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

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Overview

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 ...

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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

"Conditioned hypereating is a biological challenge, not a character flaw," says Kessler, former FDA commissioner under presidents Bush and Clinton). Here Kessler (A Question of Intent) describes how, since the 1980s, the food industry, in collusion with the advertising industry, and lifestyle changes have short-circuited the body's self-regulating mechanisms, leaving many at the mercy of reward-driven eating. Through the evidence of research, personal stories (including candid accounts of his own struggles) and examinations of specific foods produced by giant food corporations and restaurant chains, Kessler explains how the desire to eat-as distinct from eating itself-is stimulated in the brain by an almost infinite variety of diabolical combinations of salt, fat and sugar. Although not everyone succumbs, more people of all ages are being set up for a lifetime of food obsession due to the ever-present availability of foods laden with salt, fat and sugar. A gentle though urgent plea for reform, Kessler's book provides a simple "food rehab" program to fight back against the industry's relentless quest for profits while an entire country of people gain weight and get sick. According to Kessler, persistence is all that is needed to make the perceptual shifts and find new sources of rewards to regain control. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher

"Dr. David Kessler has written a fascinating account of the science of human appetite, as well as its exploitation by the food industry. The End of Overeating is an invaluable contribution to the national conversation about the catastrophe that is the modern American diet." --Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food

"David A. Kessler, who led the battle against the tobacco industry, now joins the fight against obesity. His message is important: The problem is not only the behavior of profit-driven food companies, but also the daily choices that each one of us makes." —Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

"David Kessler’s fascinating book is essential for anyone interested in learning more about how corporate greed and human psychology have created a national health crisis." —Alice Waters, chef and owner of Chez Panisse

"Disturbing, thought-provoking, and important." —Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential

"A compelling book about overeating and the obesity pandemic. Dr. Kessler thoroughly examines the nature of our relationship with food and why it is critical to understand and modify our behavior to reverse this global threat to health and well-being." —David Satcher, former Surgeon General and director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"A fascinating, unique book by a brilliant public health leader." —Donna Shalala, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Library Journal
09/01/2014
A pediatrician claims that overeating is caused by the way our bodies and minds are changed when we eat foods that contain sugar, fat, and salt. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 4/13/09)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440751202
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Format: CD

Meet the Author

DAVID A. KESSLER, MD, served as commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He is a pediatrician and has been the dean of the medical schools at Yale and the University of California, San Francisco. A graduate of Amherst College, the University of Chicago Law School, and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Kessler is the father of two and lives with his wife in California.
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Read an Excerpt

Can Canada Put on the Brakes?


I walked into Jack Astor’s Bar & Grill in Toronto, an energetic place that draws a young crowd and entertains them with loud music and multiple television monitors. A sign advertised a restaurant gift card: “a gift for every craving.”

The dinner menu descriptions had an over-the-top quality that reminded me of Chili’s, including ultimate nachos, with their “bubbling blend of cheeses,” and a bacon cheeseburger.

I ordered two items from the “start-up” list. The lobster and crab dip was a warm, fatty blend dominated by cream cheese. The Southwest grilled chicken flatbread, with its four-cheese blend and smoky chipotle aioli, was a dish of fat on fat on refined carbohydrates, accompanied by a little protein. There were two flatbreads to an order, each about 10.5 inches long.

My entrée, crispy honey sesame chicken, consisted of fried chicken balls with a substantial portion of vegetables, covered in a sweet sauce. Fat, sugar, and salt had been layered and loaded onto the dish.

But for all that, the food at Jack Astor’s stopped somewhat short of its American counterparts. The preparations had less of an industrial quality. The dishes were cooked to order on site, not par-fried, frozen, and shipped across the country. There weren’t as many fried chicken balls on my dinner plate, and they weren’t as large.

I saw that kind of contrast everywhere I looked in Canada. Swiss Chalet offered an all-you-can-eat lunch, a garlic cheese loaf “smothered in melted Jack and cheddar,” and a waiter who assured me that “everythingcomes with dipping sauce.” But portion sizes were a trifle smaller than is typical in the United States and there was a homemade quality to most of the food. At Caroline’s Cheesecake, there were fewer choices than at the Cheesecake Factory, but the portions seemed about as big. The Pickle Barrel had a lot of healthy-sounding food on its menu, but it also served a “triple threat chocolate sundae,” a “mammoth Oreo cookie sundae,” and lemon cranberry and apple cinnamon muffins that were the size of grapefruits.

