Book Review: Always Hungry by David Ludwig

always hungryIn general, I’m not a big fan of diet books. Even the best ones tend to be larded with hype and gimmickry. Basic nutrition principles are embellished into elaborate metabolic wizardry. Simple guidelines are obscured by unnecessarily complicated schedules, lists, programs, and templates.

Otherwise, how would you fill 300 pages? Because the basic tenets of any decent dietary philosophy can be communicated in a few paragraphs.  (Or as few as 7 words.)


But if you need a little more structure (and mythology) to get you motivated and keep you on track, the program outlined in David Ludwig’s new book Always Hungry is not a bad choice.

You eat lots of fresh, whole foods. (Fair warning: You’ll also do a lot of shopping and cooking but that’s what it takes to eat lots of fresh whole foods.)

You’ll be eating about 1600 calories a day, which should allow most people to lose 1-2 pounds a week. And you’ll be cutting calories by limiting your intake of refined carbohydrates instead of reducing fat, which should make the whole thing less painful. In fact, that’s the approach I usually recommend.

In fact, for all the talk of “rewriting the rules on weight loss,” it doesn’t seem to me there’s anything terribly new about the underlying principle here. It’s essentially the same argument that Gary Taubes made in Good Calories Bad Calories back in 2008: Excess calories don’t make you fat, excess insulin makes you fat. Or in Ludwig’s words: Overeating doesn’t make you fat, getting fat makes you overeat.

The effect of insulin on fat storage, appetite, and weight is a valid and important insight. But, as I discussed most recently here, I don’t believe it’s the whole story.

Although Ludwig claims that his program will “retrain your fat cells” I think your success with his program will depend even more on the degree to which you can retrain your brain to new eating habits. Fortunately, most of the book is devoted to the behavioral program: preparing your environment, learning to eat more mindfully, reducing stress, and improving sleep, along with recipes, meal plans, shopping lists, and tracking sheets to help you develop new habits.

As for the promise that you will never be hungry and will quickly lose all desire for sweets and baked goods, I’d take that with a grain of salt. I think you’ll probably be less hungry on this plan than one with the same number of calories but lower in fat and higher in sugar. But I don’t think that this plan inoculates you against over-eating.

And, apparently, neither does Ludwig. Although he stresses that no calorie counting or portion control is necessary, I can’t help but notice that the meal plans include precise portions: 1 tablespoon of salad dressing, 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese or sour cream, 5 tablespoons of guacamole, and so on.  If you stick to the plan, you’ll enjoy lots of high-fat foods. But this is not a free-for-all.  Long term success will require long term mindfulness and restraint.

Ludwig offers his own personal experience as a testimonial along with the results of a “pilot study,” in which a couple hundred of his patients followed the program, lost weight, felt great, and had generally positive outcomes. I don’t doubt it! And to the extent that they (or you) can translate this program into a sustainable lifestyle change, I think it’s a great way to eat–and be–healthy.

See also: How to Lose Weight Without Dieting


9 thoughts on “Book Review: Always Hungry by David Ludwig

  1. Thanks for posting that link, Ben. I think a lot of Guyenet’s work (and his civility) and I think it has prompted a very enlightening discussion.

    I still think that environmental influences (ubiquity of high calorie palatable foods, normalization of oversized portions and near constant eating opportunities) are under-represented in this discussion of physiological mechanisms, something I tried to tackle here: and which comes up again in this week’s podcast episode, which will be live in a couple of days.

  2. My first question is “have you actually tried Dr Ludwig’s Always Hungry diet plan”?

    My personal experience is that my hunger has essentially vanished since starting to follow his recommendations several months ago. I have modified the diet to eliminate the specific foods that I know do not agree with me (specifically cow dairy and gluten containing foods) and am delighted with my results. I do not need to “snack” all day like I have felt the need to do on other eating plans. My weight has come down somewhat at this point and I am NOT spending all my time shopping and cooking as you post suggests. I find that Dr Ludwig’s plan is quite easy to stick to, modifiable for known food allergens/sensitivities (given a bit of research) and completely workable. I suggest that you try it before you dismiss it.

    1. That’s great that you have found it to be so effective. I’m glad you tried it and that it’s working for you.

    2. Numerous comments… she didn’t dismiss the diet nor did she say you’d spend all your time shopping and cooking. You should reread her comments and let them sink in…

  3. Questions I need to ask that I didn’t see answered. If any of the MD’s know? That whould be awesome. On my 3rd day of phase one. I’n I am eating a lot of food high in fat, It seems that more is going in, that what is coming out. No constipation, just seems like a smaller amount in solid waist than before.
    Also, the B.M. is not the same color as was, it’s much paler than before. Is this normal?

    1. It is very typical to see a dramatic reduction in stool volume with a low carbohydrate diet. Diets high in fat also tend to produce a lighter color stool. So sounds as if what you’re seeing is completely normal.

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