November 25, 2010

The End of Overeating by David A Kessler: Review

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Hello! Debbie Downer here, about to tell you all about what you are eating is making you fat and probably killing you. Yay!

Well, not me exactly but Dr David Kessler will tell you all about it in The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable North American Appetite. Dr Kessler spent years gathering information from scientists and others to find out why everyone is getting fat in North America. Turns out we eat too much. The End. Bye. Okay, he also wanted to know why we are eating too much and that's much more complicated.

There is a psychology around food that is built into us. Find the biggest thing and eat it. That's how we survived for thousands of years during famines and wars, etc. The trouble is the food industry has found a way to use that psychology against us. It was gradual but it was sneaky and now we are in a crisis. They've made food irresistible, they've feed us too much, they told us we deserved it. They got into our heads and changed our brain chemistry. And now we're used to it. It's what we expect. We want more and they keep giving it to us.

Parts of The End of Overeating are very interesting. Kessler spoke to a lot of people: food industry insiders, scientists studying obesity, restaurateurs, and regular people. The science behind how we react to certain foods was fascinating, particularly ones high in fat, sugar and salt. Since we like it so much, the food industry researches ways to get more into us. However, for some people this created a big problem, something Kessler calls "conditioned hypereating." It's conditioned because the person has been trained to react they way they do around food. They just don't know it.

The social mores surrounding eating have also changed. What was once unacceptable behaviour (like eating on the street, during meetings), is now commonplace. Some of those behaviours are still unacceptable in other countries, but the North American style of eating is creeping around the world.

The food industry is unlikely to change anytime soon, but we can change our behaviour. Understanding the psychology behind it is one part, the other involves us using that information to undo the damage that has been done and resetting our brains. It's not easy and involves creating a strict set of rules, at least initially. In Food Rehab, Kessler goes over how to do this. I'm not a reader of self-help but this section makes sense to me.

Now, in the US this book's subtitle is "Taking Care of the Insatiable American Appetite" and I suspect that my copy has been modified for Canadian audiences. Some of the Canadian stats feel like they were tossed in there. There's also a chapter titled: Can Canada Put on the Brakes? The only chapter about Canada. I did find it interesting though because he brings up something my husband noticed also. My husband travels a lot for work and sometimes to the States. The proportions are much larger in restaurants there. He is no shrinking violet around food but even he can't eat everything he's served.

I found most of the book interesting. The parts in the laboratory are a bit dry and there is some repetitiveness but for the most part I learned a lot. If you read this, you'll never look at a Chili's ad the same way again.

I'd recommend this to anyone interested in food, nutrition or anyone looking to stop overeating.

Thanks to Random House for the  review copy.

4 comments :

  1. A very appropriate post for the American Thanksgiving!

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  2. I really need to get a hold of this book. I think that if I pick it up for a January read it will inspire me to stick with my diet. Heh. Happy Thanksgiving Chris.

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  3. This sounds really interesting. It kind of plays into a conversation I was having with my co-workers about when people have gastric bypass surgery and then gain the weight all back anyway. There's definitely a wrong way that many Americans think about food and eating, and until we can change those thought patterns and stop easily letting our psychology be manipulated, gastric bypass is not going to be the weight loss miracle that people imagine that it is.

    I'm curious about what this book has to say, and I'll be putting it on my wish list. Thanks for the great review!

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  4. http://deappetizer.com - this website is a kind of a joke, but it keeps me from overeating this week

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