The Power of Stories in the World of Nutrition

The video explores the influence of best-selling authors in the field of nutrition and weight loss in America. The journalist analyzes various authors and their books, categorizing them based on their background and message. The video highlights the power of storytelling in attracting and engaging readers, as well as the emotional response it evokes. The journalist also raises questions about the impact of these books on public opinion, the choice of diets, and the importance of evidence-based science. The video concludes by emphasizing the significance of storytelling and its potential for both positive and negative effects.

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Key Insights:

  • Americans are obsessed with nutrition and weight loss books but struggle with staying slim and healthy.
  • The best wisdom regarding food can be reduced to seven words: „Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.“
  • Some popular authors promote plant-based diets, while others emphasize low-carb or ketogenic diets.
  • Saturated fats and red meat are controversial topics, with differing opinions among authors and experts.
  • The Mediterranean diet is widely regarded as the most respected diet among nutrition scientists.
  • The way a story is told can have a significant impact on the message’s influence.
  • Scientists and doctors have different perspectives on nutrition, leading to a range of dietary recommendations.
  • Best-selling authors often make promises and create suspense in their books to engage readers.
  • The books that sell the most often have a strong emotional component that resonates with the audience.
  • Personal stories and narratives can be powerful tools for conveying information and influencing public opinion.
  • Non-fiction writers, including doctors and scientists, can play a significant role in shaping public perceptions of nutrition.
  • Consumers should be critical of the references and claims made by popular authors, as some may misrepresent scientific studies.
  • There is a significant financial incentive for authors who promote specific dietary plans, often through supplement sales.
  • The success of a book is not solely based on scientific credibility but also on storytelling, promises, and emotional appeal.
  • Public opinion tends to be influenced more by compelling stories than evidence-based science.
  • Improving science communication and storytelling skills can enhance the impact of scientific research.


Suppose you’re American and you decide to lose weight and get healthy. Awesome! We Americans are really good at some things, like building telescopes in space. But unfortunately, we haven’t cracked the code on staying slim, keeping healthcare costs down, or living long. However, we do dominate the market for nutrition and weight loss books. Let’s see if our best-selling authors now provide a clear and consistent message we can all rally around to solve our problem.

I have written about agriculture, nutrition, cooking, and this is everything I know about food. The best wisdom we have can be reduced to seven words: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

I’m Dr. Ken Berry, a family physician. Well, I’ve been virtually plant-free in my diet for the last three and a half years, emphasizing basically plant-source types of fat. Essentially, if you can pour it, it’s going to be a healthy type of fat, as long as we haven’t partially hydrogenated it. Remember, oils are rancid products. They oxidize really easily. They go rancid and bad. They don’t have no shelf life stability. And then the cornerstone of every longevity diet in the world is beans. If you’re eating about a cup of beans a day, it’s probably worth about four extra years of life expectancy. So the lectins, particularly in kidney beans, are so mischievous in making red blood cells clump. It was a saturated fat. At least they’re not rushed. In many of my colleagues‘ research, it’s the combination of these fats, especially in combination with too much copper, iron, and zinc, that is really harmful to the brain. Next, let’s talk about saturated fat. Well, I could write a whole book on that. In fact, I kind of almost did, called „Eat Fat, Get Thin.“ And how we got to the view that saturated fat was bad, and why it’s not the boogeyman anymore. And they say red meat is bad. Well, actually, red meat probably is bad. So why do we believe that red meat causes colon cancer? I’ll tell you why. The 2015 IARC (International Association for Research on Cancer) , which is a WHO working group, that is where most of our misconceptions regarding red meat and cancer come from. The people who consume between one and two cups of dark leafy greens every day have brains that perform up to 11 years younger. The whole produce department is a human invention, an attempt to make plants edible. If you are an American, so the odds are stacked against you, and you don’t have a strong science background or the time to sort out this mess. How is it even possible to decide who to trust? I sometimes wonder if we wouldn’t have less of a problem if we weren’t so obsessed by the latest diet trends.

I have had an unnatural fascination with nutrition books, so somehow I’ve read over 200 of them over the past few decades. Some date back centuries, and one was published last week with the help of Google Translate. I read a book from a Japanese nutrition professor who was sharp until he died at 105. I also read a book from his Chinese counterpart who was sharp until he died at 110. This is just the tip of the iceberg for my book problem because only so many would fit on this table, and most of them are on Kindle or audio when I’m running or biking or doing chores. I almost always have a book playing in my ears.

