Most diet books suck.
They tell you that certain foods make you fat and damage your health. They make you follow rigid, unscientific, ridiculous rules that force you to eat less by default. “Dieting for dummies,” as some people call it.
But you’re not a dummy, and you’re tired of fad diets.
You want books that tell you exactly how to lose fat, gain muscle, or eat a healthy diet without feeling like a neurotic weirdo. You want to know that your time, money, and energy are spent on things that will give you results.
That’s what these books will give you.
[Note: When available, I’ve provided affiliate and non-affiliate links for each of these books. If you use the affiliate link, the price is the same for you, but a small percentage of your purchase goes toward supporting this blog.]
1. Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink
It’s easy to get carried away with thinking about macronutrients, satiety hormones, food reward, the best fat loss workouts, or sexier topics.
In Mindless Eating, however, Brian Wansink explores the most important environmental variables that affect your food intake.
Wansink, who is the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, teaches you…
- How much more you eat when you’re distracted, without knowing it.
- How easy it is to overeat if you rely on hunger signals alone, instead of using external cues such as how much food is still on your plate.
- How you subconsciously eat less when you use utensils and dishes of a different size and shape.
- How food variety and appearance can influence your calorie intake.
The book also debunks some common myths, like the idea that making nutrition labels more obvious will help people lose weight.
My favorite part of Mindless Eating is how the author gives extremely practical tips at the end of each chapter, based on the best evidence. You can flip to almost any page and immediately start making positive changes.
The references are also easy to find in the back of the book.
Mindless Eating doesn’t cover food quality, exercise, or anything else — it only focuses on how small changes to your surroundings affect how much you eat. This is actually a positive, since the book doesn’t overwhelm you with too much information.
This is probably my favorite diet book.
2. The Fat Loss Bible by Anthony Colpo
After reading this book, you’ll know more about fat loss than 99% of dieters.
The first six chapters of The Fat Loss Bible debunk some of the most common myths about dieting, such as:
“Calories don’t count.”
“Carbs make you fat.”
“Food quality is irrelevant.”
The book is clear, detailed, and incredibly useful.
The first chapter is probably the most important. It dissects virtually every study on calorie balance from 1935-2007, when the book was published. I referred to this chapter over 100 times when writing this article.
Next, the book tells you how to design a diet and exercise program to lose fat, while losing as little muscle as possible.
Later in the book, Anthony also tears apart several common myths, such as vegetarianism and veganism being being better for health and fat loss.
It would have been nice if the book spent more time looking at the research on exercise for fat loss. However, the book still gives you enough information to get started with a smart fat loss workout program.
Unless you’re a nerd about fat loss, some of the chapters may also feel dense. However, you can skip ahead to the chapters that focus on implementation if you’re not as concerned with the details.
### *Girth Control*by Alan Aragon
If you’ve read any of Alan’s articles, you’ll know that he spends more time researching fat loss and muscle gain than just about anyone else.
The rest of the book then covers the evidence on the most important dietary factors that affect fat loss and muscle gain. He breaks down myths about protein, carbohydrate, and fat, and then gives a thorough analysis of the paleo diet.
The next three chapters teach you almost everything you could want to know about supplements for muscle gain and fat loss (spoiler — most don’t work).
The last section of the book teaches you how to create a sustainable, simple diet for fat loss or muscle gain. Chapter 15 is one of the most useful, where Alan gives you several different formulas for determining your calorie and macronutrient intake.
Girth Control is a little dated at this point, but all of the information is just as accurate now as it was then.
At $50, the book is also more expensive than most ebooks. Nevertheless, it’s still worth ten times that.
4. “Starve Mode” by Leigh Peele
You can think of “Starve Mode” as a “user’s guide” to managing your calorie expenditure during and after dieting.
There’s no doubt that your fat loss slows as you cut calories. This book teaches you how to minimize that effect with different behavior changes and dieting strategies.
The book starts by defining what your metabolism really is, what controls your metabolic rate, and how dieting changes your calorie expenditure.
Leigh spends the next few chapters teaching you how different hormones change when you diet, and how they affect your ability to lose fat. The chapter on cortisol is especially good.
One of the best parts of the book is the discussion on different tools and formulas for estimating and tracking your calorie expenditure. Leigh has tested just about every device on planet earth, and gives you a detailed account of their pros and cons.
The book also has a few small problems.
Despite being well referenced, there aren’t any footnotes or citations in the text, which makes it hard to check the referenced support.
There are a few small parts of the book I don’t fully agree with, but compared to the number of truths in this book, those are minor details.
Overall, the book is well researched, useful, and accurate. I highly recommend it. If you’d like to learn more about the book, then listen to this interview I did with Leigh.
5. A Guide to Flexible Dieting by Lyle McDonald
We know how to lose fat — you eat less and move more.
The hard part is getting people to maintain those behaviors over time in a sane, sustainable way that also helps them maintain their muscle mass.
That’s what this book teaches you.
A Guide to Flexible Dieting starts by defining how people fail diets, and just as importantly, why some diets fail people.
Next, you figure out which category of dieter you are, based on your gender, body fat percentage, and activity level.
Finally, you learn how to set your calorie and macronutrient targets. Then you learn how to incorporate free meals, free days, diet breaks, and refeeds into your fat loss plan.
A Guide to Flexible Dieting is more practical and reader friendly than some of Lyle’s other books, which can be technical at times. This book is extremely simple and the recommendations are easy to understand and implement.
You might think that this book is only directed at people trying to be healthy, but that’s not the case. It’s just as useful if you’re trying to diet to single digit body fat levels.
One of the most valuable takeaways from the book is how to transition from dieting to maintenance and back again. That’s something many people, including myself, struggle with.
This book doesn’t include any references, so you have to trust the author’s word. Given that it’s by Lyle McDonald, however, you can generally trust that it’s accurate. The recommendations also make sense based on what we know about human behavior.
I expect Tom Venuto’s new book, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, which came out today on December 10, to be excellent as well.
What are your favorite books on nutrition and fitness?
Let’s talk about them in the comments area below.
I also think you should check out my book, Flexible Dieting. It shows you exactly how to lose fat with less effort and anxiety.
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