The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite

 
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Most of us know what it feels like to fall under the spell of food -- when one slice of pizza turns into half a pie, or a handful of chips leads to an empty bag. But it's harder to understand why we can't seem to stop eating -- even when we know better. When we want so badly to say "no," why do we continue to reach for food?

Dr. David Kessler, the dynamic former FDA commissioner who reinvented the food label and tackled the tobacco industry, cracks the code of overeating by explaining how our bodies and minds are changed when we consume foods that contain sugar, fat, and salt. Food manufacturers create products by manipulating these ingredients to stimulate our appetites, setting in motion a cycle of desire and consumption that ends with a nation of overeaters. The End of Overeating explains for the first time why it is exceptionally difficult to resist certain foods and why it's so easy to overindulge.

Dr. Kessler presents groundbreaking research, along with what is sure to be a controversial view inside the industry that continues to feed a our nation -- from popular brand manufacturers to advertisers, chain restaurants, and fast food franchises. Dr. Kessler's cutting-edge investigation offers new insights and useful tools to help us find a solution. There has never been a more thorough, compelling, or in-depth analysis of why we eat the way we do.

Customer Reviews:

  • The End of Overeating - a Book Report
    As a middle aged woman who eats pretty well, gets regular exercise, and takes great supplements, it gets pretty discouraging to deal with the frustration and potential negative health consequences of the extra 20 pounds I am carrying around, not to mention the fact that I look in the mirror and see my grandmother's body!

    Consequently, I am always on a search for the magic fat loss bullet. So it was a synchronistic moment when I happened to listen to an interview with Dr. David Kessler on PBS recently. This is the former FDA commissioner who reinvented the food label and tackled the tobacco industry. His new book, The End of Overeating, was a must read for me. I wasn't disappointed.

    The book is a fascinating read, full of documentation and testimonials on the growing obesity problem and our apparent inability to control our food intake as a culture. Let me walk you through the salient points in this book:

    We are biologically wired to respond to sugar, fat, and salt. As processed food became an industry designed to create a profitable product, our waistlines grew. In 1960 women between the ages of twenty and twenty nine weighed an average of 128 pounds. In 2000, that number grew to 157. In the forty to forty-nine age group, it grew from an average of 142 to a whopping 169 pounds! Yes, ladies, the average perimenopausal woman in America weighs 169 pounds, so don't feel alone.

    Most of us blame ourselves for our weight gain. We attribute it to a lack of self discipline and control. Well, it turns out that certain foods actually override our conscious will and drive us to continue to consume them. This is a biological phenomenon he equates with alcohol addiction. We are collectively addicted to sugar, fat, and salt.

    He discusses some interesting research on rats being fed sugar combined with fat and shows how these animals will walk across an electrified plate to get to Fruit Loops; a food with a layered combination of salt, fat, and sugar. Rats will go to great lengths to eat this food and will become obese as a result.

    His chapter on neural networks was particularly interesting to me. If you have read my book The 8 Keys to Wellness you know I am a big advocate of creating new habits by repeating a desired behavior 21 days in a row in order to form new neural pathways that will reinforce the new behavior. What this book showed me was that even if we create those new pathways, the old ones are still there. For example, people who quit smoking will continue to want a cigarette years later when they are in a situation that triggers that old neural pathway. I was a little discouraged reading this, but it also helped me give myself some slack because of the many times I have failed to stay on an eating and exercise plan, an affirmation strategy, or any other self development scheme I have tried. It also explains the 'rubber band effect'. This is what happens when you try to create a new behavior and rebound back to your old way of doing things. It's all about brain chemistry!

    Fat, sugar, and salt-especially when combined, interact with the opioid circuits in the brain, which causes us to consume more of the substance that triggered the reaction. Think about potato chips. You don't think of them as having sugar, but the simple sugars in the potato covered with fat and topped with salt are a deadly chemical combination that triggers an insatiable desire to consume all of the potato chips. The same thing happens with tortilla chips or bread. You can't even tell when you are satiated, because the combination of the fat, sugar, and salt overrides the ability for the body to create satiety signals to get you to stop eating.

    Further, the food industry is dedicated to getting you to become dependent on these addictive foods. They add chemicals which further enhance the brain's pleasure circuits and cause you to want to eat more-and gain weight in the process.

    Dr. Kessler provides a great overview of the steps we can take to avoid taking the first bite of these deadly foods. He admits that this is a very difficult process but it can and needs to be done if we are to prevent the adverse effects that fat has on our health.

    Here are his recommendations:

    1. Become aware of what you are compulsively saying to yourself about a food cue.
    He says we have to be conscious of our 'premonitory urges' which you can notice and then say 'thank you' to your brain for telling you. Then you can choose something else.

    2. Engage in a competitive behavior to cause habit reversal.
    We need to plan ahead if we want to compete with our brain's old habits. For example, instead of driving by that fast food chain you usually drop by, change your driving route so you avoid it. Start to notice your habitual behaviors that lead to over eating.

