The End of Overeating

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler, MD, is a book I would highly recommend. After reading it, you will have a heightened awareness of why we can’t seem to get enough of the foods that are making us fat and killing us.

One of many concepts revealed in the book is that of food palatability. Of course, if food doesn’t taste good, then people aren’t going to purchase it off the shelves, through the drive-through window, or at a restaurant table. Food manufacturers and restaurants strive to find that perfect trifecta of a sugar, fat, and salt to arouse our appetites and make us beg for more.

One quote that particularly hit home was this: “Chemical flavorings are another essential weapon in the arsenal the food industry uses to make food hyperpalatable.” Just look at the snack food aisle and you’ll see the flavor explosions. When referring to the food industry, “processed foods give you more freedom. You can add anything you want. You can turn the right dials to get the right fat, the right sugar, and the right salt.” No wonder, we can’t eat just one Lay’s!

The tricks and traps of the food and restaurant industry are only part of the book. The blame for obesity in America does not lie on the shoulders of the food industry since it does not force us to purchase and eat all the products that we do. A large portion of the book is dedicated to the poor choices and habits Americans have which leads to overeating or “conditioned hypereating.” Kessler discusses cues, priming, and emotion which often lead us to overeat. In changing a habit, a person “must develop a sense of their own capacity for control and recognize that they don’t need to engage in the habitual behavior.” They must also realize that the new behavior will provide as much satisfaction as the old habit.

Kessler relates the following as the some of the foundation of food rehab:

  • Conditioned hypereating (CH) is a biological challenge and not an absence of willpower.
  • CH is chronic, must be managed, and cannot be completely cured.
  • The cue-urge-reward-habit cycle must be broken for success.
  • New learning can stick only when it generates a feeling of satisfaction. We can’t sustain a change in behavior if it leaves us hungry, unhappy, angry, or resentful.
  • Control over eating requires many different components and strategies for behavioral, cognitive, and nutritional areas.
  • Think differently about food, recognizing its value to sustain us and protect us from hunger, and denying it the authority to govern our lives.

This book should be a foundation for your nutrition library, regardless of whether you are teaching and/or practicing the concepts of eating more healthfully and in manageable proportions.