The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite
Many people are perfectly capable of controlling their own actions – until they see or perhaps taste a bite of certain foods. Maybe your downfall is Buffalo wings. Maybe it’s a Snickers bar. Mine is Coconut Bliss ice cream. I understand that it has a lot of fat and sugar. I understand that eating an entire pint in one sitting is not healthy for me. I really want to fit in my clothes, and I know that eating an entire pint of ice cream is counterproductive towards that goal. And yet… “just one bite” is not an option for me. Just one bite turns into just one serving, and then that turns into “maybe a little bit more” until most of the pint is all gone. I DO have enough will power to put it back in the freezer before I can see the bottom of the carton. Just barely. But why is that? Why can’t I control my eating, and why can’t so many others control theirs?
That’s the question that David Kessler’s book asks and then brilliantly answers, followed by steps one can take if you want to take back the power from the foods that make you totally lose it. Put very simply, some people can be conditioned to “hypereat.” Certain foods do this to us and not others. Nobody has a conditioned hypereating problem with broccoli. Human downfalls are foods with lots of fat, salt, and sugar. Foods that you might see on your average bar menu or at a Chili’s or TGI Friday’s.
Food marketers know this – they didn’t need scientific research to figure it out, instead they did trial and error experiments on the American population, and they found out how to make us eat more, more, more. Whole Foods, for example, is famous for giving out free samples of its overpriced products. Once somebody tastes a bite of cheesecake in a Whole Foods bakery, it no longer matters that the cake costs $18 and that there’s no celebratory occasion that requires a cake. Meandering shoppers taste it and suddenly crave more! It’s a formula that works every time. It doesn’t work on every single person, but it works on many people and that’s enough to get food companies the profits they seek.
What can you do about this? One recommendation Kessler provides that really struck a chord with me is: Set rules. Rules work where willpower doesn’t. Rather than telling yourself you will try to avoid fast food, set a rule: No fast food. In his book, Kessler actually provides the scientific research showing that this really works. I believe him because rule-setting has consistently worked in my life whereas willpower has not.
All in all, I found The End of Overeating to be a very important contribution to literature about food and to the overall discussion of how to improve Americans’ nutrition. Given the findings detailed in the book, I would love to see many of the predatory business practices of the food industry curtailed – particularly those aimed at children. Thanks to David Kessler for being here with us today and for taking our questions!