The End of Overeating?

If you sometimes feel that food manufacturers and restaurants are conspiring against your healthy eating efforts, you may be right.  David A. Kessler describes what is going on behind the scenes in his book “The end of overeating.”

I read the book after it was recommended to me and mentioned on several blogs.  The title was intriguing.  Maybe I would finally find some answers and end my own overeating.

Did I?  Weeellllll, not really.  But I did learn a few things that I will share.  The following points highlight my own take on what I found to be most interesting in the book or particularly applicable to me right now.

  • Eating certain foods makes us want to eat more of them.  And there is science to back this up, not just my own binging experience.  The overeating trifecta is sugar, fat, and salt.  Eating these foods actually does things to your mind and body that leave you wanting more.
  • Palatability is more than just taste:  it also involves the motivation to pursue that taste.  Sugar, fat, and salt can not only stimulate the appetite, but even the anticipation of that stimulation is enough to make us eat long after our caloric needs are satisfied.  Palatable foods both arouse our appetite and act as an incentive to eat.
  • The food industry is manipulating consumers’ minds and desires by the ingredients they include in foods and how they market them.   Also, by processing foods beyond their natural state, the foods become something that requires little effort to eat.  It “goes down easy; you don’t even think about eating.”  Food has been refined to a point that it is very easy to get calories from it and the body’s signals that should tell us “I’m full” are being overridden.
  • We have a cycle of cue and reward based on our past associations with food.  “A history of personal experiences gives particular food an emotional charge, and those emotions become lodged in our memory.”  We learn to want a food based on the cues in our life.  And location is one of the most potent cues.
  • Habits can be good or bad and are very difficult to change.  When cues prompt us to react a certain way, our behavior becomes so routine that we respond before we are even aware of the stimulus.  “We are following an eating script that has been written into the circuits of our brain.”

So what did I decide I can take away from this book?

Maybe I was not far off the mark thinking that much of my evening overeating is habit based.  Kessler would liken my behavior to Pavlov’s dog – I have a conditioned response to sitting in front of the TV or with a book in my lap.  He would tell me that I need to reverse the habit by overcoming the conditioning and gaining control of my behavior.  Which in my experience is easier said than done.  But I’m working on it:)  I am also still thinking about the notion that my evening eating is out of boredom and that may or may not have an emotional basis as well.  (If you missed that controversial discussion you can read about it here.)

Is it any wonder that controlling our eating is so hard when there are so many possible reasons why we do it?  So many differing theories.  I have to admit that I keep waiting for the aha moment, the theory I read about that hits home like the world’s brightest light-bulb over my head, the words that hold the magic that makes me suddenly “get it” in such a way that it really does once and for all end all my issues with food.  I know that isn’t really going to happen.  But maybe all the little pieces will eventually add up for me.  Until then, I will keep plugging along.



Filed under cheating/overeating, review

42 responses to “The End of Overeating?

  1. Thanks for the book review! I’m going to add it to my list!

  2. Yup, familiar with this book & what he has to say & lots of it makes sense! OH, and from yesterday, familiar with South Beach too! 🙂

    Ah, the eating. I grew up eating all those bad things & quite honestly after all these years, I still want my sweets & cinnamon rolls & such.

    BUT, I have made the choices that are right for me, I plan for treats I want and although I am a pretty clean eater, I just think I feel better about me when I eat the better way & I think that is what spurs me on to stick with it. When I am heavier or not eating better, I just feel UGH about me & that moves in to other areas of my life which ain’t a good thing!

    • Karen

      My husband and I were just discussing how certain foods make us feel like crap and that should be a deterrent to eating them but isn’t! But I am definitely moving in the right direction, and overall, my eating is better and I feel better (physically and mentally). Not I just need to make it a more consistent way of life.

      • We just got back from a brief vacation, and while it was wonderful to get away, my one complaint is how hard it is to find good food on vacation. And, this time? It really nearly ruined my experience because I realized how absolutely CRAPPY I feel when I eat that junk.

  3. Good post – I have the book but not yet read it. Your review makes me want to get to it.

    I also went back and read your post about emotional eating as a possibly different behavior than eating out of habit/boredom. I definitely see the gray area in this.

    Like you, I am a nighttime eater – after dinner until bed time which thankfully is early for me these days – 9:30 at the latest. I read an article in Family Circle magazine several years back where you took a quiz to find out your overeating style and patterns – like I didn’t already know!

