Monday, October 24, 2011

Food, Food, Food!

You know, that word looks really weird after you write it over and over again several times.

Food. Food. Food. Food. Food. Food.

Yeah. You get the point (or you would if there was a point).  That's not what I intended to write about. I just noticed it as I started typing, and I get easily distracted by things.  They don't even have to be shiny! The point is that almost two months ago, I read this book and I really wanted to talk about it. It has to be now because I'm getting into a bit of a packing frenzy (my neighbors are particularly smelly tonight), so I won't be able to find it soon.

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by David Kessler, M.D.  The first thing that I will say is that despite the fact that he's a doctor, I had a hard time telling how much of his expertise is specifically with obesity.  In fact, if I remember the bio right, he's actually a pedia1rician, and his look into our{country's eating habits had more to do with a personal journey rather than professional discovery.  Therefore, keep in mind that this is not specifically his area. (Or at least it wasn't. It may be now.) On the other hand, his own personal experience of overeating and obesity shed a lot of light in the book.  Furthermore, because of his background in medicine, he's able to pull a lot out of the studies that he is reading.

The whole point that he introduces is what is it about food that we can't stop thinking about it?  He says that there are some people that think about it a relatively small amount, but that a lot of us are thinking about it a lot.  If you put something we like in front of us, we can hardly ignore it until we go ahead and eat it.  He also points out that it's not just overweight or obese people having a problem with this.  It's also people with normal weights who have just figured out strategies to avoid overeating to the point of becoming obese, but are still on some level preoccupied with food.

I am one of those people.  I have a sweet tooth like you wouldn't believe.  I finally got into a normal weight range several months ago, but it's a real struggle to stay there.  I recently got back from a weekend with family, and there's always food available, and in particular there was a ton of chocolate this time around.  I started with one small serving, but by the last day, I had at least 2 normal size servings for snack and dessert.

Turns out, one of the things that he brings up is that we've loaded so much fat and sugar and salt into everything that it actually stimulates different pathways in our brains.  One of the pathways is dopamine. This is the one that keeps us honing in on that food and focusing on it.  The other is an opioid pathway, which is the pleasure that we get from eating it.  As Americans, we have so much easy access to these processed foods that we're changing the way that our brains respond to food.  These pathways even start to override the circuits that would have us stop when we're full.  Fascinating stuff! It's not just that highly processed foods pack in so many bad calories while stripping any positive nutrition from them, but also the way that it affects our brains and our responses to these foods.

It's the dopamine that had me focusing on those brownies, and the opioids that rewarded my eating them.  Of course I still have control over my responses, but that's why it can be so difficult sometimes.  Had I actually been thinking on those lines (instead of thinking, "Mmm, chocolate. Gimme more!") I actually would have probably found other ways of dealing with it. That's one of the things that they talked about in the book.  Knowing how some of this works helps you identify with when those cues occur so that you recognize them and reject them right away.

Anyway, I think it's a really good book to read, and hearing a little behind the scenes of how the food industry thinks is really eye-opening!  It finishes off with some practical tips of what you can do if you struggle.  For me, it is not what I would call life changing, but it was informational and helpful.  His writing style is a little repetitious at times, and he does get a little technical with the studies (which can be a good thing, but be aware if you're thinking about reading it).


  1. Interesting - this makes so much sense.

    When will we figure out that the way God made things is usually the best way to use them (our bodies, food, etc.)

  2. So interesting! I'm fascinated by this kind of stuff lately - we've been eating all organic lately (except eating at restaurants occasionally) and I have mysteriously lost six pounds with no effort whatsoever! Our bodies just weren't made to process all the crazy stuff they put in conventional food.

  3. Sounds like a great read. I come from a family of alcoholics and I've always said that food is my alcohol- i'm addicted to it. Great science to show that it may be the case!

  4. Oh that's so interesting. I'll have to add it to my reading list!

  5. I feel a little better knowing that its not "all" my fault. :) I may just have to pick up the book because I need to get a handle on my own weight.