    3. Formulate thoughts that compete with, and serve to quiet, the old ones.
    Our thoughts have power over our behavior. We need to disconnect pleasure thoughts with the behaviors we no longer want to reinforce. NLP has some terrific techniques for this. Minimally, we can transform, 'That ice cream looks really great; I'll have just a few bites' to I know I can't have one bite because it will lead to twenty bites.' (I love this because that is how I learned to quit smoking. I knew I couldn't have just one cigarette-or even a puff, because if I did I would be smoking a pack within a couple of days.

    4. Get support
    A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that social networks can promote obesity. If you have friends and family that are obese you are more likely to be obese. So, it's important to develop ongoing relationships with people who demonstrate the behaviors you want to create, yourself. In other words, get some skinny friends and do what they do.

    5. Create rules to guide your eating behaviors.
    Rules aren't the same thing as will power. He says willpower leads to a conflict between the force of the behavior you want to create and your determination to resist the old patterns. If you have rules to follow, you don't need to have will power. So, we need to create specific, simple rules that we follow. A good example is "I don't eat French fries," and "I don't eat dessert."

    6. Change your emotional connection to certain foods.
    The thought of certain foods triggers emotions that were developed as a result of the brain chemicals that were stimulated when you ate that food at some time in the past when you wanted to 'medicate' yourself. The way to overcome the pleasurable anticipation of, "I can't wait to go to the movie and eat popcorn" is to connect negative emotions to the fat, sugar, and salt layered foods we crave. Tony Robbins has a great example of thinking about Milk Duds. Milk Duds are one of my favorite indulgences, especially when you combine them with buttery popcorn. He says to look at Milk Duds and think of eating cockroaches. They look kind of like cockroaches, so it can be relatively easy to do.

    Remember, the goal is to change our neural circuitry to overcome the desire to eat these foods because once we start, the biochemisty involved in stopping is virtually insurmountable.

    There is a lot more in this book that will help you understand how these insidious foods are keeping you fat and will inspire you to do something about it. You can it online or at any bookstore....more info
  • People Get F-A-T because...
    People get fat because they eat more than people who are lean." The end. There you have it folks it isn't the slow metabolism, it isn't the hereditary gene for fatness- when you ear more you are more. Sure, things like how you live, emotions, habits all play a role in our eating habits, but if you never put the extra food in your mouth; you won't get fat.

    David A. Kessler, M.D. talks about why in 1980 there began to be an alarming trend toward never ending weight gain in America.

    He talks about how we are drawn to three ingredients: Sugar, Fat and Salt. In the right proportions we want more of them. You don't often see someone craving a spoonful of sugar, that doesn't appeal so much as when that sugar is combined with fat (like butter) and salt to make a moist, delicious cookie.

    Three other features of food also exert a powerful influence:
    quantity- offer two scoops or three of ice cream and it will tend not to occur to someone to request just one.
    concentration of rewarding ingredients
    variety of foods

    And diets? well, diets fail because while carefully following the diet the weight comes off, but as soon as you go off the diet, in your familiar environment, the non-dieting patterns return. The way you ate before the diet is the way you eat again, unless you really work at changing those habits or emotions that drove you to gain weight in the first place.

    "An example of goal-directed behavior is the process of thinking about ice cream, desiring ice cream, and then taking deliberate steps to obtain ice cream... but if I do that enough, the mental process changes. It becomes a habit-driven behavior- less deliberate and more repetitive... motor behavior has become automatic." "Habits are learned slowly but once they are in place, they are by their very nature difficult to break."

    Understanding why we overeat is the beginning to breaking the habit....more info
  • Designed to Make You Eat . . . and Eat . . . and Eat
    At least one third of Americans are now obese, not just overweight, but obese. And it's not genes, it's not a lack of will power, it's not just self-indulgence; it's the food itself. It's designed to get you eating and keep you eating.

    Author David Kessler has written a book of supremely helpful information about the food Americans typically eat. It's filled with research studies that are so informative about how the food industry manipulates consumers. It's an eye-opening expose of food research and how it affects you (and your health and wealth).

    Having convinced you that fat, salt, and sugar are inserted into food products to make you eat without thinking, Dr. Kessler offers solutions. These are not the easy 'lost ten pounds this week' come ons offered by the diet industry, and they will not appeal to many. However, they work.

    Please, if you're struggling with weight, take the time to read this book, and think about the information Dr. Kessler offers. It's information that can help you beat overeating.

    Highly recommended!...more info
  • very good book
    This book was so good I read it one day! If you have ever struggled with overeating and wondered why, why me? This book tries to answer that question. But wait, there's more.. The book is also well written, to-the-point and fun (as can be, given the subject) to read. After reading the book I was motivated to again try to address my life long battle with weight...Thanks Dr. Kessler...more info
  • WineCPA
    This was a great book! Even gives you ways to refocus your eating habits. ...more info
  • Some Good Points with Some Serious Flaws
    I'll start with what I liked about this book. What Kessler says about fat, salt, and sugar is correct, and needs to be much more widely understood. Processed food is an important reason why obesity is rising.