Tony and I also started a technical bookstore in our garage in the early days of the internet, which grew to 100 billion in sales in four years, went public on the NASDAQ, and was bought by Barnes and Noble when they were riding high. So I think I know a few things about what makes non-fiction books sell. But of all genres, how did I get so fascinated with nutrition books? For one thing, I find the question of how we came to our beliefs so fascinating. And how did we become so convinced that that other idiot on the internet is wrong? And for another, so much is at stake with nutrition. Obscene healthcare costs we can’t afford, and so much sorrow when nutrition goes badly, and so much happiness when it goes well.

So I made a spreadsheet of the most influential and best-selling authors of recent decades. Sudden change in venue. I’m at the hospital, and my daughter’s about to have a baby on New Year’s Eve. Whoa, she’s a New Year’s baby, first baby born of the New Year in the hospital. Okay, we were talking about my spreadsheet because I was curious as to what patterns would emerge. Do doctors sell more books than celebrities and internet influencers? How about scientists? I made columns for the background of the author, their scientific stature, if any, the main message ratings on Amazon, sales when I could get them, whether they made the New York Times bestseller list, what the author stood to gain, and even whether any of the authors had descended into conspiracy territory, as I believe a few have. You’re probably wondering how I judged their scientific stature. If they were a journalist or an internet influencer without a scientific degree, I gave them a low. If they were a doctor, I automatically gave them a medium, unless they were involved in scientific studies and published papers. And then I gave them a high. If they were a scientist actually doing science and publishing well-cited publications, then I gave them a high. Otherwise, I gave them a medium, and that’s what I would give myself. It’s fascinating to see what patterns emerge, but before we get to that, we should see what best-selling authors and publishers know about what makes a non-fiction book sell.

Here are two awesome books about that. For example, in every thriller, the protagonist must be at the complete mercy of the villain at some point in the story. Think of Indiana Jones. Also, to completely win over an audience, the protagonist must be willing to give up everything for the cause. Think of Matt Damon giving up his career for his kids in the movie „We Bought a Zoo“. Oh, you don’t think those storylines apply to nutrition books? We’ll see about that.

Diet and nutrition books are often considered self-help books, and the part I really don’t understand is, if you’re looking for self-help, why would you read a book written by somebody else? That’s not self-help, that’s hell. And one of the keys to self-help books is the promise. And the second thing even a non-fiction book needs is suspense. As a professional book editor, my job is to help writers strengthen their stories. Actually, most narratives of any kind, fiction or non-fiction, use suspense to engage the reader. So this really is a key element of any type of narrative.

For example, here are two unlikely bestsellers with strong promises and a sense of suspense right on their covers. Scientists are notoriously weak storytellers, with a few exceptions. So they come out with covers like this. That’s from arguably one of the most credible sinus in my spreadsheet, and gets great reviews from other scientists for how airtight its references are. But it didn’t sell well. That’s a promise used by many bestsellers, past by credible scientists, that didn’t sell well either. And there’s no suspense because I could tell from the cover, you want me to eat broccoli. Same with Walter Willett’s book. Weak promise, low suspense.

If you are a liberal arts major with no nutritional science background, you can still have a bestseller in America if you make extraordinary promises. Tim Ferriss’s book makes promises like „reach your genetic potential in six months,“ „sleep two hours per day and perform better,“ „lose more fat than a marathoner by binging.“ Bestseller!

