The End of Overeating and the Food Conspiracy

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The End of Overeating and the Food Conspiracy

A couple of weeks ago, Diane Rehm had Dr. David Kessler on her NPR show promoting his new book The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. Dr. Kessler believes there is an active and growing conspiracy against the American people, spearheaded by the agencies that are supposed to be protecting us.

Dr. Kessler is no weirdo food crackpot. He has a million credentials, but his most notable are his tenure as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (under the first George Bush’s administration and a repeat performance during Bill Clinton’s), and he is a self-declared food-aholic. By the time the show was over, he had altered how I look at my local grocery store and I was half-way to the nearest bookstore.

Dr. Kessler’s new book touches on two very clear and hard truths. The first is not necessarily shocking, but I don’t think our egos would allow us to readily admit it. Here goes: We are fat because we eat too much. Earth-shattering, right? But most Americans, spurred on by the diet industry, believe that if you try a magic food or pill or drink we will be “cured” of our fat. But the reality is much plainer and harder than that. Fewer calories in, more calories out. If you eliminate 400 calories from your diet on a weekly basis, you would lose weight or at least stave off any additional gain.

Second truth: The food industry is aiding and abetting in the expansion of your waistline. Specifically, the folks responsible for the processed food that most of us consume on a daily basis. Three simple ingredients, utilized in consistent and amplified amounts, keep us addicted to food like your local heroine addict. Sugar, fat and salt are the building blocks for most of our diets. Even if you are not adding them to your food directly, often they are being added during the processing. Dr. Kessler likens this “adding during processing” to what the tobacco industry has been accused of in making cigarettes addictive. Tobacco smoked in its purest form would not have you chain smoking a pack a day, but the additives are what make you crave it. The same goes for processed food. The double helping of salt, fat and sugar (often in the most unlikely recipes) keeps you eating long after you should be satisfied.


Along with the three magic ingredients, the food industry has hired an army of savvy and creative folks that market food to you in such a way that it literally becomes irresistible.

Now according to Dr. Kessler, there are 15% of you out there that this all sounds ridiculous to. You are the folks who could take your food in pill form and go about your day. For whatever reason (genetic, culture, trauma), food just doesn’t get you off like us 85%-ers. For the rest of us, food is a valid way to nurture, reward, soothe and celebrate. We connect with food in a way that goes beyond our biological needs – and that’s how the food industry has engineered it.

Example: How many of us have been at a restaurant and returned a soda because it has been deemed “flat?” Technically nothing is wrong with the soda, except it hasn’t arrived at your table the way that that giant billboard that you pass every morning says it should. It is not cold and powerful and full of pop! Because a can of soda is more than a can of soda. Madison Avenue is selling you something besides those 16 ounces. It is selling you refreshing, sexy, thirst-quenching goodness. They have assigned a set of attributes to that soda that goes beyond the 200 calories in the can.

As I finished reading the book, I realized it was a great argument for going raw or, at the very least, eliminating all the things that your supermarket sells in those middle aisles completely out of your diet.

Mark Bittman (during a talk at 2007) has come to the same conclusion. Take a look.

Comments [19]

Xanadu's picture

I predict Coke will be my

I predict Coke will be my downfall! ... I'm addicted to the stuff. I know all the scientific facts and have a social conscience ...I'm vegetarian and yet still can't break the habit Evil

yonks's picture

Years ago, after i'v see the

Years ago, after i'v see the play "The Tempest", by Shakespeare, i was walking in the aisle of a supermarket, looking at the huge amount of food. i thought into my head: it look like a banquet, but its all illusion, Prospero, what have you done? oh no, i'm trap in a Shakespeare play!

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

yonks's picture

I love to eat good stuff, i

I love to eat good stuff, i try to find the greatest pleasure with what ever i put in my mouth. So mostly, i buy stuff of high quality so that forbid me to eat too much. For example, i love chocolate, but not those one that you find on a supermarket, the one near my place who cost 20$ for a small box. Let me tel you that i don't buy one every day.
Or meat, organic, raise outside, i don't eat meat every day.
but if i get rich one day, i'm gonna be fat...