    But I'm not sure that "End of Overeating" delivers this message as effectively as other books - for example Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, which I highly recommend. Kessler's sensual descriptions of junk food make it sound so appealing I wanted to drop the book and run out and buy some! I saw this mentioned in another review, so it's not just me.

    The book's most serious flaws are some fundamental inaccuracies. At the beginning of Chapter 2, Kessler states flat out that excess fat is caused by overeating, and there is no significant genetic component. He says there was confusion about this in the past because the studies all involved people recording what they ate, and it was later found that fat people underestimate what they eat in food diaries.

    Kessler is an M.D. Does he not read the New England Journal of Medicine? Studies comparing how fat and thin people react to food are by no means limited to food diary studies. There have been numerous twin studies, both experimental and longitudinal. The weight of twins raised apart is more similar to their biological parents than the parents who raised them. In overfeeding studies, identical twins gain very similar amounts of weight whereas unrelated people gain highly variable amounts of weight. Here's a link to an interview with the author of the first twin study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine:

    http://www.esi-topics.com/obesity/interviews/ClaudeBouchard.html

    There is overwhelming evidence for a genetic tendency to be overweight. Some researchers say that as much as 70% of weight is accounted for by genes. What you eat matters, but it's by no means the whole story. Genes load the gun and processed foods pull the trigger. You don't have to read the NEJM to know this is true. Just think about all the thin people you know who eat junk food without consequence!

    Kessler is so extreme in his "biology doesn't count" position that he even says, on page 23, that there is no such thing as a setpoint: "I hypothesize that the point where our weight settles is primarily the result of motivation and availability - how much we want to seek out food and how readily we can obtain and get it."

    This is outrageously wrong. There are mountains of scientific evidence showing that the body attempts to maintain whatever weight it's been at for a period of time, speeding up or slowing down metabolism to compensate for over- or undereating. You can't change your weight by more than 10% without your setpoint pulling you back unless you gain or lose very slowly (and thus readjust your setpoint). How can Dr. Kessler not be familiar with this research?

    These errors matter because denying biology puts all blame for the difficulty in losing weight on the individual. This is untrue and unfair, and leads to self-esteem problems and fat prejudice. You can't tell by looking at someone exactly what they do or don't eat. I find it very disturbing that a book getting as wide readership as this one would spread such dangerous myths, and I cannot understand how someone with a medical degree can be so misinformed.

    My final criticism of the book is that its tools for dealing with emotional eating are fairly lame and not very helpful. But the factual problems are far more serious.

    If "End of Overeating" convinces some people to stop eating processed foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat, then it will have done some good. But I worry about the misinformation it spreads. Denying the role of biology makes it harder to lose weight. You need to understand your biology and work with it, not pretend it doesn't matter.

    Sheryl Canter
    [...]...more info
  • Good self-help read for the compulsive eater in us...
    This book is a quick read. I felt like the author's examples were exact feelings/situations I've experienced - I easily identified with the people he featured in the book. This book has helped me identify my feeding weaknesses and practice avoidance tactics so I'm not overeating as frequently. I would recommend the book for other overeaters out there....more info
  • What we eat and why
    None of us are surprised by what our food companies have done. With slick marketing and tons of added sugars, salt, and fat, it is no wonder we have become one of the fattest countries in the world! Excellent book with tons of scientific research to back it up. Reminds me of the Fast Food Nation. Read them both before you take your family out to dinner!
    ...more info
  • A clincal account of the science behind overeating
    I appreciated this book. I appreciated a health-related book discussing dieting that WAS NOT trying to sell you something. The research that went into this book is impressive and the results are fascinating. Turns out that along with our waistlines, processed food manipulation has been on the rise since the 1980's.

    Food producers of all types have been seeking ways to make us want their product more, and it is working. The pleasure-seeking part of your brain is hard to turn off once saturated with key combinations of ingredients, namely fat, sugar and salt. We are hard-wired to seek foods with these ingredients combined, and the public has been trained to respond. The result? Severe obesity and obesity-related health problems in the numbers we have never seen before.

    This book does a wonderful job educating the reader in what they are doing subconsciously. It gives power to those who walk around inhaling food and thinking, "why the hell am I doing this?!" Once armed with the knowledge, it is amazing how you walk through the grocery store and see the companies practicing what the book preaches.

    You begin to read labels in a new way and ask yourself questions like, "why would this product have so much sugar salt AND fat in it, it's just plain spaghetti sauce?!" If you are a chronic dieter, you stop looking at just fat grams and calories and start READING the whole label. The book is completely right about so many products; fat, salt and sugar are there in combinations to solely get you hooked to eat more of the product.

