Sunday, March 31, 2013

Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss

book cover
Salt Sugar Fat:
How the Food Giants Hooked Us
by Michael Moss

ISBN-13: 9781400069804
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Random House
Released: February 26, 2013

Source: eBook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
From a Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter at The New York Times comes the explosive story of the rise of the processed food industry and its link to the emerging obesity epidemic. Michael Moss reveals how companies use salt, sugar, and fat to addict us and, more important, how we can fight back.

Every year, the average American eats thirty-three pounds of cheese (triple what we ate in 1970) and seventy pounds of sugar (about twenty-two teaspoons a day). We ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt a day, double the recommended amount, and almost none of that comes from the shakers on our table. It comes from processed food. It’s no wonder, then, that one in three adults, and one in five kids, is clinically obese.

In Salt Sugar Fat, Michael Moss shows how we got here. Featuring examples from some of the most recognizable (and profitable) companies and brands of the last half century--including Kraft, Coca-Cola, Lunchables, Kellogg, NestlĂ©, Oreos, Cargill, Capri Sun, and many more--Moss’s narrative is grounded in meticulous, often eye-opening research.

Moss takes us inside the labs where food scientists use cutting-edge technology to calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages or enhance the “mouthfeel” of fat by manipulating its chemical structure. He unearths marketing campaigns designed to redirect concerns about the health risks of their products: Dial back on one ingredient, pump up the other two, and tout the new line as “fat-free” or “low-salt.” You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.

My Review:
Salt Sugar Fat is a food history of how processed food is made and marketed. It included interviews with the people that developed these products and information on the science behind processed food. The book is highly readable, and I found it extremely interesting.

The overall focus of the three main sections was sugar, fat, and salt. Within each section, we learned about studies done on how these ingredients effect us, on what forms we most enjoy consuming, on consumption patterns (what is our "bliss point" for sugar, and do we consume more fat if the food doesn't look fatty), and on how this has effect the nation's health. We learned how various products were first developed and the marketing strategies that lead to the success of instant pudding, processed cheese, Coca-Cola, Kool-Aid, Lunchables, and many other convenience foods.

I thought I was a good food label reader, but I learned that some healthy-sounding ingredients actually aren't--they're simply used to trick health-conscious consumers into buying their product. I learned that the food companies will slowly change the ingredients in a product without telling people, so you need to read the labels of foods that you buy regularly.

There's a lot of useful and enlightening information in this book, and I'd highly recommend it.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Cat Whisperer by Mieshelle Nagelschneider

book cover
The Cat Whisperer
by Mieshelle Nagelschneider

ISBN-13: 9780553807851
Hardcover: 254 pages
Publisher: Bantam
Released: March 5, 2013

Source: eBook Advanced Reader Copy review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Cat behaviorist Mieshelle Nagelschneider provides practical and effective strategies for solving feline behavior problems, from litter box issues to scratching, spraying, biting, and beyond. Central to her approach is an understanding of the unique way cats see the world--their need for safety and security, their acute territoriality, and their desire to catch and kill prey.

Her proven C.A.T. cat behavior modification plan is a commonsense course of action that can be specifically tailored to your cat in the context of its behavior problems and its particular household environment. You’ll discover how to harness the power of “friendly pheromones," how to create a litter box environment that will solve many problems, and how to end aggression in multiple-cat households.

My Review:
The Cat Whisperer is a reference book on solving a variety of common cat behavioral problems. While the instructions were easy enough to understand, I was surprised by how long it took me to completely read through this 254 page book.

The first 68 pages were mostly the author's credentials (why you should believe that she knows what she's talking about), talking about what she thinks is wrong with the system, and speculation about the motives and minds of cats. She places the blame for cat behavioral problems on humans and talked like cat owners are largely abusive toward their cats. I suspect she'd get faster cooperation from humans if she didn't talk so negatively about them.

She did make a few good points in this first section, though: cats are cats, not dogs, not humans. Cats don't act out of a desire for revenge. Getting angry or hitting them isn't generally going to help and will probably make things worse. Simply removing your attention or presence is far more effective.

Unless you're set on reading the whole book, I'd suggest jumping to chapter 2's "Elements of an Effective C.A.T. plan" and then to chapter 3's "Taming the Wild" and continuing from there. The author became more organized and used a more practical and instructional tone at that point. You can also jump directly to the chapter that talks about the problems you're having. The solutions that she suggests are sometimes quite complicated, other times relatively quick and simple. If you're having a problem, her suggestions would probably be good ones to try.

Of her suggestions, though, I would never try to reduce the confidence of a "confident," bully cat. I doubt the cat is actually confident. I've fixed this problem by building up all of my cat's confidence--in my cats' case, confidence that my attention is not a limited resource. I also made different locations my "focused attention" spots for different cats so they all got attention in places that felt safe to them. They're now relaxed and willing to share me in all locations, though they reserve first rights in their special spots.

Anyway, overall I thought that her advice would be helpful. She covered what types of medical problems might cause various behavioral problems, described a case with the problem, what might be causes of the problem, conventional advice NOT to follow, and how to change the cat's behavior using a C.A.T. format: Cease unwanted behavior, Attract to a wanted behavior or location, and Transform the territory.

The main cat problems and techniques that she covered were: introducing new cats or reintroducing known cats in a way that ensures friendly relations afterward; using friendly pheromones; creating enough territory and resources to reduce conflict over resources (which is a cause of many problems); properly playing with your cat using a prey sequence; cat aggression toward people or other pets; pooping or peeing outside of the litterbox; marking with urine or poop; excessive meowing; destructive scratching of items--no need to "declaw!", unwanted jumping up on counters or tables, overgrooming, wool sucking and chewing, and clicker training basics for cats.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.