Your Food Is Fooling You: How Your Brain Is Hijacked by Sugar, Fat, and Salt

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Teen edition of the New York Times bestseller, The End of Overeating


Former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration David Kessler, M.D., argues forcefully that our brain chemistry is being hijacked by the food we eat: that by consuming stimulating combinations of sugar, fat, and salt, we're conditioning our bodies to crave more sugar, fat, and salt—and consigning ourselves to a vicious cycle of overeating. Adapted from the adult trade bestseller...

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Your Food Is Fooling You: How Your Brain Is Hijacked by Sugar, Fat, and Salt

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Teen edition of the New York Times bestseller, The End of Overeating


Former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration David Kessler, M.D., argues forcefully that our brain chemistry is being hijacked by the food we eat: that by consuming stimulating combinations of sugar, fat, and salt, we're conditioning our bodies to crave more sugar, fat, and salt—and consigning ourselves to a vicious cycle of overeating. Adapted from the adult trade bestseller The End of Overeating, Your Food Is Fooling You is concise and direct and delivers the same message, many of the fascinating case studies, and the same advice for breaking bad eating habits in a voice and format that's accessible, positive, and affirming for teenagers. Young people are at most risk of forming bad eating habits—but they're also highly aware of body image and highly responsive to positive messages about health and diet. Your Food Is Fooling You is a readable, authoritative, and entertaining call to action by one of our nation's leading public health figures.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Review, Booklist, February 15, 2013 issue: 

"Kessler reponds with a method that doesn’t promise a quick fix but instead offers some consoling advice on how to kick an overeating habit." — Booklist

VOYA - Deena Viviani
In this young reader's edition of Kessler's The End Of Overeating (Rodale, 2010), the author reinforces the simple principle that eating too much can cause obesity. He continues to explain how restaurants and food manufacturing companies create products that are full of sugar, fat, and salt, which "hijack" people's brains when eaten. This causes consumers to crave more of the unhealthy foods and eat them to excess. Kessler breaks down his findings using examples from popular chain restaurants, and concludes the book with "Food Rehab," where he offers ways to overcome food challenges. While his points are often repetitive, the writing style certainly asserts Kessler's thesis: that sugar, fat, and salt affect the chemistry of the brain so that those who consume these products become addicted to unhealthy foods and proceed to overeat them. Teens may get tired of this restatement throughout the chapters, but the information about the contents of restaurant food is interesting and makes it relatable. A huge plus is the section that lists simple behaviors to put into practice for those battling the overeating addiction. Kessler also reinforces the premise that eating is healthy and not something to feel guilty about; it is just overeating the wrong foods that causes excessive weight gain and health problems. Pair this title with books like Eat This, Not That by David Zinczenko (Rodale, 2007) and the memoir Hungry by Allen Zadoff (De Capo Lifelong, 2007). Reviewer: Deena Viviani
Children's Literature - Meredith Kiger
This eye-opening book should be read by everyone as no one is exempt from its message. Written by a former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, it is an adaptation for young readers of his book The End of Overeating, Your Food is Fooling You, a New York Times bestseller. The brief thirty one chapters are organized into four parts: Sugar, Fat and Salt; How the Food Industry Targets You; Understanding Overeating; and Food Rehab. Sugar, Fat and Salt targets those three ingredients as the most detrimental to our health especially in the right combination. How the Food Industry Targets You discusses their overuse of sugar, fat, and salt to keep you wanting more of what they are marketing. Understanding Overeating explains how certain food combinations, especially convenience foods, become addictive. Food Rehab encourages readers to break the cycle of overeating by providing tips on changing your poor eating behaviors. With two-thirds of adults overweight and one-third of all children, the future well-being of our country could hinge on being a well-informed eater. An index is included. Reviewer: Meredith Kiger, Ph.D.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596438316
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 12/24/2012
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 329,177
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 830L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

David Kessler, M.D., 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 the Harvard Medical School, he is the father of two and lives with his wife in California.

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Read an Excerpt



What Is Overeating?



I got the idea to write this book while watching a daytime talk show. On the show a psychologist was talking about why so many Americans are overweight. He asked for a volunteer from the audience. A large, well-dressed woman named Sarah stood up. The psychologist asked Sarah to talk about her problems with weight.