    This book is informative and well written; the style is very easy to read and understand without feeling talked down to. If you ever wondered why we are in the state we are in as a nation of consumers, you will enjoy the education you will get from this book.
    ...more info
  • Breaking the Cue/Reward/Habit cycle to beat fat, sugar, and salt
    Kessler cuts to the chase with short, focused chapters detailing the behavioral roots of the "insatiable American appetite". In the first section of the book he lays the groundwork of the physiology of desire, citing numerous behavioral studies on humans and animals that show that layered combinations of fat, sugar, and salt in foods drive the mind and body to overeat. He builds his arguments methodically and without wasted words. While this is a self-help book, it is not one of those that use wordy motivational speeches and techniques.

    Next Kessler turns his attention to the restaurant and processed-food industries which have taken "what sells" to a new level by layering and loading fat, sugar, and salt onto and into more and more of the foods we buy and consume. Even seemingly healthy foods like grilled chicken are injected with fat and marinades and constructed of pressed processed pieces that pump up the fat content and are so easily chewed and swallowed that we overeat before our bodies can signal their satisfaction . . .

    . . . Which may not matter anyway, says Kessler, because these factors combine to produce "conditioned hypereating", resulting in an obesity epidemic that has arisen in America the last 40 years. The physiological cycle of cues, rewards, and habits can be broken, but not by diets which focus on short-term changes focusing on specific components (low fat, low carbs, high-protein, which only delay gratification and enhance the psychological gratification of the eventual reward when the diet ends or is broken.

    Kessler offers instead suggestions for life change to break the cue/reward/habit cycle. They include planned eating to reduce opportunities to overeat "loaded and layered" foods , and techniques to control urges and redirect habits so that over time, we can regain control of the food urges that our mind places in front of us.

    This isn't a step-by-step plan for losing weight (as Kessler writes, any such plan not tailored to each reader would fail), but a valuable layman's introduction to the physiology of overeating that we can use for making the life changes needed to win the war against hypereating....more info
  • "Certain foods seem to exert a magical pull."
    Dr. David A. Kessler's "The End of Overeating" examines how food industry executives tempt us to purchase their calorie-laden products. The author, a pediatrician and former FDA commissioner, admits that even he struggles with the urge to overindulge. Why would a health-conscious and knowledgeable individual such as Dr. Kessler respond to the lure of highly processed and nutritionally deficient foods? To answer this and other relevant questions, the author conducted a series of interviews with psychologists, researchers, neuroscientists, addiction counselors, food producers, and ordinary consumers. One person he spoke to is forty-year old Andrew, an accomplished journalist who is five foot nine and weights two hundred and forty five pounds. Andrew ruefully admits, "I wake up in the morning knowing that food is my enemy." He turns to candy, pizza, and other treats for "comfort, stimulation, sedation, happiness, [and] the chance to put fun in the day."

    Dr. Kessler maintains that part of problem stems from the fact that America has become a "carnival of delicious, fatty, salty, sugary, and ... accessible and cheap delights." Food industry officials spend a fortune designing products that condition us to stuff ourselves and come back for more. In the past four decades, busy Americans have grown increasingly addicted to fast food, portion sizes have grown, and many of us fail to get enough exercise. Childhood obesity is on the rise, which could lead to serious health problems down the road. To help us understand these phenomena, Dr. Kessler explains how and why our subconscious minds respond to certain stimuli, leading to habit-forming and self-destructive behavior that is difficult to change.

    The author describes the ways in which brain chemicals influence our actions and he includes scientific studies to illustrate his points. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to repeat himself, and some of what he tells us is fairly obvious. For example, it should come as no surprise that "palatable foods arouse our appetite." On the other hand, Dr. Kessler is right when he insists that we must understand our self-destructive impulses before we can devise effective tactics to counteract them. If nothing else, "The End of Overeating" relieves us of some of the guilt that we feel when we reach for that extra donut, since we have been conditioned to munch on tasty foods for years. Although this book begins as a scathing indictment of the food industry, it concludes with simple and practical strategies to help us regain control of what we eat....more info
  • Not A Book About Food, Not a Book About Diets, FINALLY a Book About Appetite!
    And that's what interests me. I could read books all day about food production, food content, the powers of healthy food and not become involved with them.

    This book starts where I start -- APPETITE. The hunger for satisfaction. The cravings for foods with sugars, fats, and salts.

    God, I could go for a burger right now.

    The author's tone is breezy, his topic is serious, his level of committment is sincere, and the amount of information contained in his little book is awesome.

    Human hunger + corporate greed + products that magnify hunger = fat people!
    ...more info
  • There's A Reason Why You Overeat And It's Not What You Expect
    As a former 400+ pound man, I know what it's like to overeat. You don't get to that level of morbid obesity without consuming food in excess and there's a perfectly good reason why so many of us have that urge to eat like there's no tomorrow. Former FDA commissioner Dr. David Kessler examines this issue and dives head first into explaining his theory behind why people can't seem to control their desire to eat, eat, eat. Not surprisingly, he says we have become so conditioned to eat certain foods that drive us to eat more of those foods (can you say carbohydrates?) that we no longer eat for hunger-but instead do it as a "reward" for our accomplishments. You'll read some fascinating research on this issue that points the finger at some of the biggest names in the fast food and food manufacturing industries for marketing to a targeted audience destined to fall lockstep into faithful obedience to out-of-control eating. This isn't an easy read, but one worth exploring if you've ever felt compelled to pounce on a Cinnabon!...more info
  • Superb Book On How and Why People Overeat As Well As How to Stop Overeating
    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.
    ...more info
  • A basic book with a few good items of information
    David Kessler's book is a good basic text about food addiction and the food industry's attempt to get us to over-eat.