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

Steph H's picture

I do worry that the

I do worry that the "flipside" of the whole weight/diet issue is that many people seem to think that fat is bad - full stop. Too much fat clearly is, but the body does need fat as part of a balanced diet. I have friends who think I am dabbling with the devil because I eat butter. I don't eat a lot of it but I would rather have a "pure" fat than a substitute full of chemicals. I do not believe that low fat automatically equates to healthy, especially when it's crammed full of god knows what else instead. It's all about balance.

rovermom's picture

hun...butter is better for

hun...butter is better for you then margarine. Yes fat is essential...

trans fat is a straight chain...not kinky....kinky is exercises the cell membrane and allows the bigger nutrients to pass through the cell kinky...and the cell membrane becomes unfit to get the nutrients it needs.

the cells can starve and not function properly if we don't get the kinky fat.

I like kinky Smile

rovermom's picture

stay away from trans fat

stay away from trans fat food. I know you know this...

minniesota's picture

Nuts have fat...the good

Nuts have fat...the good kind, so my nutritionist tells me.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

yonks's picture

You are what you eat :P

You are what you eat Tongue

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

Steph H's picture

Yep, a handful of natural

Yep, a handful of natural unsalted nuts a day is apparently very good for you! We like good fat.

Meiohmy's picture

I am so glad to see this

I am so glad to see this article. For most of my adult life, I didn't think much about what I ate. convenience and quickness were my basic qualifications for what I ate until one day I took a good hard look in the mirror and was shocked at the weight I had put on and how unhealthy I had become. Becoming conscious about eating was an eye opener and sadly it wasn't really all that hard to get educated. Yet I still see that most people don't think too hard about all of the crap they are consuming and have no idea of what they are doing to themselves as well as the environment. I am so glad to see the Alice Water's & Michael Pollan's (to name a few) who are trying to break through the fog. Thanks Michelle, for putting this out there.

rovermom's picture

I think people should rethink

I think people should rethink about some of the ingredients. High Fructose Corn Syrup is not really used outside of the United States.

The FDA is a joke.

I love eating Raw. Raw fruits and vegetables. I'm not a fan of processed or canned fruits and vegetables. Unless it's home canned. The less preservatives we intake the better.

mysticsmb's picture

Yes, sugar, real bona fide

Yes, sugar, real bona fide sugar isn't so much of a problem, but try to find anything with sugar in it these days. It's all corn syrup--due to our screwed up agricultural policies. Unless you're eating corn kernals or popcorn, you're better off not to eat anything with the name 'corn' in it.

I'm with you on the no processed fruits and veggies, but I'm not sure about all raw--some is good for us, but cooking actually releases additional nutrients and is easier on our digestive systems.

rovermom's picture

Oh I loved cooked

Oh I loved cooked veggies...lightly steamed. Some additional nutrients are released. But I still say raw is more times then not better. Raw promotes a stronger digestive system. Chewing properly ensures that. A combination of the two is great.

I really think the corn syrup and the preservatives has us addicted. It's in just about everything.

Kelly's picture

I recently had to write a

I recently had to write a self improvement essay for a psychology class. Why? I have no idea. Anyways I chose to write about improving my health. We had a specific list of sources we had to use. One them is a book, and i can't remember what it was called. I will look it up when i leave the office today. It was mostly geared towards menopausal womens health, but it made a very good point. It said something along the lines of

"Eat things that grow. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts grow. Twinkies do not. "

It sounds so simple, but it really is much harder than that!

minniesota's picture

You are right that it not

You are right that it not that easy. I want my occasional Twinkie, as well as fruits and vegetables. Smile

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Rusty's picture

Excellent post, Michelle. I

Excellent post, Michelle. I hope my cash poor library plans on getting a copy of that book. I went to a personal trainer a while ago and the nutrition plan she taught me was that unless it has a mother or grows in the ground it doesn't belong in your diet. She also taught me that if you're 80% good, your body can absorb the other 20%.

I try to do about 3 oz lean protein and 1 or 2 pieces of fruit 5 or 6 times a day. Sometimes I need to improvise — at the Strawberry Festival last month I had a ginormous turkey leg and glass of Strawberry Beer.

(Beer comes from the ground in case anyone is wondering.)

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

minniesota's picture

Is is just a coincidence we

Is is just a coincidence we have this blog posted right after the question on which food we'd like to have endless supply?

Reading too much into it, Minnie

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Grace Moon's picture

you know it totally

you know it totally was...
but it could have been my unconscious at work!
Julia created a list of the random questions then we select the question of the day and it posts automatically!

tweet tweet @gracemoon

minniesota's picture

The universe works in

The universe works in mysterious ways! Smile

Still searching for the right brainy quote.