I wonder how many Americans found out sleeping two hours per night and binging didn’t work for them and moved on to the next book with big promises. Although scientists can’t write books like that without destroying their reputation, they can get on the bestseller list if they made genuine discoveries, like Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn made with telomeres or brain scientist Lisa Mosconi did with how menopause increases Alzheimer’s risk. They both worked with co-authors, which usually helps scientists who are usually storytelling impaired. A great example of what a co-author can do is for the multimillion book seller „How Not to Die“. Co-author Gene Stone has a bachelor’s in English from Stanford, a master’s from Harvard, was an editor for Esquire and Simon & Schuster, and the force behind many New York Times number one bestsellers. How they constructed that book reminds me of how another great storyteller who I used to work for, Steve Jobs, constructed Apple stores. Steve hired Ron Johnson from Target to help design the stores. The initial thought was to design the stores around products so Macs and iPhones would have their own sections, a traditional design. But Ron suggested they organize them around the problems customers wanted to solve, so the same products may appear in several sections of the store. This story the store tells to customers as they walk in the store is, „We know what you’re interested in, and here’s everything you need for that.“ The book „How Not to Die“ is organized around our leading diseases, with a chapter for each. The story it tells is, „We know it concerns you: losing your mind, getting a heart attack, and here’s what you can eat for those.“ The same foods appear across many diseases, which brings up another mystery book. How did „The China Study“ become a multimillion book seller and stay on the Amazon top 200 list for almost a decade? It’s a vegan book, and only 3% of Americans are vegans. And from a minor publisher with no promotional budget and some pretty heavy science. To understand that is to understand what makes great non-fiction. Who better to explain that than Rachel Aviv, the celebrated non-fiction journalist for The New Yorker?

When I’m looking for a story, I try to make sure that I have two strands that intersect. The first is that I want to make sure I’m writing about an issue that has some social or political or cultural significance and relevance. But that on its own is usually not enough. In order to explore that issue or theme or trend or dilemma, I also need a second strand, which is a character who can act as a kind of through line, a guide who allows readers to care about a particular trend. For me, picking this guide or this character is one of the most important parts of writing the story. I found that is often the difference between writing a story that someone will read and writing a story that someone won’t read.

„The China Study“ is told with Sinus Colin Campbell as the protagonist. It’s the story of his adventure of discovery, his struggles with politics, and the mean people who tried to thwart him. Here’s what experts in non-fiction often say: „So the answer is to bring yourself and your story into the book, even if it is a non-fiction book on a topic that’s meant to be quite serious. When you heart, bring your life. Dr. Bernstein did that masterfully with his low-carb, high-meat diet books for type 1 diabetics and became a legend. Dr. Balsamic did it for his bestseller „Fiber Fueled.“ Who knew that a guy who does colonoscopies for a living could write a bestseller? Building an honest narrative around human stories is called creative nonfiction, and the name of one of its godfathers is spelled „Gutkind.“ His name would be amazing for a gut health book. And you can’t make this stuff up. As a complete guide to every aspect of creative nonfiction, the traditional writer will just talk to you and tell you things. And the fiction writer will tell you lots of stories, but those stories could be made up or exaggerated. But when you write creative nonfiction, you are promising the reader that you’re going to entertain them cinematically with stories, but promising the reader at the same time that whatever you say is going to be accurate and true. The trouble with creative nonfiction is when the characters aren’t heroic or evil enough, authors sometimes dramatize it into a work of semi-nonfiction.

My co-workers from my Steve Jobs years were profiled in a movie about Steve written by Aaron Sorkin. They said Aaron could not resist embellishments, so they said it was no longer the Steve they knew when the film came out. I agreed, and that exactly explains the influential bestsellers from Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz. Both authors are very talented, very well-trained journalists, and great storytellers. They have one of the most powerful promises you can have in beef-obsessed America: meat and butter can be part of a healthy diet. And the suspense is over the top: how can that be after all we’ve been told are sinus incompetent or they evil? Great stories like this require a great villain, so they chose to semi-fictionalize the most influential nutrition scientist of all time. And he was easily the most influential nutrition scientist in the history of nutrition science. They said he was all the things we love tо hate: a bully. He was called arrogant and a bully, even by his friends. Dishonest. Keys did a lot of, you know, there’s hardly a better word for it than kind of saying fudging the data, incompetent. I literally got off the phone with this guy, and I called my editor at science, and I said, you know, this is clearly one of the worst scientists—there’s no other word for it—I said, one of the worst scientists I’ve ever interviewed. I don’t know what the story is, but I’m going to pursue it because if this guy was involved in any substantial way, I know there’s a story there.

Oh, look, grandkids, and they all want me to play tag. Why aren’t you dressed warmer? And I forgot it.

Oh, and they implied he catalyzed the low-fat craze in America and made us all fat. It started with Ansel Keys getting himself onto the nutrition panel at the American Heart Association in 1961. The problem they had is, it is an obvious fiction because he popularized the Mediterranean diet, which is not low-fat. And right on the cover of his best-selling book is olive oil, fish, and cheese, none of which are low-fat. But the great advantage they had is he has long gone, and his best-selling book is long out of print. Who would even know about it anymore, much less read it? Just me and nutrition scientists, unfortunately.