    Here are the facts I learned:

    1. Food with fat, salt and sugar are highly desirable. When fat, sugar, and salt are layered on foods it becomes even more irresitable.

    2. Restaurants and food maufacturers try to get us to hyper-eat. To crave their food. The more fat, sugar, salt, the more we crave.

    3. Standard, basic addiction recovery techniques can help one fight the obsession and compulsion to over-eat.

    That's mostly it.

    The most fascinating bit of information I learned was the concept of "transition emotions." These are the emotions one experiences when changing activities. During transition emotions one may tend to rely on an addictive behavior, such as over-eating, to escape from uncomfortable feelings.

    I gave the book 3 stars because I expected more. I was hoping for something more engaging, more academic, and more cutting-edge.

    Overall, a nice book, with some interesting facts, but also a disappoitment. ...more info
  • A compelling page turner
    If you enjoy books on health, nutrition and food policy from authors like Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan you are sure to enjoy The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by former FDA commissioner David Kessler. In it Kessler explores the science behind why we as humans overeat, how food companies are taking advantage of this knowledge, and what we as individuals can personally do to try to overcome overeating. In short, it's quite comprehensive without belaboring any point or boring its audience. I wasn't sure what to expect going in but found myself captivated by the book and eager to get to the next chapter.

    There are a lot of inherent strengths in this book. The first is how well it is written. Kessler uses a very approachable yet credible tone that reminded me of What to Eat and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, two health/nutrition books I thoroughly enjoyed. He does a great job of weaving together personal stories, expert interviews, and scientific studies in a way that makes the information easily digestable and compelling. Even though I have already read at least a dozen other health/nutrition books the information was all very new to me and very interesting. He also mentions at several points in the book that he too is an overeater so you get the sense you are being spoken to as a peer, not preached at or looked down at. The chapters are also very short and digestable which makes it an easy book to get through.

    I especially appreciated that he included a section called 'The Theory of Treatment' in which he gives the reader suggestions about how to overcome overeating. I really appreciated this because a lot of times general health/nutrition (not diet books) books don't really give the reader anything actionable to do. This book is full of sound suggestions that match up with the cognitive behavioral therapy done for other issues like anxiety and OCD. Having already read The Food and Feelings Workbook: A Full Course Meal on Emotional Health I found a lot of compatability between the things recommended in each book, which I appreciated. I also like that he takes great care to mention that there is no one size fits all approach and that everyone must deal with it in their own way to speak to their behaviors and life experience. He is also careful to point out that overeating doesn't just afflict overweight Americans. In hearing this I felt this book was meant for me because although I am a healthy weight and fit person I still struggle with episodes of overeating and feeling out of control with what I put in my mouth. I'm already starting to incorporate the techniques he suggested into my everyday life and will update my review as I progress.

    Overall this is a great book and one I am already planning on recommending to my boyfriend who also struggles with overeating. Kessler does a great job of researching the issue and packaging up his findings in a way that is not only approachable, but makes for a page turner....more info
  • An enlightening read
    Often we take for granted what is put in the plate we find in front of ourselves. Going out to a restaurant to grab a bite to eat we sometimes forget who is marketing this food, what is it made of, who is making it, and why do some of us find ourselves regularly craving one and the same thing. Thanks to Dr. David Kessler many of these questions are answered. Never before had I taken the time to think of what food actually does to a person, their senses, their brains, etc. I've more than once made the connection, presented in this text, of how food is similar to drugs in their hold on some people. The worst part, in my opinion, is that drugs are not needed to live, food is, and usually we need to confront it more than once a day.

    One of the most interesting aspects of this book is the many variables that come together to make us hunger for specific types of food. Even worse is the fact that said foods are now processed to be eaten faster and hold more calories than their original forms would yield. The triangle of salt, sugar, and fat are a constant presence in fast food restaurants the world over these days. The science behind what ingredients to put in which order, what feedback to expect from adding 'add-ins' and how our minds grow accustomed to readily available sources of salt, sugar, and fat are all described within this book. Undoubtedly this will make you think about your next meal, you might salivate like Pavlov's dogs (even to food you probably don't like), but you'll always have the image of what you're really eating in the back of your mind.

