cover image The Hunger Habit: Why We Eat When We’re Not Hungry and How to Stop

The Hunger Habit: Why We Eat When We’re Not Hungry and How to Stop

Judson Brewer. Avery, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-54325-2

Brown University neuroscientist Brewer (Unwinding Anxiety) presents a sensible guide on how readers can feel more in control of their eating. Brewer explains that strong negative emotions can cause the rational prefrontal cortex to go “offline,” leaving evolutionarily older brain networks in charge of improving one’s mood, which they usually do by prompting the person to seek out food they have fond memories of eating. The brain then comes to associate food with comfort, turning “emotional eating” into a habitual way of dealing with negative feelings. To break this connection, Brewer recommends practicing “mindful eating,” which involves savoring each bite and focusing on “being present” during mealtime. He suggests that doing so forces people to pay attention to their bodily signals, which will let them know when they’ve had enough to eat or when they’re eating too much of an unhealthy food. Lay readers will appreciate the accessible science (“When you get stressed, your survival brain grabs the steering wheel from the [prefrontal cortex], which has only recently gotten its learner’s permit, aiming to steer you to safety until the danger has passed”), and the practical guidance is easy to implement. The result is a competent manual for cultivating a healthier relationship with food. Agent: Melissa Flashman, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Jan.)