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BOOK REVIEW: The End of Overeating

Posted Aug 30 2010 2:41pm
The End of Overeating
by David A. Kessler, MD

DAVID A. KESSLER, MD, served as commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Pages:  344
Publisher:  McClelland & Stewart
Genre:  Non-Fiction
Topics covered: Diet, Food Industry, Brain Science, Weight Loss

"America, he said, has become a 'food fun house...a carnival of delicious, fatty, salty, sugary, and more to the point, accessible and cheap delights. How could you expect to go to the carnival and not want to go on the rides? It's bright and colorful and fun and exciting. There are all these pings and noises. Of course, you want to go on a ride; of course you want to play the game; of course you want to spend your money on this stimulation'" (Introduction).



In The End of Overeating, Dr. David A. Kessler does a fabulous job of explaining the biological causes of overeating, how the food industry intentionally causes overeating, and outlining behavioral and cultural changes that make it possible to break the cycle of overeating.


Kessler begins this book with its most important section, "Sugar, Fat, Salt." Through extensive research,

Kessler describes how the brain becomes addicted to sugar-fat-salt combinations, remarkably similiar to the way someone becomes addicted to cocaine. This addiction causes desire for sugar or fat or salt to increase once it is introduced into our bodies instead of decreasing, leading us to crave more and more and more instead of becoming satisfied. Kessler names the sugar-fat-salt cycle many of us struggle with as

"conditioned hypereating."


In the second part of the book, Kessler unveils how the food industry intentionally designs foods with layers of the sugar-fat-salt combinations and exploits the addiction. Further, chemical coloring and flavoring is added. Before food reaches the store or restaurant "it's been prechewed," describes a former meat company president, causing us to eat faster and more calories than we realize. "Hyperpalatable"

foods are highly addictive and successful restaurants and food companies make millions off this knowledge.


Kessler devotes the second half of this book to outlining how conditioned hypereating begins and also how it can be ended. He provides readers with a framework of how to end conditioned hypereating, though acknowledging that eating is ultimately personal. Behavioral modification is essential to retrain the brain and Kessler gives guidelines of how it can be achieved. Finally, he delineates how we can end overeating as a culture by demanding greater transparency about what is in our food and how it is prepared.


When I read about this book, I knew I had to have it. The overeating periods in my life are highly characterized by the sugar-fat-salt cycle. I can remember eating Cheetos, then a Little Debbie snack cake, then back to Cheetos as early as late elementary school, craving the salt-fat, sugar-fat, and salt-fat combinations.

Though I have learned along the way how to cope with the addiction, "conditioned hypereating" rears its ugly head as soon as I consume that first potato chip.


I just finished reading The End of Overeating, I already have changed my eating habits. Even following a raw food diet can lead me into the hypereating if I eat the sugar-fat-salt combinations. I see a french fry for what it is, salt on fat on simple carbohydrate (white potatoes easily covert to sugar).


I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially someone who has disordered eating. Food choices are very personal, however, in the age where health care costs last year were $2.5 trillion, we as consumers must hold the food industry accountable. 
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