Canada, it seems, is headed in a troubling direction as the ingredients of conditioned hypereating are assembled. Things aren’t as bad here as they are in the United States, but they aren’t good. One out of four Canadians is now obese, compared to one in three in the U.S. One-third of Canadians who were classified as normal weight a decade ago are now overweight. The upward curve is especially evident in the younger population, with the number of overweight and obese children, ages 7 to 13, increasing by as much as 300% in just two decades.

Human physiology and conditioning are, of course, the same in both countries, so social norms and the environment offer the only possibilities of arresting these trends. It is as if a great natural experiment is being conducted in Canada.

An earlier generation of Canadians recalls a time when eating in restaurants was a rare event and snacking in the street was considered crass. One colleague told me how his father used to love visiting U.S. supermarkets because he was awed by how many more varieties of breakfast cereal were available. Even today, despite changing patterns and the growth of chain restaurants across the country, food is still not quite so ubiquitous or indulgent in Canada. The limitations that once disappointed Canadians may yet save them from the consequences its more overindulgent neighbor is facing.

Nonetheless, candy cane donuts and sour cream donuts are now available at Tim Horton’s, and the small donut balls known as “Timbits” are one of the store’s especially popular features. Even the upscale restaurant, Milestone’s, serves an array of sweet and fatty dipping sauces with its Cajun popcorn shrimp, seafood mixed grill, and yam fries. And the Quebecois tradition of poutine– French fries covered with cheese curds and brown gravy–has gained traction, with many fast-food restaurants in all of the provinces adding it to their menus. Swiss Chalet gives me the opportunity to “poutinize” my fries for $1.99.

Still, Canada has an opportunity to recognize the trajectory it is on and change course. A publishing professional I met there suggested how it might be done when he confessed to his struggle over Kit Kats. A large, tightly disciplined man, he told me that every evening as he heads to the train for his ride home, he breaks into a run to get safely past a news stand that sells those crispy chocolate wafers. Canada, too, must figure out the direction it needs to start running in order to avoid calamity.

When I asked the manager of Jack Astor’s about portion sizes, he told me, “They’re bigger than they have to be. But it’s not like Cheesecake Factory.”

The question is whether it will stay that way.