I’m very familiar with books like this because before I moved to Silicon Valley to work in tech in 1990, when no less of a figure than the head of NASA Goddard Space Studies Institute testified to Congress in 1988 about the greenhouse effect, which he understood better than anyone because he figured out that’s why Venus was so hot, we are scientists‘ thought, „Awesome! Now the public will finally know what we know.“ What do I know that would cause me, a reticent Midwestern scientist, to get myself arrested in front of the White House protesting? And what would you do if you knew what I know? But the Koch brothers, Rupert Murdoch, and Exxon flooded the zone with PR, and semi-nonfiction books were part of the strategy. David, after Dr. Hansen, the scientist who had testified to Congress, over the next three decades, NASA and science lost, the Koch brothers and Exxon won, and science took a big hit to its reputation among the public. Thirty-five years later, my perception is more people are seeing the fires and floods and thinking, „Hmm, perhaps it really is true that all disaster movies begin with someone ignoring a scientist.“ Dr. Hansen’s testimony has stood the test of time, and I’m not aware of any legit climate scientists who discount him like the internet does, nor have they ever.

Nina and Gary have very convincing ways to make people believe their books are factual. They flood the zone with old, obscure references that are very hard to fact check, and they misrepresent them. For example, Gary often references Hilda Brook. He wrote the 1957 book „The Importance of Overweight“. Try to find that at a rare bookseller or scan a copy anywhere. But I know one person who has a copy: me. And it doesn’t say what Gary says it does. Nor do many of his or Nina’s references. You don’t have to believe me about their references. Seth Yoder, who has a master’s degree in nutrition science, posted exhaustive reference checks. Nutrition professor Marion Nestle, who is very reliable, blogged about it. Darius Mozafarian, the dean of Tufts School of Nutrition, tweeted about it. The people who actually worked for Ansel Keys for decades called Nina’s references out in The Lancet. So Gary and Nina pretty much won among consumers, pretty much wrecking the reputation of the world’s most prominent nutrition scientist and shaking the faith of the American public in nutrition science overall. But Ancel Keys won among nutrition scientists, and the dietary pattern that he recommended, the Mediterranean diet, has become the most respected diet among them.

I’ll get to what I think Gary and Nina’s motivation may have been, but first the story of the phenomenal bestseller „The Obesity Code“ is quite fascinating. This episode is about the American book market, and Dr. Fung is Canadian, but his books are very popular in America. Nutrition scientists often point to the Canadian food guide as less influenced by lobbyists and more akin to the guides of the Nordic countries and Japan, where men live more than four years longer than American men with half the healthcare costs. Like in Canada, „The Obesity Code“ illustrates how doctors often speak to the public differently than scientists generally do. For one thing, doctors often speak with a great deal of certainty. Heart disease is an absolutely toothless paper tiger that need never, ever exist. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you have a leaky gut. Scientists are often more reserved and generally speak in terms of probability and risk.

And what we do see is about 50% lower risk of colorectal cancer for women with higher blood vitamin D levels. We’re not 100% sure that that’s cause and effect, as doctors know because they interact with patients every day. Patients generally like a confident demeanor. The scientists in my spreadsheet seem more inclined to focus on one area, like brain science. Dr. Fung, on the other hand, has books on fasting, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. At a pretty young age, many consumers seem to take that as a sign that he’s brilliant. Many scientists, however, tend to think, „Really? He’s a kidney disease physician, and he’s a world authority on cancer, diabetes, and obesity? Is that really possible?“

What I think sells Dr. Fung’s books is he’s adapted the storyline of Gary and Nina, but he has the authority and confidence of an MD. For example, here’s what he says about Ancel Keys: „So they said, ‚Oh my God, why are Americans having heart attacks? Must be the dietary fat, right?‘ Because it can’t be the cigarettes.“ The guy who really pushed that was a guy named Ancel Keys, who is a very, very prominent nutritionist. He didn’t actually look at every country that he had data on. He actually just took the seven countries that best fit the line and sort of stuck them there. So if you look at all 22 countries that he had data on, it was a much less tight correlation, so he sort of cherry-picked the data to make his point look better. And just like that, he dismisses the most influential nutrition scientist of all time and continues on with a firehose of quick references like that.