    The specific plans/ideas described at the end of the book, for how cravings should be controlled, portion sizes should be made appropriate for each individual, are thought provoking and, at times, simply logical. How successful will you be? Well, that's a separate story. This book packs a lot of information, just reading through it made me think of what I eat, when I eat, how I eat, etc. All of us can undoubtedly find ways to better our eating habits, and I'm more than sure that most, if not all, of us have a favorite food that we cannot resist if presented with. To understand why that happens and, for those who want to learn what we can do about it, invest in this book....more info
  • Dieting? Read this ASAP!
    Dr. Kessler's author credentials are impeccable: he was commissioner of the FDA during two presidents (of both parties), served as dean of two prestigious medical schools, and worked as a pediatrician. But more than that, he too has had trouble with his weight and controlling his appetite. The issue of overeating is not just an academic curiosity to him. But unlike you and me, he has the resources and background to go find out what is going on.

    In the 1980s some researchers noticed a sudden spike in body weight across the USA. At first they assumed it was an error in the data, but it turned out to be very much real, and to this day the weight gain continues to escalate. For the first time in human history, something has gone terribly wrong with our ability to regulate our caloric intake, and it's happening nationwide.

    This book investigates why Americans are overeating, and also offers some solutions.

    The writing is clear, interesting, and downright fun to read. Even my husband who doesn't have much interest in the topic glanced at some pages and got sucked in. Dr. Kessler is not at all accusatory or hysterical. He simply and calmly investigates and tells us what he found: what the food industry is doing, and what effect that has on our brains, our bodies, and our culture. The issues are all rigorously investigated. We get information from individuals struggling with food cravings, restaurant industry insiders, researchers in fields like nutrition, psychology, neural behavior, and addiction.

    I believe the topic covered in "The End of Overeating" is crucial. More than half the country has a serious, nearly narcotic-level addiction to overeating, and it's even worse for children growing up in this environment. Dr. Kessler's book is a brilliant expose and explanation.

    In my opinion, this is essential reading. ...more info
  • A good survey of why we overeat
    Most of this book concentrates on the why of overeating, mostly through scientific studies. You learn overeating is a problem of willpower, but a problem of learned responses to stimuli. Eating is rewarding, and being rewarded encourages us to eat more. The food industry plays a heavy role in this reward system by offering us highly rewarding food all the time.

    While this is a fascinating book to turn to for the why of overeating, and most of the book is about the why, it's ending is short and seemingly simple. The solution is basically cognitive behavior therapy; a powerful tool for curing these kinds of problems, but a difficult one as well.

    I definitely recommend this book for everyone, fat or skinny, in control or not. The case studies go a long way to helping us understand what's going on inside us when indulge....more info
  • A basic book with a few good items of information
    David Kessler's book is a good basic text about food addiction and the food industry's attempt to get us to over-eat.

    Here are the facts I learned:

    1. Food with fat, salt and sugar are highly desirable. When fat, sugar, and salt are layered on foods it becomes even more irresitable.

    2. Restaurants and food maufacturers try to get us to hyper-eat. To crave their food. The more fat, sugar, salt, the more we crave.

    3. Standard, basic addiction recovery techniques can help one fight the obsession and compulsion to over-eat.

    That's mostly it.

    The most fascinating bit of information I learned was the concept of "transition emotions." These are the emotions one experiences when changing activities. During transition emotions one may tend to rely on an addictive behavior, such as over-eating, to escape from uncomfortable feelings.

    I gave the book 3 stars because I expected more. I was hoping for something more engaging, more academic, and more cutting-edge.

    Overall, a nice book, with some interesting facts, but also a disappoitment. ...more info
  • The Fat and the Skinny of it
    Here is my favorite factoid: High sugar/high fat is so rewarding to the brain that rats will press a lever to get a high fat/high sugar reward only slightly less often than they will to get....cocaine! No wonder that those of us who have been reinforcing ourselves with food rewards can't stop thinking about food.

    In this highly readable book, Dr. Kessler begins with his quest to understand why he is overweight and obsessed with food. He describes the biology of reward, showing how food can cause the same neurochemical events in the brain as addictive drugs. His descriptions of research studies are interesting and easy to read. He shows the information that has swayed him personally and clearly explains the conclusions he's reached.

    Dr. Kessler also does a great job of describing how the food industry has tailored its products for maximum palatability, with the result that many foods are literally, and undetectably by the consumer, larded with fat (and sugar and salt). The potential profits in these "irresistible foods," he explains, are huge, and the food industry specializes in creating foods that give people just the kind of big neurochemical reward that reinforces craving.


    *However,* as a few reviewers have already pointed out, he presents some ideas as "fact" (for example, he indicates that genetics does not contribute greatly to a pattern of weight gain) that are, at a minimum, controversial. I wish he had made it clear when the position he espoused was still unproven. Unfortunately, he did not, and therefore his "facts" should be taken with a grain of salt. I find this frustrating, because the lay reader cannot be expected to know which "facts" are well-established and which aren't.

    The final section of this book was the most disappointing for me, because after explaining how a struggle with will-power does not work to maintain weight loss, Kessler essentially recommends setting up a set of eating rules (based on one's individual triggers), that are adhered to by, yes, *willpower*, until the food triggers have lost their strength. Although this technique apparently worked for him, it seems like just another diet to me.