    Ultimately it discussed that for evening eaters, stress was almost always the cause…but stress causes an emotional response, I think. So what does it matter – chicken or egg first? Bottom line is I need to strive to let go of the behaviors that are causing me to stay fat. Period. And that is pretty darn hard, esp. in light of much of Kessler’s information. I guess avoiding all processed foods for starters…when I detox from all that sh*t and additives, which means several weeks of no ingestion…I truly do lose my cravings. The emotions stay but my commitment to be clean is at last fueled by the ABSENCE of excess fat/sugar/salt. What a conundrum! Sorry to go on so long – but you got me thinking! Thanks –

    • Karen

      I sooo find that the longer I go without eating things that I crave, the less I crave them. And other foods taste better to me. I am still battling over the emotional component and if that plays a roll for me personally and if so, why. Last night I wanted bread. Really, really, really wanted it. I kept asking myself what I was feeling, what emotion, that made me have that craving. I have no answer. But when I got up from the TV and on to the computer, thoughts of eating were gone. Sigh.

      • Karen

        Forgot to say – long comments are very welcome:) It means you have something to say in response to what I wrote and I love that. And often learn tons from what you say.

  4. Don’t even get me started. Although Kessler, and Michael Pollan in particular are often cited in posts like these, the best book on the topic is about 6 or 7 years old now; Fatland, by Greg Crister.

    Everything you want to know about why we are where we are is cited and well references in this book. I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend it!!

  5. Genie@dietof51

    I’m always tempted by those books, and the stuff you listed is very interesting, but not exactly that “aha” moment I’m looking for either. No doubt it’s all a conspiracy by those who profit from the sale of food, or whatever much of that processed, packaged, and advertised as “fun” stuff is.

    Keep reading and sharing! I appreciate the book reviews, and look forward to the day that someone publishes THE ONE.

  6. Bought and read the book shortly after it was published. Need to go back and reread – thanks for the reminder. Once he gets past all the information (which is eye-opening), the most helpful point to me was learning to recognize the “cue” that I’m about to overeat/snack/binge/indulge. It is in that brief span of time when the choice is made to give in or turn around and walk away. After having read the book, I’m much better at recognizing the cue, but still have a long way to go with success at turning away.

    • Karen

      Recognizing that cue for myself would be great! For now, I know that certain locations and activities seem to bring it on. But is there more to it? I don’t know. And I now need to figure out how to live my life without having to give up those things but without responding to them as a cue to eat.

  7. “The overeating trifecta is sugar, fat, and salt.” agree, agree, agree!! if I eat too much sugar/carbs in the morning, my day is shot because I will overeat the rest of the day.

  8. I love that you are still questioning and trying to figure out what is working for you? Awareness is really the answer for all of us to figure out why we overeat. And even though the answer may not be there — now — we just need to keep asking the question.

    • Karen

      When I started this blog I never imagined how it would lead me to ask so many questions. That was not at all the direction I saw. And much of that questioning comes from not just my blog but also what I learn from everyone else out here in the blog world.

  9. This is a really great book. I especially like the last third where he really gives some great suggestions on overcoming the addictions and releasing the swag food manufacturers hold over us.

  10. It’s so true- my new medication has thrown me way off and because it makes you crave salt I’ve totally screwed up my diet! That’s it- NO MORE! I say go ahead and crave salt body, you won’t be getting extra salted foods from me anymore. I already get plenty of salt from my diet as it is.

    • Karen

      Ah Bee, you made me laugh with how you said that:) I admit that I now add salt and I never ever did it before. The culprit – my daily roasted veggies. Just a bit of salt. But maybe I will try without now.

  11. I think ‘getting it’ is much more gradual than any one day. It’s a process like anything else. There is more than the epiphany. It’s about learning to use the application effectively.

    I’m glad you found something useful!

  12. sunnydaze

    I totally agree with eating certain foods makes you crave more and more. That’s why I can’t eat just 10 chips, I want the whole bag – or I can’t eat just one mini peppermint patty, I want 6. I also agree with wanting certain foods because it reminds you of something, such as food you ate as a child, or on vacation in Italy…

  13. Good to know! Thanks for the highlights! I have noticed since I’ve ct backk on salt it’s easier for me to eat less. Weird, but true.

  14. I’ve heard about this book and wondered what his take was. Since I have a small library of “eating” books, I’m not going to read anymore….for now anyhow…

    I think overeating has so many factors to it, and they are different for everyone. Habit is a huge one I think. Once you do something repeatedly, you start doing that thing without giving it any thought at all. That can be good and bad….

