The End of Overeating - Book Review

- POSTED ON: Nov 09, 2012

 The End of Overeating (2010) by David Kessler is a compelling, in-depth analysis of why we eat the way we do. Dr. David Kessler, former FDA commissioner shares how our brain chemistry has been hijacked by the foods we most love to eat: those that contain stimulating combinations of fat, sugar, and salt.

Drawn from the latest brain science as well as interviews with top physicians and food industry insiders, The End of Overeating exposes the food industry’s aggressive marketing tactics and reveals how we lost control over food, and gives suggestions on how to regain personal control.

Kessler pores through the research and details the physiological and psychological reasons for why we are drawn to overeat, and the way that big corporations use this research to make food products that are guaranteed to tempt us to over-indulge. It all boils down to sugar, fat, and salt, and how companies spend millions of dollars developing recipes and chemicals that will entice us, to over-ride our natural "homeostasis" that would normally keep us at an even weight.

The first part of the book deals with the physiological research, then the psychology behind overeating, and finally, at the end of the book are chapters devoted to dealing with these triggers in order to help one get beyond the temptations and stay at an even weight. 

 It is certainly true that the obese in our culture are in a Catch 22 situation. Marketing Interests in Society do everything possible to entice us to overeat, and yet we are also stigmatized by Marketing Interests in Society when our bodies become obese as a natural result of overeating.

Of course, … also … that stigmatization of our obesity creates even more marketing opportunities for those same food Marketing Interests as well as a for variety of others, in the form of “diet or non-diet” information and programs; a multitude of “healthy” foods, supplements and drugs; the “health” services of medical professionals, including surgeons, psychologists, nutritionists, trainers; as well as “health related or exercise” facilities and equipment etc

I was not impressed by Kessler’s “solutions” to the problem of obesity. This best-selling book’s primary value to me was its presentation of interesting detailed facts about how Marketing Interests use their best efforts to entice us to eat as much as possible.

Kessler’s presentation represents a popular theory about the current “obesity epidemic”, however, there are also opposing theories.  Mike Gibney, author of a recently published book, “Something to Chew on”, (11/2012) says that when Kessler writes that the incidence of obesity soared from the late 1980s, he ignores the indisputable fact that the rise of obesity is more or less tracked by the industrial revolution.

Gibney goes on to say that this omission is of huge importance, because “If Kessler chooses to ignore the early origins of obesity, then he can be comfortable blaming the advent of foods high in salt, sugar and fat. Others can comfortably blame the advent of high fructose corn syrup, fast food, sugar sweetened beverages

Gibney continues: “It is a simple fact of life that obesity is one of the drawbacks of affluence where food is abundant and where labour saving devices (and slave labour) are accessible. This is not for one iota to play down the health consequences of obesity. It is simply of enormous importance in understanding the causes of obesity.”

No one book provides every answer to any issue. I found Kessler’s book, “The End of Overeating” extremely interesting reading, and recommend it. However, I did feel the title was a bit misleading, since the book provided very little practical insight or new help toward actually ENDING Overeating.

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Existing Comments:

On Nov 10, 2012 wrote:
Thank you for the review of both books. I too think Kesslers approach is the right one.

On Nov 10, 2012 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi John. I don't see Kessler's approach as "right" or "wrong". I find the information very interesting, and can easily believe that Marketers have aggravated the problem of obesity. I don't find his recommended dietary approach, diet, way of eating, lifestyle personally helpful, and like all diet and non-diet books, Kessler's suggestions will work for some and not for others.

On Dec 31, 2016 oolala53 wrote:
I read Kessler the same year I started No S. I though it was very naive for him to think that people would just stop eating processed food or restaurant food. But it and other reading have influenced what I put on my plate. I eat a lot less of the offending foods. Maybe I would have been better off going faster at it, but I guess I didn't believe I was in enough trouble! I may have guessed wrong. Only time will tell and then it will be water under the bridge. But I do think we need multiple voices on this. Just reading Fatland now. It's discouraging to me. These forces are very strong! And the odds for turning things around don't look very good. I can't believe how many cooking blogs are out there making it seem as if people are interested in doing so much cooking, but I have a suspicion it's mostly wishful thinking, like a lot of diet book reading. But maybe that's what it takes. A lot of front-loading.

On Dec 31, 2016 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Hi oolala, thanks for sharing your thoughts with me. I read Kessler the book in 2010 when it first came out, and thought about it for a couple of years before writing this review. My thoughts then and now are that people might eat out less when money is tight, but not very many of them are ever going to move away from processed foods. Here at age 72, I think that younger people romanticize the way people ate 60 to 70 years ago, and believe it was far "healthier" than it was. I realize now that the meals my family ate in the 1940s and 1950s came mostly from canned vegetables, meats & sausages, and packaged foods that were assembled into special recipes with pasta, or rice, or potatoes and known as "casserole dishes". We ate lots of packaged light white Rainbow type bread as toast and as sandwiches with packaged meat like bologna and spam, and processed cheese like velveta & slices of kraft american cheese. We had lots of hot dogs and hamburgers and potato chips. We made lots of homemade cakes from mixes, and jello from packages, and homemade cookies & pies & donuts & candy using lots of sugar and crisco, and we breaded our chicken and fish and fried it in crisco. We fried our eggs and ate them with bacon and homemade white-flour and crisco biscuits. We had a garden every year and grew vegetables and fruit and even raised chickens and sometimes a pig or calf, but we cooked those vegetables in bacon grease, added white sugar to that fruit, and chicken, pork and beef was usually fried. This was common throughout our community, and there are many cookbooks printing recipes from the 1950s etc that demonstrate it was common throughout all of the country. My own belief is that in general, People then weren't as fat as they are now, because they didn't eat as often or as much. It was a "No S" lifestyle for everyone as society frowned on people who snacked or loaded their plates except for special occasions and holidays. Fat depends not so much as "WHAT" people eat, as it does on "HOW MUCH".

On Dec 31, 2016 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Also, in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, my family and our community seldom ate out in restaurants, but we DID eat out a lot. There were many high calorie social eating occasions outside our home, which is easy to see when you add in all the weekly company dinners on Saturday or Sunday, and those pot luck dinners at the church a couple of times every month.

On Dec 31, 2016 Dr. Collins wrote:
             Also, in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, my family and our community seldom ate out in restaurants, but we DID eat out a lot. There were many high calorie social eating occasions outside our home, which is easy to see when you add in all the weekly company dinners on Saturday or Sunday, and those pot luck dinners at the church a couple of times every month.

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