The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David KesslerA review: From Publishers Weekly
Conditioned hypereating is a biological challenge, not a character flaw, says Kessler, former FDA commissioner under presidents Bush and Clinton). Here Kessler (A Question of Intent) describes how, since the 1980s, the food industry, in collusion with the advertising industry, and lifestyle changes have short-circuited the body's self-regulating mechanisms, leaving many at the mercy of reward-driven eating. Through the evidence of research, personal stories (including candid accounts of his own struggles) and examinations of specific foods produced by giant food corporations and restaurant chains, Kessler explains how the desire to eat—as distinct from eating itself—is stimulated in the brain by an almost infinite variety of diabolical combinations of salt, fat and sugar. Although not everyone succumbs, more people of all ages are being set up for a lifetime of food obsession due to the ever-present availability of foods laden with salt, fat and sugar. A gentle though urgent plea for reform, Kessler's book provides a simple food rehab program to fight back against the industry's relentless quest for profits while an entire country of people gain weight and get sick. According to Kessler, persistence is all that is needed to make the perceptual shifts and find new sources of rewards to regain control. (May)
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Kessler surveys the world of modern industrial food production and distribution as reflected in both restaurants and grocery stores. To his chagrin, he finds that the system foists on the American public foods overloaded with fats, sugars, and salt. Each of these elements, consumed in excess, has been linked to serious long-term health problems. Kessler examines iconic foods such as Cinnabon and Big Macs, all of which have skilled marketing machines promoting consumption. Such nutritionally unbalanced foods propel people who already tend to eat more than mere physical need might otherwise warrant into uncontrolled behavior patterns of irrational eating. These persistent psychological and sensory stimuli lead to what Kessler terms “conditioned hypereating,” which he believes is a disease rather than a failure of willpower. There is hope, however. Kessler identifies the cues that lead to overeating and offers some simple, practical tools to help control one’s impulses. --Mark Knoblauch
This is a well-written, easily understandable, interesting book on the very serious subject of overeating. The book is broken into six parts with relatively small chapters ranging in size from approximately three pages to eleven pages in length with many in the four to seven page range. The first part, for example, has 13 chapters so there is much information but it is presented in a way which flows well together.
When I got this book I was interested in the subject matter but I was worried that the book would be boring or so technical that I would lose interest. I read this book in two days and it has changed my approach to eating.
Part One of the book, Sugar, Fat, Salt, talks about why people eat and overeat. It looks at the physical as well as psychological aspects of overeating.
Part Two of the book (my favorite), The Food Industry, gives specific examples of how restaurants and the food industry contribute to the problem by creating food that people want to eat but is not healthy. For instance I never new that bread had so much salt because it takes away the bitter taste of the flour and brings up the flavor. The author also addresses how nutrition information on packaging is manipulated by the food industry. For instance if a food contains more sugar than any other ingredient it must go first on the list but if you use a number of sources of sugar like brown sugar, corn syrup and fructose each is listed individually and goes lower on the list.
Part Three, Conditioned Hypereating Emerges, talks about how we get trapped into an overeating pattern. It references numerous studies and explores whether overeating is nature, nurture or both.
Part Four, The Theory of Treatment, talks about theoretical ways people can break the overeating habit.
Part Five, Food Rehab, offers practical ways individuals can stop overeating. The advice is great.
Part Six, The End Of Overeating, talks about the challenges ahead to end overeating. While it will not be easy, each individual has the power to end his or her overeating despite roadblocks created by the food industry or our own physical or mental makeup.
This is a great book that has started me thinking differently about food. It is well written and the best on the subject I have ever read.