Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sugar, Fat, and Salt....addictive? How do we stop overeating?

I just finished reading David A. Kessler, MD's book The end of overeating. It was definitely an interesting read and I recommend it as some food for thought.

For about the first half of the book, Kessler talked a lot about the enticing nature of processed foods and restaurant meals due to their overuse of sugar, fat and salt. He discussed several research studies that really showed just how enticing those foods are. I want to be careful not to use the word "addictive" because there is quite a controversy on that topic. Many research studies conflict and I am not a believer that food is a addictive. I need to be convinced by a lot more research first! However, I do agree, and Kessler's presented research shows that there are certainly foods that are hard to stop eating.

I would like to take you back to Intuitive Eating for a minute. In that book, the authors discussed studies that showed a major decline in the satisfaction level of a food after eating only a small amount. Also, there was a lot writing in that book devoted to the message that making no food off limits results in less overeating. Perhaps the high sugar, fat, and salt foods do have a significant pull on one's tastebuds. Maybe if we do follow the advice in Intuitive Eating we might realize that the food really isn't as satisfying after the 10th or 15th bite.

Getting back to Kessler's book, the second half was mainly about overcoming the urge to overeat. The end result of Kessler's process was similar to the ideas of Intuitive Eating; however, the road to get there was quite different. Kessler stresses avoidance of all foods that might trigger you to overeat. My first thought was that deprivation leads to overeating. Kessler made a point to say that this is not "deprivation". Instead, it is just the conscious decision you make and say to yourself, "I just don't eat that food." I do believe there is more than one right way to do a lot of things, but in my experience, I don't see that working for many people. There will always be family events, holidays, birthdays, and other tempting occasions when everyone is eating something except for you. When you get to that occassion, will you be able to resist? What if you allowed yourself to have a small portion? Kessler believes that you will end up with another small portion, and another, and another, until you have had way too much. Yes, I agree with him if you are a person who is always depriving yourself. However, what if you have learned to eat intuitively and know that you can have chocolate chip cookies any time you want? When they show up at a family function, maybe just one would satisfy you. Learning to savor and really taste your food makes a big difference in how you eat as well. If you pop an entire cookie into your mouth while you're talking at the same time, how can you really taste and enjoy it?

Kessler also encourages the reader to avoid all situations that might derail you. In some cases, I completely agree. If you can't walk past a Starbucks every day without stopping in for a danish, then maybe you should find a different route. Those types of modifcations to your life seem reasonable. However, there will always be special events, dinners out with friends, etc that you shouldn't have to miss out on. Furthermore, you have to learn how to cope in these situations and still walk away feeling like you had a great time but didn't overindulge. You should not miss good times with friends and family because of food!

As I mentioned, the end result that Kessler is hoping to get you to is not making any foods off limits. He wants you to be able to eat mostly healthy foods, some "play foods" (term from Intuitive Eating), and just the right amount. In order to get to that point, he believes that you do have to go through this avoidance phase and "I don't eat that" phase in order to "detox" yourself, if you will.

The end of overeating. is certainly an interesting book with many great points; however, I would encourage you to try to become an intuitive eater. I would also love any feedback from people on what works for them; or from professionals who have tried either of these two techniques and what the long-term results are like. In my experience, eating intuitively is still the best way to go!


  1. Great Post. Thanks

  2. I am enjoying the Intuitive Eating book. My personal experience is that intuitive eating works better than deprivation. Just one example of that is the occasional chocolate craving. I have found that I am much better off to go straight for a little pkg of Skinny Cow Dreamy Clusters (120 calories) and satisfy the craving. If I don't I am looking for a substitute, which most likely will not satisfy me, and add up to more calories than the little pkg of Skinny Cow.

  3. very informative post for me as I am always looking for new content that can help me and my knowledge grow better.