If you’re familiar with the studies he cites, you die each time he glosses over one like this without understanding it. For example, this 22-country chart comes from an obscure 1957 paper that relies on United Nations food data, and the authors describe it as subject to severe limitations, especially in countries like France, Mexico, and what’s now called Sri Lanka. The authors guessed it must have to do with how data is reported differently in different countries. If Ancel Keys had relied on that data instead of launching a 50-year study to collect reliable data with blood samples and assays of actual food eaten, I would have lost respect for Ancel. But suppose for a minute that Jason is right and that data was reliable enough to be useful. Then you have to accept what the data so clearly shows in that paper: that increases in animal food consumption cause a very sharp rise in mortality. I have Jason’s recipe book, and it has many recipes with bacon and sausage. So he clearly does not actually believe that data is reliable.

I think the reason Jason doesn’t show that graph is he’s simply doing what a thousand other people have done before him: simply quoting Gary Taubes without reading the paper. Gary was simply doing what Gary does: finding old, obscure references and misrepresenting them.

Which brings up another key to influential books: if they can make the bestseller list, they get special fairy dust, which I think explains why so many smart people will just accept Gary’s references without checking them and use them in their own books and speeches, for example. Here’s Duke professor Eric Westman, himself a bestselling author: „One is the Banting diet book from 1863. That was the first diet book ever. It was a low-carb diet, the Banting diet.“ That’s an old, obscure 14-page pamphlet written by an undertaker whose only knowledge of nutrition is that his ear doctor advised him to avoid bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer, and potatoes. Gary eliminated the reference to butter and called it a low-carb diet, even though toasted bread and fruit were on the menu. Dr. Westman is just repeating what Gary says about it. And there were hundreds of diet and nutrition books before that written by actual doctors. Here’s one of my favorites, first published in 1653. The issues of the day were whether fish is healthier than meat, wild game healthier than tame, and orchard fruit healthier than garden fruit.

Even Banting said his advice was as old as the hills. To be fair to Jason Fung, „The Obesity Code“ does have some really good stuff in there about intermittent fasting, and it encourages everyone to eliminate processed carbohydrate foods. Although his recipes do include a lot of processed meats. It does have the same through line as Gary has in his books: being overweight is not your fault, the experts got it wrong. He’s emphatic that reducing calories does not work, although he’s all for time-restricted feeding.

All my wild hats were stolen by shameless thieves. „The Obesity Code“ has a fascinating backstory. The same year it was published, Jason co-authored a book about fasting that was immensely popular with Jimmy Moore. Jimmy was a super popular podcaster in the day who had written a best-selling book about the keto diet two years before. Jimmy has a big personality and a great backstory about losing 180 pounds in a year on the Atkins diet. Jimmy kept podcasting and writing popular books like „The Ketogenic Cookbook“. But if you’ve watched my previous episodes, you know I’ve presented several studies showing keto diets are phenomenal for losing weight in a year but don’t do well for most people long-term. So I checked on Jimmy because he’s doing all the things: keto, intermittent fasting, ice baths. And here’s his recent message: „Quite frankly, I’ve been disappointed. If I’m being truly honest, which I always am, I’m disappointed that I’m doing all of these things on a consistent basis 100 days in a row and I have not seen more physical results. As hard as I’m working for this sustained period that I did see, I’m surprised it didn’t continue in that trajectory.“ Jason is adamant in his book that if you’re overweight, it’s not your fault, it’s the experts who misled you. But he is the expert for Jimmy.

Jimmy reminds me of another podcaster who lost even more weight, Chuck Carroll. But he landed on a plant-based message by another bestselling author, Dr. Barnard. But I’m sitting across from Dr. Barnard right now, and my heaviest, I was 420 pounds, and I’m 5’6″ on a good day.

If by this point in the episode you’re thinking, „Wait, what’s more important, the way the book is written or the message?“ In nutrition, I heard that Robert Redford said story is more powerful than acting or cinematography in an independent film. And here’s what he said about the most powerful elements of story. „To me, it’s all about story. It’s like it was evidence in the Deep Throat scene, but Deep Throat kept trying to say to Woodward, ‚Find the story.‘ The first step is what’s the story? One of the characters that embody the story, and the third and most important is where’s the emotion. So it has to have those three steps: what’s the story, one of the characters that embody the story, and then where’s the emotion. If it doesn’t have all three, then I probably would not be attracted to it.“

Which brings up question number two: if you’re an American and you’re caught in this swirl of advice from doctors and the internet, each claiming one diet is superior to the others, how do people end up choosing one over the other and get so emotional about it? I think it’s the story and how it resonates with you. If you’re a man, you’re much more likely to be drawn to appeals to masculinity and steak. If you’re a woman, you’re much more likely to be drawn to a story that involves empathy and veggies. These stories have the characters and emotions that Robert Redford said were so powerful.

