An eye-opening exploration of the psychology of eating in today’s unprecedented North American pantry of abundance, access, and excess.In Why You Eat What You Eat, acclaimed neuroscientist Rachel Herz examines the sensory, psychological, neuroscientific, and physiological factors that influence our eating habits. Herz, who’s been praised for her “ability to cite and explain academic studies in a conversational manner” (Washington Post), uncovers the fascinating and surprising facts that influence food consumptionsuch as why bringing reusable bags to the grocery store encourages us to buy more treats, how our beliefs can affect how many calories we burn, why TV influences how much we eat, and how what we see and hear changes how food tastesand reveals useful techniques for improving our experience of food, such as how aromas can help curb cravings and tips on how to resist repeated trips to the buffet table.Why You Eat What You Eat presents our relationship to food as a complicated recipe, whose ingredientstaste, personality, and emotionscombine to make eating a potent and pleasurable experience. Herz weaves curious findings and compelling facts into a narrative that tackles important questions, revealing how psychology, neurology, and physiology shape our relationship with food, and how food alters the relationship we have with ourselves and each other.
Rachel Herz is a neuroscientist specializing in perception and emotion. She teaches at Brown University and Boston College, and is a professional consultant. The author of The Scent of Desire and That’s Disgusting, she lives in Rhode Island.
Herz (That’s Disgusting), a neuroscientist who teaches at Brown University and Boston College, delivers on her promise to explain human eating habits in this research-based work on neurogastronomy. It’s a new field of study, but, as Herz shows, it’s of vital importance to understanding food-related behaviors. Herz first runs through the four basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter before expanding to other modes of sensation. She describes other mouth sensations, such as umami and spicy heat, then moves on to how other senses—smell, sight, hearing, and touch—impact food consumption. Once Herz finishes explaining how each sense contributes to an overall evaluation of a given food, which is generally called “flavor,” she moves on to cover the role that the mind plays in eating. It turns out that such factors as the success of a favorite sports team, whom a person eats with, and the simple distance between one’s hand and the candy bowl effect how much a person eats. She also acknowledges the sensory reasons that some people strenuously avoid eating in her chapter on “avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder” and other eating disorders such as anorexia. Though not as entertaining as similar works on food science, Herz’s book illuminates Western eating habits and offers some ways that both individuals and wider society might change in order to make Westerners eat more sanely. (Dec.)
“Eating can be a pleasure or a compulsion, and it can fatten, daze, energize, sicken, or kill some of usbut not others. Rachel Herz deftly and charmingly explains the latest science on the mysteries and paradoxes of this eternally fascinating human pastime.”Steven Pinker
“Rachel Herz . . . reveals how our minds and emotions influence taste, and vice versa, helping explain why there is such a thing as bacon-scented underwear, why grapefruit aroma suppresses appetite and why loud noise enhances tomato flavor. Your plate, and your skivvies, may never look the same.”Florence Williams
“Continuously fascinating . . . Rachel Herz sets new standards in helping readers deal with the vast range of problems that beset our eating habits.”Gordon Shepherd
“This engaging and accessible account by a leading neuroscientist has something for everyone.”Rachel Laudan
“There are so many reasons, besides being hungry, that we eat the food we do. Rachel Herz writes clearly and evocatively about the science behind these choices, ones dictated by all of our senses.”Molly Birnbaum
Psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist Herz (psychiatry & human behavior, Brown Univ.; That's Disgusting) incorporates a variety of research about food into her latest book, including vignettes about individuals who exemplify certain medical conditions or situations (i.e., a pathologically picky eater, a victim of a car wreck who can no longer smell and thus no longer taste food). The author ties these studies into coherent narratives, with one chapter seamlessly leading into the next. VERDICT A fun and compelling book that touches upon several subjects. Recommended for a variety of readers, including those interested in food science, marketing, nutrition, and psychology.—Susan Hurst, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH
Neuroscientist Herz (That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion, 2013, etc.) shines her expertise on the complicated relationships between the human senses and food consumption.Although this is not a diet book, almost every page contains science-based information that could help readers with weight issues gain overall health. Herz understands that eating involves far more than the tongue, the mouth cavity, the teeth, the throat, and the stomach. In mostly lucid scientific detail, she explains how smell, sight, touch, and hearing interact with taste to affect food consumption. The realm of taste is the author's primary focus, as she distinguishes among the "fab four"—sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Within each, she draws further distinctions, so that "sweet," for example, involves sweet love, sweet pain, and sweet happiness. One of Herz's major strengths is her skill at creating catchy phrasing to convey complicated scientific theories and experiments. She explains why comfort food has justifiably gained that reputation, why some eaters become easily satiated while others say they rarely feel full, and why certain edibles appear scrumptious to the eyes and others look unappetizing. Within each chapter, Herz folds in tips—sometimes based on peer-reviewed research, other times based on her gut feelings—that could qualify as self-help. These include advice on consuming food alone or with others present, how the size and shape of plates can influence calories ingested, playing imagination games before meals to reduce cravings, why the presence or absence of music during meals matters, and how wine consumption with solid food makes sense for some diners but not for others. Regardless of the tips offered or the science discussed, an obvious common denominator is the primacy of the human brain in all food-related matters. Though occasionally didactic, the narrative is undergirded by Herz's understanding that one size never fits all, and it contains useful passages for every reader.