Lillian Wilson

How Not to Diet by Michael Greger

Discover in-depth guidance on losing and maintaining weight by making healthy eating habits a part of your life.

How Not to Diet
“There is no doubt that if you wish to learn how extensive is the evidence supporting a whole food plant-based diet, read this book. Dr. Greger has mastered that knowledge base like no one else.”
– T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University

Every month seems to introduce a new diet that is claimed to shed all the extra pounds at a glance. And yet the obesity rates are nowhere to be found dropping, with 1 billion people being obese.

To address this issue, Dr. Michael Greger presents a new approach to enable weight loss not through food restriction but through understanding factors such as calorie density, the insulin index, and the impact of foods on our gut microbiome.

In this review, we will take a closer look at the book ‘How Not to Diet’ by Dr. Michael Greger, as he takes us on a weight loss journey backed by science and a deep understanding of how our bodies work.

Author’s background

Michael Greger is a respected medical professional and writer, committed to advocating evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle decisions for better health and a longer life.

He played a key role in establishing the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and co-founded, a non-profit platform offering free, science-backed insights into the latest nutrition research.

What is the book about?

The book is divided into five parts of varying lengths.

Part 1, titled ‘The Problem,’ provides an overview of the obesity epidemic affecting both developed and developing countries. It examines the causes and consequences of this epidemic and explores non-diet solutions such as surgery, diet drugs, weight-loss supplements, and public policy approaches that are aimed to help people suffering from obesity.

Part 2, ‘Ingredients for the Ideal Weight-Loss Diet,’ discusses 17 essential characteristics that should be incorporated into our diets. Each section in this part concludes with tips on how to integrate each characteristic effectively. These characteristics include being anti-inflammatory, clean, high in fibre, high in water, low in glycemic load, low in added fat, low in added sugar, low in addictive foods and others.

Part 3, titled ‘The Optimal Weight-Loss Diet,’ is relatively shorter, consisting of less than 20 pages. It emphasises two important points. Firstly, the author reminds readers to follow a whole food, plant-based diet to ensure they include a source of Vitamin B12. Secondly, the book highlights that an effective weight-loss diet should also contribute to overall health improvement. Extensive research supports the idea that a whole plant-based diet not only helps achieve an optimal weight but also enhances overall health.

The fourth part of the book delves into various weight-loss boosters and offers guidance on how to optimise weight-loss efforts and achieve sustainable results. It explores concepts such as appetite suppression, eating rate, fat blockers and burners, and intermittent fasting.

The last part offers practical pieces of advice that aim to make the eating experience more beneficial and pleasurable. The recommendations range from eating without distractions, including TV or YouTube videos, to taking daily doses of black cumin and ground ginger.

Key takeaways from ‘How Not to Diet’

1Feeding the microbiome well helps weight maintenance

One of the biggest takeaways of the book is the importance of taking care of our microbiome for weight loss maintenance. The book states that nourishing our microbiomes with whole food, plant-based diets increases the likelihood of maintaining a healthy weight as it leads to the increase of good bacteria.

2The diet must optimise overall health and not only lead to weight loss

The book acknowledges that a diet that allows us to lose weight must also promote our overall health. This is a crucial point as there are various diets that can bring the same result – weight loss. However, restrictive diets can lead to deficiencies and eating disorders that negatively influence our mental and physical health.

3The formation of healthy habits helps to make weight-loss results sustainable

Dr. Greger also addresses the importance of making healthy habits our lifestyle, this will lead to long-lasting results. On a daily basis, we unconsciously make approximately 200 decisions related to food, often relying on habitual patterns without much consideration. As stated on page 422, our actions are mostly guided by what we usually do. While it has been commonly believed that forming a new habit takes around 21 days, Dr. Greger reveals that the average time is closer to 66 days.

To successfully adopt new habits, it is advisable to make them simple and easily achievable. For example, when craving unhealthy junk food, a helpful strategy is to remind ourselves that our true entitlement lies in attaining and maintaining good health.

4Eating less can be beneficial not only in weight loss but also in developing healthy eating habits and patterns

The book also raises the topic of meal frequency. It states that during the past 50 years meal sizes have increased by 10% and meal frequency has increased by 20%. Thus, modern people tend to eat five times a day (every 3 hours). Dr. Greger emphasises that eating less, for instance just three times a day leads to less craving for junk foods which promotes weight control.