    Yes…I’ve too wanted that concrete Aha moment, and truly thought I had it when I lost my 160. Now I know…it’s just not that simple. So, I keep plugging right along with you 🙂

  15. Karen, great post! I read that book and have to admit that every time I saw the picture of the carrot cake on the cover, it made me crave sweets. Isn’t that wrong on so many levels? All of the little pieces do keep adding up, but as long as TV advertising is triggering our cravings for processed stuff, it remains hard to resist.

  16. When Kessler’s book first came out, he was featured on most of the best talk shows discussing it. Shortly thereafter, I got the book from the library and read it. Glad I didn’t pay for it…not that it isn’t informative, it is…but I had heard most of what he had to say on the talk shows. If you Google “david kessler overeating” you’ll find lots of articles and I think even some videos on the net where the major highpoints of the book are discussed.

    • Karen

      Thanks for the tip. I missed this when it came out. Never even heard of it until recently. He must not have made it on Oprah:)

  17. When I was a child, I was stick thin and I ate because I was hungry – period. That is one thing I’d like to recapture from my youth. Eating because I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full. When I eat BREAD, I want MORE BREAD. I’ll have to get this book!

    • Karen

      My husband and I were just talking about our sons today. (Both skinny.) My boys mostly don’t eat if they are not hungry. Sure, they snack now and then and it is crap with a capital “c.” But mostly, when hungry. I’d love to have that quality. And am glad I have not messed them up with my eating. And don’t even get me started on bread!!! (Yes, in the book he mentions it and how much of that trifecta is often added.)

  18. It’s all a discovery process, isn’t it? As long as you persist as you have been doing, I have no doubt you’ll find your answers.

    For me, sugar, fat and salt aren’t the culprit when it’s real sugar, fat, and salt. I can eat one cookie made with real ingredients and feel completely sated. Give me an Oreo…and then back away from the package or it could get ugly. 🙂

    I’m reading ‘The Informer’ about Archers Daniels Midland, which is more about the business of food but goes a long way toward explaining how our food supply became so tainted. Grim reading, but educational.

  19. You did a wonderful review of this book. I have to say that when I read this book it changed my thinking. I use to think I had no will power when it came to food. It was a relief to find out that there was more to it than that.

    For me there hasn’t been one big moment that changed my thinking and turned by bad eating habits and disordered eating around. Rather it has been little bits of information and wisdom gained over time that have finally fallen in place like puzzle pieces and started to make sense to me.

  20. AFG

    Very interesting… I had not heard of this book. I can agree habits are very hard to break! I am still working on that. 🙂

  21. I wish I could have that ah-ha moment about what’s causing my bad relationship with food. It’s almost disheartening that there’s so many different reasons that we overeat – it would be so much easier if a chemical like nicotine was to blame. Instead we have to delve into our emotions, our childhoods, addiction-components, and now this! AH!

    Loved the book review – I think i’ll add it to my list. Just one more thing to think about!

    • Even with smoking, it’s now been proved that habits control the smoker more than nicotine. That’s why patches and gums don’t work. Same with eating. You have to build new neuro circuitry by establishing and DOING new behaviors, and you have to STOP doing the old habits and let the old neuro circuitry die from lack of use. Sorry, that’s what it takes. I can’t make it easy, only tell you the answer.

  22. PS: All the understanding of why I’m like this will not change things. Only behaviors will change things.

  23. The simple fact is – it is just not simple. It is a huge complicated mass of things which go into these issues. Physical, psychological, emotional, chemical, societal, familial.

  24. Karen, I never said it was easy, I actually said “I can’t make it easy.” I just told you what you must do to change. The choice is yours.

    Brightside Susan. You are waisting your time trying to figure it out. Make changes and it all will become clearer to you. If your way works, I will change my opinion and spread your message. From what I read, it doesn’t.

  25. I read this book about 9 months ago and wanted to read it again after starting OA, but now I can’t find it. At the time, my review of it would have been about the same as yours… was it helpful, yeah, a little.

    In addition to the points you made, I found it useful to consider his theory that we have only about 1 second after first considering eating a “food” to say “NO, not this time.” After that second passes, we are helpless against our conditioned/habitual cravings. His theory has helped me a bit to use my one second to avoid disaster.

  26. Pingback: 50 Best Blogs for Beating Food Addiction

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