Although, if you called the Greta Thunberg helpline, if you’re a grown adult who needs to yell at a child for some reason, the Greta Thunberg helpline is here to tolerate you. So before you go full capslock in an article comment section, let our expert counselors assess your situation. We’ll listen, no matter how ridiculous you sound.

Most of my sinus friends believe that simple evidence-based science wins in the end. Is that true? I say I don’t think that’s evidence-based. I think powerful storytellers like Gary and Nina have far more influence over public opinion than almost any scientist I can think of, at least in America. And that brings me to the time a great scientist schooled me, and I ran outside and burst into tears. It was here at Stanford, and it was my first day as a graduate student. I was so nervous to meet my new advisor. In that office, my hands were cold. He was one of the greatest scientists of this generation and the dean of Earth Sciences. That’s the dean’s office. So I put my young son on my shoulders to calm myself and hopefully to disarm Dr. Cox with cuteness overload. He pulled out my file and asked a question. And I could feel myself die a little inside. Chris, you did so well on your entrance exams and anything quantitative. Why did you only score in the 33rd percentile in writing? I nervously tried to laugh it off and said, „I don’t do English sentences. I do equations. That’s why I went into science. I never want to take another English class as long as I live.“ He set my file down and said, „That’s the wrong answer. In order to become a great scientist, which is what you’ve come here to become, you must become a great writer.“ He said, „What good is great science if no one knows about it?“ I’m going to grade your master’s thesis, and if it’s not good writing, I won’t pass you. He must have known I was starting to fight back tears. I thought I could never become a great writer and that I could never tell him why. You can watch my TEDx talk if you really want to know. Outside, I burst into tears and walked around campus for probably an hour crying. With Don on my shoulders, poor kid. I finally decided I had to get over myself, and so I carved out at least an hour a day to do what I detested in the beginning, which was to learn how to write nonfiction. I read everything I could get my hands on from the three nonfiction writers I admired most: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Mark Twain, and thankfully Dr. Cox noticed. When Stanford held a banquet for one of its largest donors, they lined up a who’s who of speakers from the president of the university to the secretary of state, and they wanted a student to be the concluding speaker, and they chose me. I think Dr. Cox put them up to it. The traditional thing would have been to talk about how Stanford has great professors, blah, blah, blah, but I told the story of growing up on the streets with my mentally ill mom. She had a master’s in biochem from Cornell and said her greatest wish was for me to get a master’s from a great university. It was an impossible dream given our situation. I told the audience, „I could never have been there were not for donors who provided scholarships to people like me and for a university with an admissions policy that allowed for some A-F students, which I had been.“ 12 years later, I thought of Alan Cox when Steve Jobs asked me to help with his keynotes. Steve could not understand why other CEOs did not obsess over storytelling like he did. You can’t imagine the effort he put into his appearances, but his investment paid off, and he changed the world. Alan Cox sat in stunned silence. I gave that talk because I don’t think he had any idea, because I didn’t tell anybody, because it was just too humiliating. But wow, that talk opened up opportunities for us and changed our lives. Tragically, for Americans concerned about health, some of the power of stories has gone to the dark side. So the next time you get interested in cancer and wonder if a kidney disease doctor has really brought us a revolutionary new understanding of a medical mystery in his spare time, claiming scientists are wrong and bacon and sausage will help prevent it, consider if that story could have some fictional elements to work your emotions. You could instead choose a book from a real scientist who is devoted to cancer. He doesn’t have the powerful story Jason has, unless you consider optimizing your chances against cancer a powerful story. One thing I learned writing a book about pop culture hits and entertainment is that stories are weapons for good or ill. Which of your stories make people laugh, i.e. create endorphins, which makes people feel empathy, i.e. oxytocin? And the next time you go into a meeting, you’ve picked the story you want to release the hormone you wish in the person that you’re talking to, to get exactly the desired effects that you want. And that’s a beautiful thing.