Book Review: The End of Overeating

The End of Overeating

This was the first book that I’ve ever purchased a book that I saw on a TV interview. I was watching the Colbert Report and Colbert’s guest was David Kessler, who was promoting his new book. I had actually purchased the book through Amazon before the interview was over. I had read a few angry preliminary reviews on blogs in the Fat-o-sphere (but seemingly from nobody who had actually read it), but the idea that the author is the former head of the FDA made me want to tear this book a new one.

First, the bad….

Kessler attempts to open the book with anecdotes about some colleagues of his, all provided with pseudonyms. In fact, he peppers the book with little stories about bringing a pack of cookies to an interview and having the interviewee so distracted that it was difficult for him to continue. These passages felt purposefully “dumbed down” for the readers, almost as if to say “we’re going to talk about brain stuff, but don’t be afraid, don’t run away.” I found it a bit insulting.

Kessler’s description of several food items as “salt on sugar on fat on fat on sugar” became rather oversimplified and repetitive. He picks on several chain resraurants and dissects menu items in terms of how much fat, sugar, and salt are in each one, paying no attention to vegetables, vitamin content, fiber content, or any other of the hallmarks of a nutritious meal.

Kessler was the head of the FDA, the same government organization that recomends we eat between 7 and 11 servings of government-subsidized starches like potatoes, breads and pastas. He devotes exactly one sentence to how we might not want to be eating quite to many of these things.

He uses quite a few animal-based studies to flesh out his points. Animals do not have the complex relationship with food that people do.

Now the good….

Kessler is a proponent of intuitive eating. He does not recommend counting calories, or even attempting weight loss. Instead he advocates for eating when we are hungry and stopping when we are full, while highlighting the external cues that drive us to perform what he termed “conditioned hyperovereating.”
The idea that the body knows best, but our environment is powerful.

Kessler mentions that both fat and thin people can be victims of this environmental drive to overeat. He does not seek out outliers to make his point, but rather uses population studies that are provided in his noted section. These studies, while I have not gone through all of them, appear to take statistically viable sample sizes.

Kessler does not seek out to inspire weight loss, rather to make us more aware of why certain foods we “crave” can be “irresistable.” While he claims to have gained and lost weight many times, be does not state how much he lost, how he did it, or even that “you can do it too!” He seeks balance through awareness. His idea is that if you find Doritos impossible to resist, you should examine why.

I really wanted to hate this book. I really did.

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~ by jamiesnydertv on May 16, 2009.

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