Table of contents

  • Dedication
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • I. The Problem
  • The Causes
  • The Consequences
  • The Solutions
  • Bariatric Surgery
  • Diet Drugs
  • Weight-Loss Supplements
  • Policy Approaches
  • II. Ingredients for the Ideal Weight-Loss Diet
  • Introduction
  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Clean
  • High in Fiber-Rich Foods
  • High in Water-Rich Foods
  • Low Glycemic Load
  • Low in Added Fat
  • Low in Added Sugar
  • Low in Addictive Foods
  • Low in Calorie Density
  • Low in Meat
  • Low in Refined Grains
  • Low in Salt
  • Low Insulin Index
  • Microbiome-Friendly
  • Rich in Fruits and Vegetables
  • Rich in Legumes
  • Satiating
  • Recipe for Success
  • III. The Optimal Weight-Loss Diet
  • Introduction
  • Plant Yourself
  • IV. Weight-Loss Boosters
  • Introduction
  • Accountability
  • Amping AMPK
  • Appetite Suppression
  • Chronobiology Eating Rate
  • Exercise Tweaks
  • Fat Blockers
  • Fat Burners
  • Habit Formation
  • Hydration
  • Inflammation Quenchers
  • Intermittent Fasting
  • Caloric Restriction Fasting
  • Ketogenic Diets
  • Intermittent Fasting
  • Meal Frequency
  • Metabolic Boosters
  • Mild Trendelenburg
  • Negative Calorie Preloading
  • Sleep Enhancement
  • Stress Hormone Relief
  • Wall Off Your Calories
  • V. Dr. Greger’s Twenty-One Tweaks
  • VI. Conclusion
  • References
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
  • Also by Michael Greger, M.D., FACLM
  • About the Author

Overall rating & strengths and weaknesses, according to readers’ reviews

The book has gotten 4.44 ⭐️ on GoodReads.


  • Comprehensive coverage. The book does not focus on one specific diet, instead, it covers various topics including intermittent fasting, long-term weight loss, healthy eating, and longevity, providing a holistic approach to health and well-being.

  • Addresses the yo-yo effect. The book acknowledges the common issue of short-term weight loss methods often resulting in regain (the yo-yo effect) and provides strategies to overcome this challenge, emphasizing the importance of long-term perspectives and sustainable lifestyle changes.

  • Explains what weight loss methods do not work and why. The author highlights the pitfalls and ineffective strategies in the weight loss journey, offering insights into what doesn’t work and providing effective remedies for success.

  • Offers practical tips and tricks. It offers practical tips and tricks for developing new habits, managing willpower, resisting temptation, and making healthy choices, empowering readers to adopt a mindful approach to their eating habits.

  • The book is well-backed with scientific papers and articles.


  • Limited perspective on research. The research, included in the book, is done to a gold standard. This may provide an incomplete picture especially when considering the fact that weight loss is a very unique and sensitive process.

  • Some recommendations might be harmful, especially for sensitive individuals. The books tend to give advice that may have a toxic effect on some people. For instance, it recommends daily weighing which can be harmful and lead to stress or cause eating disorders. The recommendation: “If we eat two chicken legs, we’d better get out on our own two legs and run an extra three miles that day just to outrun the calories,” is also questionable.

Best quotes from ‘How Not to Diet’

”When people stopped eating between 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. for two weeks, they lost about a pound each week compared to no time restriction. Note that no additional instructions or recommendations were given on the amount or type of food consumed. There were no gadgets, calorie counting, or record keeping. They were just told to limit their food intakes to the hours of 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.” 
”One of the most important medical discoveries in recent years was the realization that inflammation appears to play a role in many of our chronic diseases, including at least eight of our top ten leading causes of death.” 
”…sleep deprivation tends to lead people to overeat by about 180–560 calories a day.”

Final takeaway

How Not to Diet’ by Dr. Michael Greger offers a comprehensive and science-backed approach to weight loss that goes beyond fad diets and quick fixes. This timeless and proactive guide provides practical strategies, emphasizing the importance of a whole food plant-based diet, optimising overall health, forming sustainable habits, and making informed choices.

How Not to Diet’ is a valuable resource for anyone seeking evidence-based insights and long-term success in their weight-loss journey free from dieting.

Where to buy

You may purchase ‘How Not to Diet’ on Amazon at the best price. It is available in Kindle and paperback, hardcover and audio versions, so you are free to choose the format that suits you best.

Healthypedia FAQ

Yes, ‘How Not to Diet’ is heavily grounded in scientific research. Dr. Greger is known for his evidence-based approach, and the book is supported by a wide range of scientific papers and articles. Readers can trust that the recommendations and strategies presented are rooted in scientific studies and validated findings in the field of nutrition and weight loss.

Absolutely. One of the strengths of the book is its focus on long-term weight loss and sustainable lifestyle changes. Dr. Greger addresses the common issue of weight regain (the jojo effect) and offers strategies to overcome it. Readers will find practical tips and tricks for developing new habits, managing willpower, resisting temptation, and making healthy choices, all aimed at helping individuals maintain their weight loss results.

Yes, ‘How Not to Diet’ is suitable for individuals following various dietary preferences, including vegans, vegetarians, and those who consume animal products. While the book emphasizes the benefits of a whole food plant-based diet, it also provides valuable insights and strategies that can be applied to different dietary choices.

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