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Waistland: The R/evolutionary Science Behind Our Weight and Fitness Crisis Hardcover – June 17, 2007

16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


An elegantly written and eye-opening analysis of what makes us fat. -- Steven Pinker, PhD, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works

In this cogent, clearly argued, and thought-provoking book, Barrett shows how we are paying the price for our own plenty. -- David Spiegel, M.D. Medical Director, Center for Integrative Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine; author of Living Beyond Limits

Offers us a way to understand the pandemic of obesity that we find ourselves in. -- John Ratey, M.D. Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry Harvard Medical School, co-author of Driven to Distraction

About the Author

Deirdre Barrett is an evolutionary psychologist at Harvard Medical School’s Behavioral Medicine Program. She is the author of several books, including Waistland, Trauma and Dream, and Supernormal Stimuli. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (June 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393062163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393062168
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,497,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D. is a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School's Behavioral Medicine Program. She Past President of both the International Association for the Study of Dreams and the American Psychological Association's Div. 30, The Society for Psychological Hypnosis. Dr. Barrett has written four books: The Committee of Sleep (Random House, 2001) and The Pregnant Man and Other Cases from a Hypnotherapist's Couch (Random House, 1998), Waistland (Norton, 2007) and Supernormal Stimuli (Norton, 2010). She is the editor of four additional books: Trauma and Dreams (Harvard University Press, 1996), The New Science of Dreaming (Praeger/Greenwood, 2007), Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy (Praeger/Greenwood, 2010), and The Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreams (Greenwood, 2012). Dr. Barrett has published dozens of academic articles and chapters on health, hypnosis, and dreams. She is Editor-in-Chief of DREAMING: The Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams.
Dr. Barrett's commentary on psychological issues has been featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, Fox, and The Discovery Channel. She has been interviewed for dream articles in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Life, Time, and Newsweek. Her own articles have appeared in Psychology Today and Invention and Technology. Dr. Barrett has lectured at Esalen, the Smithsonian, and at universities around the world.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Michael on July 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Waistland's main premise is that you can't just "trust your instincts" or "listen to your body" in the current food environment. Barrett goes on a hunt into prehistory to show how our bodies evolved in a world where salt, sugar, and fat were scarce and desirable. Now we live in a word where those substances are not only plentiful, but in which images of them are beamed at us constantly. Waistland describes how refined foods affect us similarly to addictive drugs.
Barrett says we need to learn to "listen to our intellect" before our brains evolve back to the minimum needed to locate the Twinkies in the grocery aisle. She advocates radical change for those seeking to eat healthier and lose weight. Simply ordering the smaller size of fries or eating desert twice a week is actually harder physically in terms triggering hunger signals than eliminating them entirely: more painful in the first few days but ultimately easier to maintain because insulin, glucose, and leptin levels normalize.
Barrett also trashes the "too busy to time to eat healthy" argument. She has a half joking, half serious "recipe"section that points out you can dump tuna over baby spinach or walk out of a 7-11 with nuts and fruit faster than you can get through the line at a burger chain. For those with "no time to exercise," she reminds us the average American watches more than 3 hours of TV a day.
She also has suggestions for society to change the whole food environment. She points out that short of banning foods--which she does advocate for transfats--we can start by reversing crazy policies like subsidizing the growing of corn and sugar and instead setting financial incentives to favor healthy vegetables.
Waistland is full of research culled form academic sources you haven't seen in popular books before.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ben on September 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book describes why more radical approaches to weight loss may be easier to follow than so-called moderate measures. The human body evolved to survive in the environment of our hunter-gatherer past. Our instincts are for finding once scarce fats, sugar and salt. For our ancestors, the physical exertion associated with foraging for food also kept weights down. Today, most of us lead sedentary lives. Fast foods and supermarket convenience stores appeal to our instincts even more than the natural foods for they they evolved. Barrett offers psychological perspectives for changing how we view food and weight loss and ways of incorporating exercise into our daily routines. She even suggests methods for rewiring the reward circuitry of the brain to reinforce healthy eating habits. Interesting, good advice!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kristine Lofgren VINE VOICE on January 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Americans have a lower rate of success in dieting than they do with drug rehabilitation, which tells us that we are doing something wrong. So whenever a new perspective on the American diet comes out, I am quick to jump on it.

This book isn't so much of a diet guide as it is a commentary on the way the human body is meant to eat and how we can get there. What makes this book different is that it challenges many of the strongly held beliefs that we have in place about dieting today, such as: our hunter-gatherer ancestors were always on the brink of starvation and struggling with their health (they weren't), that dieting isn't about willpower (it is), that the modern body ideal is too skinny (it hasn't changed much over the years and Marilyn Monroe was tiny, when she did gain weight towards the end of her life, she was slammed by the press for being fat) or even that we can lose weight without sacrifice.

This book tells us about how our bodies were made to eat through years of evolution, mainly vegetables, fruits and protein with only a little grain, with no refined anything, and it tell us how our modern world fights us in achieving that ideal. It also discusses the consequences of our modern diet and rounds it all out by telling us how we might return to a healthy diet. The author only makes a few suggestions on how to diet on a personal level, but rounds it all out with broader suggestions on how we can change the American food system in general to bring us back to the way that we should be eating.

To be sure, this book makes some controversial statements (we should lay off anything refined altogether because it is easier than practicing moderation, suggesting hypnotherapy and that we should treat refined foods like drugs) but it also makes some great suggestions and superb points. Whether you agree with everything this author has to say or not, I would suggest that anyone concerned about their health at least give this book a read.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Curt Howard on July 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm a fairly healthy eater and ordered this book when I read an interview with the author in US News and World Reports that I liked. I was expecting to learn mostly about why most other people eat aren't paying attention to what they eat, but I found myself getting some tips for my own health also. The book is based on solid research and it's funny, enlightening and sad all at the same time. Enlightening because it's very specific about what strategies work best to get healthy; sad because of documenting the trends that many people aren't going to change for a long time. After reading this book, I'm motivated to eat even healthier and to get back to more exercise than I've done in a while; the chapter on exercise has some great advice on what to do based on whether you've never exercised or are a lapsed jock and how to make your workday more active if you thought you were stuck in a desk-job profession. A great read!

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