At first Sarah was all smiles. “I eat all the time,” she said with a nervous giggle. “I eat when I’m hungry; I eat when I’m not hungry. I eat when I’m happy; I eat when I’m sad.”

Then the psychologist asked Sarah to describe how she felt about herself.

The sunny smile on her face faded. Sarah said she felt like a failure. She called herself “fat” and “ugly.” She said that she ate too much even though she knew it wasn’t good for her. Afterward, she often felt angry with herself for not being able to stop.

“I feel that I can’t do it,” she said, choking back tears. “That I don’t have the willpower. My whole thought is about why I eat, what I eat, when I eat, with whom I eat,” she said. “I don’t like myself.”

The psychologist asked how many in the audience had ever felt like that. About two-thirds of them raised their hands. They all had a problem with overeating.

Eating Is Making Us Sick

I use the term overeating a lot in this book. You’ve probably never heard of overeating before, but I bet you know what I mean. Too many Americans are just eating way too much. We’re eating more than our bodies need. All that extra food gets turned into fat.

And it is making us sick.

About one-third of all adults in the United States are overweight. Another third are obese. That means they are not just overweight, but extremely overweight. Being obese leads to many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and some kinds of cancers. Taken together, that means that two-thirds of Americans weigh more than they should to be healthy.

This is very personal for me because I am one of those Americans who has struggled with weight and overeating. I have lost weight, gained it back, and lost it again—over and over and over. I have owned suits in every size. When I heard Sarah on that TV show, I knew exactly what she was talking about.

I’m a doctor and I have often wondered why so many people, including myself, have so much trouble with eating. It’s natural to eat when you’re hungry. It’s also natural to stop eating when you’re full. Yet something is turning off the natural switch in our brains that tells us to stop eating.

That’s what I call overeating. It’s when people eat all the time, whether or not they’re hungry. It’s when people feel they have lost control and have to eat no matter how bad it is for them.

A Problem for Kids, Too

Overeating is a big problem for kids, too. Like grownups, more and more kids just never stop eating. That means that more and more kids are gaining dangerous amounts of weight.

About 17 percent or more than 12 million kids aged two to nineteen are obese. Another 12 million are overweight. That means that 34 percent, or more than one-third of all young Americans, weigh too much.

A strange part of the overeating problem is that many thin people struggle with it, too. These people may not be obese, but they spend all day thinking about food, tempted to eat. Eating or not eating becomes a constant battle for them. Instead of something to enjoy, food becomes their enemy, something they have to fight against. At the other end of the spectrum are eating disorders where people become fearful of food or try too hard to control what they eat. That’s not good, either.

If you’re young and you’re not overweight, you may not even think about this. You may be consuming snacks like candy or high sugar “energy” drinks all day long without even realizing it. You may be eating super-size portions that you don’t need. In other words, you may already be overeating without knowing it. You may not be overweight now, but if you develop the habit of overeating when you are young, you are going to have problems with eating later in life.

Being aware of the dangers of overeating is the best way to make sure you don’t have to struggle with food for the rest of your life.

Overeating Everywhere

Once I started looking around, I saw people overeating everywhere. It wasn’t hard to spot. I’d see people in restaurants, lifting food to their mouths, even though they hadn’t finished chewing the last bite. When their plates were empty, they’d reach across the table to spear a french fry or bite of dessert from someone else’s plate.

I realized that everywhere I looked, people were always eating. People ate while walking down the street. They ate while sitting in their cars. They ate all day long, during meals, between meals, whenever they could.

But why? And why couldn’t they stop? The answer to that question is what this book is about.

You Are the Target

What I discovered is that overeating is not happening by accident. Americans did not all decide to just start eating nonstop. We did not suddenly lose our “willpower” or become weak. We overeat largely because of the way food is now manufactured and marketed. Foods are designed and sold to us in ways that make us want to eat more.

What foods are these? You probably know the answer. Some are foods like sweetened drinks, chips and cookies, candy, and other snack foods. Then, of course, there are fast food meals—fried chicken, pizza, burgers, and fries. And there are thousands of other processed foods like frozen dinners and breakfast cereals and “energy drinks” and more.

