The economists focus on habits. They don’t give much specific nutritional advice, and I have to say that I don’t agree with all of the specifics that they do give; I don’t agree with having cereal for breakfast, for example. Nonetheless, it’s a good book. Damon provides information from interviews with experts on health and nutrition and recipes, in addition to documenting his personal experience.