Friday, March 26, 2010


Last Summer I bought the book “The end of overeating.  Taking control of the insatiable North American appetite” by David Kessler, MD.   Dr. Kessler has had an impressive career including serving as the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, dean of two medical schools and is a pediatrician.   He wrote the book to explain why we have a difficult time resisting certain foods, why it is easy to overindulge and how the food industry has used layering of sugars, fats and salt in food products to stimulate our appetites.

Dr. Kessler describes how the food industry has created products that are very palatable and stimulate our appetite, why you can’t just eat one potato chip or one chocolate chip cookie, why we just can’t say no to food, how we reward ourselves with food, our culture of overeating and how to get control over what we eat and how much we eat.

I found this book to be interesting because of the focus on the food industry, what has been done to develop food products and steps needed to stop overeating..  The book provides multiple descriptions of foods with their layers and combinations of sugar, fat and salt that results in stimulating us to eat more and makes the food product more palatable.   I offer several examples:

Buffalo wings – deep fried wings served with a creamy or sweet dipping sauce that is heavily salted.  Sugar on salt on fat on fat on fat.
Spinach dip – high fat, high salt dairy product.  Salt on fat.
White chocolate mocha frappuccino – coffee diluted with a mix of sugar, fat and salt.
Chocolate chip ice cream sundae topped with cookie crumbles, fudge sauce and whipped cream – multiple layers of sugar, fat and salt.

In the chapters spent on changing our behavior and eating less and making better food choices, Dr. Kessler describes the rules of disengagement.   Just having willpower is not enough.   Willpower is about your temptation to resist.   We have to stop viewing overeating as an absence of willpower.  Setting rules to keep us from overeating or making poor choices helps us take the steps to reverse our habits.  Rules are guided by higher brain function and need to be kept in mind to help us with unconscious actions.  Rules also provide context for the reasons needed to not give in to our impulses and the positive consequences.  Over time the rules established to guide our behavior become second nature.

To change the way we eat, we need a plan, we need to focus on how we approach food, and we need to recognize that making progress is incremental and requires effort.

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