A lot of this processed food is marketed to young people. Fast food restaurants, high-energy drinks, candy bars, and other snacks are all heavily advertised to teens. You may even have candy and soda vending machines in your school. Your school cafeteria may be serving this highly processed food.

Food companies make these foods with very large amounts of three ingredients—sugar, fat, and salt. Let me repeat that because it’s important:

Sugar, Fat, and Salt

These three ingredients, when put together in the right amounts, make us eat more. Think about that. Instead of satisfying our hunger, these foods train our bodies and our brains to want more. And food companies, including fast food chains, understand this very well. They are hard at work to make new foods that will get us to keep eating.

The End of Overeating

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that we don’t have to be afraid of food. Foods that come to us without added sugar, salt, and fat are healthy and delicious—and they do not make us overeat. We can enjoy eating foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and meat as long as they don’t have added sugar, fat, and salt.

For some people, overeating may not be a problem. But if you’re already eating snacks throughout the day, plus eating super-sized portions at every meal, then you are going to have to learn a new way of eating. It takes some time and practice to retrain your brain. But the good news is that it can be done. The first step is to understand why some foods make us crave more food. Then you can learn how to stop the cravings.

Once you’ve done that, you can stop worrying about food. You’ll eat when you’re hungry and enjoy your meals without feeling bad.

I hope reading this book helps you as much as writing it helped me.


Copyright © 2013 by David A. Kessler

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Table of Contents

Part 1 Sugar, Fat, Salt

Chapter 1 What is Overeating? 3

Chapter 2 America Gained Weight 9

Chapter 3 Eating and Overeating 16

Chapter 4 Selling you Sugar, Fat, and Salt 26

Chapter 5 Why Diets are Difficult 32

Chapter 6 Food that Makes you Want More 37

Chapter 7 Training Your Brain 42

Chapter 8 The Food Carnival 47

Chapter 9 Sugar, Fat, and Salt Rewire Your Brain 54

Part 2 How the Food Industry Targets you

Chapter 10 A Visit to Chili's 61

Chapter 11 Cinnabon: Food you Can't Resist! 66

Chapter 12 Food as Entertainment 72

Chapter 13 Never Satisfied 78

Chapter 14 We Don't Know What We Want 82

Chapter 15 It's all American Food Now 87

Chapter 16 Fake Food 91

Chapter 17 Perfect Food 95

Chapter 18 Getting You Hooked 100

Part 3 Understanding Overeating

Chapter 19 The Signs of Overeating 105

Chapter 20 Trained to Eat 111

Chapter 21 The Overeating Cycle 116

Chapter 22 How we Get Trapped 122

Chapter 23 Finding a Way Out 126

Part 4 Food Rehab

Chapter 24 Learning How to Eat 131

Chapter 25 A New Look at Food 136

Chapter 26 Taking Control 142

Chapter 27 You Make the Rules 149

Chapter 28 Planned Eating 152

Chapter 29 Just-Right Eating 157

Chapter 30 Good Eaters 160

Chapter 31 Your New Life with Food 166

Q & A with Dr. Kessler 169

Acknowledgments 175

Index 177

About the Author 183

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 24, 2013

    I could not stop reading this book. I finished it in less than

    I could not stop reading this book. I finished it in less than 3 days. It was such an eye-opener. I already suspected most of what the author was saying. I just over-thrilled to see it all in plain black and white. It's a really good read. It's not to technical or scientific. It's in laymen's terms. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is serious about finding out the truth about food. This book truly spoke to me.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2013

    120lb. 14 yr. old

    I am 158lb. and only 13 years old. To me,you are the luckiest person alive. Please, tell me anything you can. I can summerize my life in two words.

    HELP ME!!!!!!!!!!!
    Fat chick

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted August 11, 2013

    I USE to over eat

    I thought about it and i always over eat like at mcy ds i eat the burger and im full and dont pay atenchen then i eat all the frys... and that is a lot of fat so am i im only 14 and i am 120 pounds that is bad and this book helped me for one week alredy i dident cram my face at one meal and when i was full i stoped no matter how good and im feeling a lil proud here thx for writting this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2013


    I do not agree with every thing

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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