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Table of Contents

Foreword xi

Introduction: You Are the Target xv

Part 1 Sugar, Fat, Salt

1 Something Changed … America Gained Weight 3

2 Overriding the Wisdom of the Body 7

3 Sugar, Fat, and Salt Make Us Eat More Sugar, Fat, and Salt 12

4 The Business of Food: Creating Highly Rewarding Stimuli 18

5 Pushing Up Our Settling Points 22

6 Sugar, Fat, and Salt Are Reinforcing 29

7 Amping Up the Neurons 35

8 We Are Wired to Focus Attention on the Most Salient Stimuli 41

9 Rewarding Foods Become Hot Stimuli 46

10 Cues Activate Brain Circuits That Guide Behavior 50

11 Emotions Make Food Memorable 55

12 Rewarding Foods Rewire the Brain 58

13 Eating Behavior Becomes a Habit 61

Part 2 The Food Industry

14 A Visit to Chili's 67

15 Cinnabon: A Lesson in Irresistibility 74

16 That's Entertainment 78

17 The Era of the Monster Thickburger 83

18 No Satisfaction 94

19 Giving Them What They Like 97

20 What Consumers Don't Know 101

21 The Ladder of Irresistibility 104

22 The World's Cuisine Becomes Americanized 111

23 Nothing Is Real 115

24 Optimize It! 120

25 The Science of Selling 125

26 Purple Cows 132

Part 3 Conditioned Hypereating Emerges

27 Overeating Becomes More Dangerous 137

28 What Weight-Loss Drugs Can Teach Us 142

29 Why We Don't Just Say No 145

30 How We Become Trapped 154

31 Conditioned Hypereating Emerges 157

32 Tracing the Roots of Conditioned Hypereating 163

33 Nature or Nurture? 166

34 Warning Signs in Children 169

35 The Culture of Overeating 173

Part 4 The Theory of Treatment

36 Invitations to the Brain 181

37 Reversing the Habit 184

38 Rules of Disengagement 190

39 Emotional Learning 196

Part 5 Food Rehab

40 The Treatment Framework 205

41 Planned Eating 209

42 Letting Go of the Past 217

43 Eating Is Personal 226

44 Avoiding Traps: On Obsession and Relapse 231

45 Making the Critical Perceptual Shift 234

Part 6 The End of Overeating

46 "Our Success Is the Problem" 239

47 Industry Cracks the Code 242

48 Fighting Back 245

A Final Word 250

Q&A with Dr. Kessler 253

Endnotes 257

List Of Author Interviews 311

Acknowledgments 319

Index 323

About The Author 330

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 162 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(41)

4 Star

(36)

3 Star

(29)

2 Star

(36)

1 Star

(20)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 162 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Awareness breaks the addiction

    Like others, I believe this book is well-written and an easy read. However, for me the value lies in the awareness of how I've been led into overeating. That awareness now allows (helps) me break the addiction to sugar, fats and salt. Some of the edible substances (it's difficult to call them food anymore, since they provide "pleasure" rather than proper nourishment) I've been addicted to: chocolate bars, ice cream, potato and corn chips.

    It seems so much easier to keep the mindset that I just do not need such things anymore.

    21 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 2, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Food Rehab for Hypereating

    After working in an obesity treatment center for over a decade, I came to understand that the paradigm the medical community utilized to help people lose weight was greatly flawed. Any other treatment protocol with a 95% failure rate would have been halted immediately. For many that came through the clinic, food and beverage had become an addiction and overeating beyond their power to control. This book benefits everyone that has struggled with weight, whether 10 pounds or 200 pounds. The book is well researched and easy to read. And it will give you answers and understanding that has not been discussed in the scientific community or the weight loss industry before. Thank you for researching and writing this great book.

    15 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 29, 2009

    Good book, very informative

    I enjoyed reading this book. I found the information to be both interesting and informative. I had thought for years that certain foods were nearly as addictive as drugs or alcohol, and this book explains that they are, and how the food manufacturers do this. I am not an avid reader but I could not put this book down. Anyone who wants to lose weight would benefit greatly from reading this book.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Stop the insantiy!

    Seriously, this book will open your eyes to what is really going on. It's hard to lose weight and be fit and healthy when there is so much confusion. It's not necessarily a diet book, per se, it's more like just an understanding of what's going on.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    Very informative information on Obesity & Compulsive Overeating.

    This book is most helpful to people who struggle with "Compulsive Overeating" as it clears up many myths about why will power may not be as big of an issue with resolving the problem. It clearly explains how and why many people become what to me is a compulsive overeater, the author calls "conditioned hypereaters" and it gives hope for recovery from this condition. How we may in fact be "Powerless" over some foods, but certainly are not helpless, and without hope. As Dr. Kessler so clearly explains not only what has happened to us, but how we can overcome this problem, he states "we still have the ability to make choices about whether we allow this triumvirate to dominate our behavior." With his help and advice I think there is hope in taking a different route.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2009

    Provides the answers to our eating epidemic!

    This is an awesome book, and provides the answers needed to understand the rapant overeating that is going on in our society today. If anyone is wondering why they cannot resist eating salt, fat and sugar, they will find out by reading this book. This book really helped me to eat healthier, and to understand and resist my food cravings.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2009

    Excellent explanation on how America eats.

    Insightful revelations on how and why we eat the way we do. As a society we have drifted into fast, processed foods that are engineered to make us consume more.
    Dr. Kessler dissects the food, the industry, and our motivations to eat. While not a diet book, by explaining why we eat the way we do, how food is produced or engineered you quickly gain an understanding of overeating.
    Since reading this and by incorporating other changes in the food I eat, I have lost 20 pounds in just over 4 months. This book has helped me get off the diet roller-coaster and on to life-style changes that are healthier for me.
    While not for everyone, if you are serious about learning why we eat the way we do or just learn about how processed and restaurant foods are "engineered" to make us crave them, then this is a worthwhile read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating, and a life change helper

    Reading this was a revelation for me. It both confirmed some suspicions and helped me learn other information. I love good food, but this book helped me understand that what I've formerly seen as "flavor" (in the highly processed food foisted on us by a very smart food industry, usually made up of salt, fat and sugar) is a deceptive concept.

