Monday, July 6, 2009

Book Review: The End of Overeating

It should come as no surprise that Americans overeat, but learning all the reasons behind those size 24 pants may startle you. In 'The End of Overeating:Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite' by David A. Kessler, M.D., you'll go on a calorie-packed ride through the haunted house of food and fault.

The first forty pages are heavy with animal study evidence, where scientists stuffed rats with Froot Loops, Cheetos, and fat-laced sugar water, then did things like shock them to see if the newly-rotund rodents would continue to seek out snacks. (I guarantee this is an unrealistic data model, because if they tried that on me, I’d be eating a Twinkie with one hand, and holding up a geek by his throat up against the wall with my other hand, electrodes blasting his balls every few minutes while I ask him “Do you feel like frying fatties now? ZAP! How about now? ZAP!”) I started feeling bad for the literal furballs, and wondered if anyone called Jenny CritterCraig for them.

Eventually Dr. Kessler does add in more human anecdotes, and explores the Harry Potter-worthy arcane art of food science (It’s a pile of chemicals! Poof! It tastes like chocolate!) along with breaking down the menu items of places like Chili’s and Outback with the ‘How Many Times Has It Been Fried?’ game. I learned a lot, and I’ll never touch a Chicken Tender again, not even if it asks for it while dressed in sexy Ranch sauce.

The children’s consumption studies he cites are truly frightening; every parent should be required to read those pages before stepping into a fast food restaurant. I don’t even have kids, but my ovaries cinched up just learning about how food habits have changed across the generations. Of course, when I was a kid, if someone had a nugget, it was because they’d struck gold.

At the end of the book is a section called ‘Food Rehab,’ and I agree with most of his suggestions. Through years of trial and error, I’ve stumbled into many of them on my own, and found success. While ‘eat what you enjoy’ sounds like a no-brainer, once you step into the funhouse-mirror world of dieting and food cravings, especially with trendy diets pushing butter and meat while forbidding carrots, common sense goes out the window. I do disagree with the idea of flipping the switch, as it were, and creating negative emotions with food to break the conditioned hyper-eater’s reward system. Eating without attaching emotion to the experience is what worked for me, and I’m seventy-five pounds lighter. So there, nyah.

‘The End of Overeating’ is an eye-opening read; even if you don’t have hips that could knock out turnstiles and bruise toddlers, peruse this book to see what happens to your food before it goes into your pie-hole. You’ll be surprised, and maybe a little healthier.