By Chet Yarbrough
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
Written by: John J. Ratey, MD
Narrated by: Walter Dixon
Crash dieting and the brain compete for control of one’s established weight. Doctor John Ratey acknowledges that your first crash diet will undoubtedly help lose weight. However, when weight is regained, the same diet will not be equally successful. The brain automatically triggers weight conservation with a second crash diet because it signals body starvation. The third, fourth; etc. crash diet will be increasingly unsuccessful. Ratey’s point is that weight loss success requires cooperation from the brain. Ratey suggests he key to that cooperation is exercise.
Ratey is not suggesting we become athletes but that some exercise regimen, whether walking, riding a bike, or climbing stairs will offer numerous benefits for weight maintenance, mental function, and psychological health. Ratey does not discount the importance of a healthy diet but food binges, foggy thinking, and states of depression or anxiety can be scientifically ameliorated by exercise. Ratey goes so far as to suggest exercise is medicine for health.
An inference from Ratey’s research is that obsession over body image interferes with human health. As history shows, the svelte image of modern models is a reversal of what was considered beauty in earlier centuries. The substance of health is a combination of proper diet and exercise. In most cases, Ratey implies body weight and health will stabilize with that combination. Ratey acknowledges genetics and medical maladies may interfere with that conclusion.
Part of one’s frustration with Ratey’s conclusion is dependence on what is called a proper diet. It seems with each new study; some approved foods slip to the bottom of the good food pyramid, while some formerly disapproved foods move up the pyramid; i.e. cholate for example.
The overriding value of Ratey’s book is the conclusion that exercise is a key to mood, memory, and learning. Numerous control experiments support Ratey’s argument.
Exercise seems more for the brain than the body. Every day should be an exercise day. Exercise does not have to be a fixed regimen but walking, rather than driving, to the store when it is only three blocks away is a beginning. Replacing TV time with household chores is another form of exercise. Keep moving. Ratey suggests “Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain.”