As the waistlines of Americans continue to grow, Dr. David Kessler provides answers to some of my lingering questions about the causation of this epidemic. What is it about food that does not let us stop with one piece of cake or a single slice of pizza? Why do we override our innate fullness sensor and continuously overeat? How can this be stopped? Dr. Kessler tackles all these questions in his recent book, The End of Overeating.
Question 1: What is it about food that does not let us stop with one piece of cake or a single slice of pizza?
Food today has three major additives that have been added to our food in major quantities compared with days of past: sugar, fat, and salt. These three components make manufactured food addicting, as proved by recent studies. A University of Washington researcher added sugar to skim milk, whole milk, half and half, and a heavy cream safflower oil mixture. Participants in the study preferred the cream and oil mixture (containing the most fat and sugar) to all others. Food companies have picked up on the fact that sugar, salt, and fat sell and are using it to their benefit.
Question 2: Why do we override our innate fullness sensor and continuously overeat?
Simply put, sugar, salt, and fat are rewarding. Think about a time when you have a plate of cookies in front of you. You eat one, it is delicious, you eat another and it is still delicious. Before you know it, the plate is half gone. Your control in this situation is damped by the sugar and fat. Continued exposure to overwhelming rewards from foods leads to conditioned overeating, a term used by Dr. Kessler. “Chronic exposure to highly palatable foods changes our brains, conditioning us to seek continued stimulation. Over time, a powerful drive for a combination of sugar, fat, and salt competes with our conscious capacity to say no.”
Question 3: How can this be stopped?
Sadly, we are incapable of changing the manufacturing procedures of food. Therefore, we must learn to control ourselves. First, understand conditioned overeating. No progress can be made in our battle with food if we do not acknowledge that hyper palatable foods are to blame. Next, you must learn to say no. Dr. Kessler reminds us that we have a choice when it comes to what goes into our bodies, and the urges we have for that next cookie can be ignored. We are warned that this is difficult, and there will be times when we slip. After practice, food will lose its captivating power over us… freedom at last!
I encourage you to read The End of Overeating in its entirety. It offers a new perspective on food and our addiction to it.