The End of Overeating – David A. Kessler, MD

This book was assigned to me for a class about community nutrition. I didn’t think much of it while I was picking it up at the library. It looks fairly unsuspecting with the carrots and carrot cake on the front, but there are blurbs throughout the dust jacket that give you a hint that this is different. Comments like: “The groundbreaking book that will change the way you look at food – forever,” and “Instant NYT bestseller,” not to mention the high praise on the back cover from people like Michael Pollan, Alice Waters and Anthony Bourdain along with several MDs. I had anticipated reading this and quickly moving on to the next assigned reading, which is almost what I will be doing. This book indeed has changed the way I think about food. Within two chapters of this book I was reading to swear off fast food and even processed snacks at the grocery store, move out to the country and grow my own wheat. This book brought about a lot of emotions – disbelief, anger, disappointment and hope to name a few. I was in disbelief (though if we are being honest I knew I was simply in denial) of the sugar/salt/fat quantity in readily available products. I was angry and disappointed that businesses could and would be so unethical as to make profits hand over foot instead of thinking about the consumers… Mainly if companies continue on this path they will kill everyone and will no longer have anyone to buy their product. I also found hope in this book, in a strange way I guess. Hope that maybe possibly people will wake up… Really wake up to what is going on. That their convenience is only convenient for so long. At some point it becomes a burden to them, their families and to society.

Because not everyone is up for reading 250+ pages of this kind of book I will pass along the big points from the author… These should get you thinking.

Quoted from DK’s website – Some important lessons to learn

  1. Food scientists have discovered what’s called a “bliss point” — the point at which consumers get the greatest pleasure from combinations of sugar, fat, and salt. When the mix of these three elements is just right, food becomes more stimulating. Eating foods high in sugar, fat, and salt makes us eat more foods high in sugar, fat, and salt.
  2. Until you have gained the upper hand over trigger foods, attempts at moderation won’t work. We’ve become so locked into the cue-urge-reward-habit cycle that we’ve lost sight of the fact that other responses are possible. For many of us, discovering that there’s something else we can do in the face of food stimulation is a revelation.
  3. Along with the taste and other sensory characteristics, the location where a specific food has previously been available and the events associated with our past consumption can also become reinforcers. When this happens, cues (a holiday meal, a favorite restaurant) become as important as the food itself. Cues associated with the pleasure response demand our attention, motivate our behavior, and stimulate the urge we call “wanting.”
  4. In marketing indulgence, the food industry knows something about us that we don’t know about ourselves. By encouraging us to consider any occasion to eat as an opportunity for pleasure and reward, the industry invites us to indulge a lot more often. That theme populates food industry marketing reports and conferences that drive new food products and services.
  5. The belief that food will make us feel better contributes to our desire for food. When we expect food to give us pleasure (positive reinforcement) or relief from distress (negative reinforcement), that expectation amplifies the award value. Expecting something to be rewarding stimulates pursuit of that award.
  6. Food rehab is the key to viewing food stimuli in new ways. Once we decide to seek reward from avenues other than endless quantities of hyperpalatable foods, we can begin to structure our environment and strengthen our behavior to support new learning and the pursuit of new awards.
  7. The contemporary context of our lives makes it possible to eat just about all the time. And many people do. A breakdown in meal structure, with the distinction between meals and snacks increasingly blurred, also promotes increased consumption and, ultimately, conditioned hypereating.
  8. Consumers are misled by the layering and loading of foods. Sometimes sugar, fat, and salt are so masked by other flavors that we don’t realize these ingredients are there. Crackers are another revelation. Consumers generally know they’re salty but are often surprised to learn how much sugar and fat many of them contain.

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