    Descriptions of its effect on us, incredible cravings for those food products, also hit home as fact. Many of us are overweight as a result, but like anything we want to change its up to us to first recognize the drivers, and use that to drive our own commitment to ourselves and change our eating habits. This book may do that for you as it has for me.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 15, 2009

    Useful and highly recommended

    Dr. Kessler explains comprehensively what I knew to be true about my compulsive eating. It is an addiction. This problem has to be dealt with as instensively as an addiction to cocaine or alcohol. A lightbulb finally went off after reading this book. My approach to eating is beginning to change. I am on my way to having a healthier relationship with food.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Comprehensive But A Bit Long At Times

    Three things make this book better than the average dieting/nutrition book - the author's diligent research, the author's credibility, and the author's presentation of the information. I will not delve into the details here - you are more than capable of figuring that out - just be rest assured that the research is top-notch, the author has the background in the field to support this book, and finally the humor (at least in the audiobook) makes for a fun experience. The only downside is that book seems a bit long and repetitious at times, but despite this is worth a read.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2009

    Oh! Thats why.

    Dr. David Kessler has been a hero of mine since "60 Minutes" did a story on him back in the 90's when he was head of the "Food & Drug Administration." I enjoyed the information he gathered on the food industry, information that I probably wouldn't be handed on a sunny day. I loaned the book to my neighbor and her daughter and husband are mildly upset with me for changing their diets. "Where's the icecream!"

    DM

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2009

    Don't waste your money

    This book is pointless. There is no innovative research here. It's just one man, railing on the evils sugar, fat and salt. Not really groundbreaking stuff.

    3 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Worth a Read - People Who Are Overeaters Don't Have Anything To Lose By Reading This

    I am a fitness and nutrition professional, and I recommend this book to my clients!

    This book is a resource, first and foremost. This (nor any book) is the end-all-be-all for dieting or overeating. Dr. Kessler makes some very good points that can be incorporated into a sincere effort to change eating habits. If you are looking for this book (and only this book) to change your life---why not change your way of thinking, and look at this book as a major step on your way to a healthy life. That will release some of the "do or die" pressure on making this book the end-al-be-all for you.

    I also recommend to ALL of my clients (and family): "Build Your Mind, Your Body Will Follow". It is a quick and very powerful read!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2009

    Unique book about food and why we find it so hard to resist it

    Highly recommended

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    Excellent expose of the food industry

    Excellent expose of the food industry and how they manipulate the food we eat. I'm sorry Dr. Kessler is not still the head of the FDA. There would not have been the Fen/Phen and Vioxx deaths. He is a true man of science and cannot be bought.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 17, 2009

    No wonder we have an obesity problem

    Offers a good explanation of how the food industry addicts us to unhealthy food, but is not very helpful with specific ways to escape the cycle of bad food.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    End your over eating

    This a great book to read for anyone who is struggling with overeating. The book does a great job of explaining why we overeat on both the physiological and the psychological levels. The book also gives strategies which help with controlling your appetite. After reading the book, By understanding why I overate, I was able to control y craving much more effectively. As the book states, overeating is a life long struggle. With the knowledge about overeating, many people can help themselves control their indulgences.
    The only flaw in this book is that some of the explanations are not very detailed. This was probably done from an editorial point of view of making the book easier to read. However, there were some studies which are discussed which are hard to believe without more information.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A valuable book for everyone - not just those suffering from emotional eating problems.

    Easy to read, full of information, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2012

    Disturbed by the descriptions of animal testing

    Some of it was quite cruel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2010

    Amazing

    Once I got past the initial scientific background in the first couple chapters, I had trouble putting the book down and eventually, went back to the beginning to re-read the reasearch portion at the start of the book. Very relevant and enlightening. I am a healthy eater compared to most yet some of the items I thought to be healthy are not at food establishments such as Chili's. How can you destroy a chicken breast! I will never be the same or think the same after reading this book. Thank you Dr Kessler

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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