    I also wish Dr. Kessler had focused more on the environmental reasons that people begin and get stuck in chronic overeating. To his credit, he mentions that familial environment contributes to triggering certain people's focus on food, and he talks briefly about addressing the emotional component of overeating toward the end of the book, but he focuses much more on short-circuiting biological triggers, which seems insufficient to me.

    In summary, I liked the style of this book, the way it explored scientific studies, and the way Kessler explains how fat, sugar, and salt get added to food by the food industry. (Knowledge is power here, I think.) But I was disappointed by other aspects of his book, and particularly by his suggestions for disengaging from overeating. For that, I recommend the following book:

    Normal Eating for Normal Weight: The Path to Freedom from Weight Obsession and Food Cravings...more info
  • Some Good Points with Some Serious Flaws
    I'll start with what I liked about this book. What Kessler says about fat, salt, and sugar is correct, and needs to be much more widely understood. Processed food is an important reason why obesity is rising.

    But I'm not sure that "End of Overeating" delivers this message as effectively as other books - for example Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, which I highly recommend. Kessler's sensual descriptions of junk food make it sound so appealing I wanted to drop the book and run out and buy some! I saw this mentioned in another review, so it's not just me.

    The book's most serious flaws are some fundamental inaccuracies. At the beginning of Chapter 2, Kessler states flat out that excess fat is caused by overeating, and there is no significant genetic component. He says there was confusion about this in the past because the studies all involved people recording what they ate, and it was later found that fat people underestimate what they eat in food diaries.

    Kessler is an M.D. Does he not read the New England Journal of Medicine? Studies comparing how fat and thin people react to food are by no means limited to food diary studies. There have been numerous twin studies, both experimental and longitudinal. The weight of twins raised apart is more similar to their biological parents than the parents who raised them. In overfeeding studies, identical twins gain very similar amounts of weight whereas unrelated people gain highly variable amounts of weight. Here's a link to an interview with the author of the first twin study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine:

    http://www.esi-topics.com/obesity/interviews/ClaudeBouchard.html

    There is overwhelming evidence for a genetic tendency to be overweight. Some researchers say that as much as 70% of weight is accounted for by genes. What you eat matters, but it's by no means the whole story. Genes load the gun and processed foods pull the trigger. You don't have to read the NEJM to know this is true. Just think about all the thin people you know who eat junk food without consequence!

    Kessler is so extreme in his "biology doesn't count" position that he even says, on page 23, that there is no such thing as a setpoint: "I hypothesize that the point where our weight settles is primarily the result of motivation and availability - how much we want to seek out food and how readily we can obtain and get it."

    This is outrageously wrong. There are mountains of scientific evidence showing that the body attempts to maintain whatever weight it's been at for a period of time, speeding up or slowing down metabolism to compensate for over- or undereating. You can't change your weight by more than 10% without your setpoint pulling you back unless you gain or lose very slowly (and thus readjust your setpoint). How can Dr. Kessler not be familiar with this research?

    These errors matter because denying biology puts all blame for the difficulty in losing weight on the individual. This is untrue and unfair, and leads to self-esteem problems and fat prejudice. You can't tell by looking at someone exactly what they do or don't eat. I find it very disturbing that a book getting as wide readership as this one would spread such dangerous myths, and I cannot understand how someone with a medical degree can be so misinformed.

    My final criticism of the book is that its tools for dealing with emotional eating are fairly lame and not very helpful. But the factual problems are far more serious.

    If "End of Overeating" convinces some people to stop eating processed foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat, then it will have done some good. But I worry about the misinformation it spreads. Denying the role of biology makes it harder to lose weight. You need to understand your biology and work with it, not pretend it doesn't matter.

    Sheryl Canter
    [...]...more info
  • Worthwhile, but flawed as a mass market book
    As the other reviews say, this book is very worthwhile in terms of information regarding the brain's conditioned reward cycle, how the food industry exploits it, and how to begin to work with your own conditioning to get your eating back under control. I recommend it highly on those terms.

    However, had I read it prior to publishing, I would've made two recommendations:

    1. Expand the information in chapter 28: "What Weight-Loss Drugs Can Teach Us." There, we learn that the successful, but dangerous (and so withdrawn) Phentermine/fenfluramine drug combination worked by raising serotonin levels. Higher levels of serotonin shuts down dopamine activity, which reduces activity in the brain's reward pathways. Dieters using this drug combination reported feeling "normal" about food again, i.e., they weren't obsessing about it and were much better able to make good choices without struggling.

    Kessler gives us this important info, but doesn't go on to say that it is possible to raise serotonin levels without the use of dangerous drugs. Exercise, sunlight, certain foods (high in omega 3 fatty acids, like salmon, flax seeds, chia seeds), good sleep, meditation, herbs like St. John's Wort--all contribute to a healthy level of serotonin. Raise your serotonin, and food will not have such a strong hold over you. Look here for more info on raising serotonin levels: [...]

    2. The book reads more like a first draft than a polished, well-organized book written for a mass market audience. It is repetitious and the part about the food industry is way too long. The endless descriptions of food were hard to get through, mainly because they made me want to eat.

    He makes you wait until the end to get to the heart of the matter--how to reprogram your conditioning. And then he doesn't give enough real life examples. Really, he speaks only of his own experience. This kind of inner work is tough to do. Having lots of real life examples would not only give you more concrete ideas about how to do it, it would provide inspiration, as well. Stories, real life stories, are a powerful teaching aid.

    All of that said, however, I still recommend the book. I'd like to see a website where people trying to recondition themselves can go to for support. ...more info
  • Worthwhile, but flawed as a mass market book
    As the other reviews say, this book is very worthwhile in terms of information regarding the brain's conditioned reward cycle, how the food industry exploits it, and how to begin to work with your own conditioning to get your eating back under control. I recommend it highly on those terms.

    However, had I read it prior to publishing, I would've made two recommendations:

    1. Expand the information in chapter 28: "What Weight-Loss Drugs Can Teach Us." There, we learn that the successful, but dangerous (and so withdrawn) Phentermine/fenfluramine drug combination worked by raising serotonin levels. Higher levels of serotonin shuts down dopamine activity, which reduces activity in the brain's reward pathways. Dieters using this drug combination reported feeling "normal" about food again, i.e., they weren't obsessing about it and were much better able to make good choices without struggling.

    Kessler gives us this important info, but doesn't go on to say that it is possible to raise serotonin levels without the use of dangerous drugs. Exercise, sunlight, certain foods (high in omega 3 fatty acids, like salmon, flax seeds, chia seeds), good sleep, meditation, herbs like St. John's Wort--all contribute to a healthy level of serotonin. Raise your serotonin, and food will not have such a strong hold over you. Look here for more info on raising serotonin levels: [...]

    2. The book reads more like a first draft than a polished, well-organized book written for a mass market audience. It is repetitious and the part about the food industry is way too long. The endless descriptions of food were hard to get through, mainly because they made me want to eat.

    He makes you wait until the end to get to the heart of the matter--how to reprogram your conditioning. And then he doesn't give enough real life examples. Really, he speaks only of his own experience. This kind of inner work is tough to do. Having lots of real life examples would not only give you more concrete ideas about how to do it, it would provide inspiration, as well. Stories, real life stories, are a powerful teaching aid.

    All of that said, however, I still recommend the book. I'd like to see a website where people trying to recondition themselves can go to for support. ...more info
  • Fun, Entertaining and Informative.
    How can you not love a book with a chapter titled "The Era of the Monster Thickburger"? This is just one example of the tongue in cheek humor used to highlight the stark reality that is not funny in the least. The book outlines not only how to not overeat but more importantly the why we overeat in the first place. The real thrust of the book seems to be to encourage us all to read the whole label. Move past calories and carbohydrates and start paying attention to the combinations of fat, sugar, salt that drive the overeating. The author touches on social norms in expressing his opinion. The usage of real world examples helps to make the novel relevant. What I was most intrigued by was the method of preparation and its role in consumption and health.

    Pros:
    1. Easy to read.
    2. Fun and engaging.
    3. Relevant examples.
    4. Humor highlights points but does not overpower the points.
    5. Quick read (a couple of hours)

    Cons:
    1. Lack of index hurts the use of this book as a reference material. (EDIT 3/19/09) I have been alerted that the final version will have a complete index. Because of this I have to withdraw the one criticism I had.

    A great and entertaining read that I plan on encouraging my family and friends to read....more info
  • Well researched but perhaps a bit too forgiving.
    As someone who's lost a bundle of weight over the years, I've done lots of reading about food science and weight and as such, many of the subjects Dr. Kessler covers in "The End of Overeatinig" are things I've heard before. Nonetheless, Kessler does a nice job of presenting them in a well researched, detailed and readable manner, something that a lot of these food science books have trouble with. And quite frankly, even for someone not afflicted with overeating as a concern, there's a lot of good information about food science (and the creepy process of pulling apart real food and turning it into food product.

    So by and large a good read, but it's a bit too forgiving. At some level, there's a responsibility to the eater for overeating,and modern society's willingness to blame someone else is always something I've had issue with. At some point, the buck stops with the eater.

    Having said that, I enjoyed "The End of Overeating", and especially for anyone not terribly well versed in modern food processing, this is a worthwhile investment....more info
  • Would have made a great magazine article
    This book makes many interesting points, but has a lot of "filler" and repetition. Would be great if it could galvanize a consumer lobbying effort to counteract the clout of the food industry in Washington, so that kids could learn in school how food marketing is manipulating them to eat unhealthy "food-like" substances, and way too much of it. But since the government cannot even publish a food pyramid that wasn't designed by the industrial food complex, I won't hold my breath....more info

 

 
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