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The Minds of Millions of Americans Have Been Hijacked!

13 Jun 2009
Posted by Pete Davis

This is not the title of a sci-fi thriller.  A few minutes ago, I heard former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, MD repeat it over and over again at Politics and Prose bookstore in D.C.  What was he talking about?  His new book, The End of Overeating­, is the first to pull together the hard science behind the restaurant and food industry hijacking of our eating habits and the source of our obesity epidemic.

By creating "adult baby food," laden with sugar, fat, and salt, the food industry has us addicted to eating far more than we need or is good for us.  His inspiration for writing this book came 7 years ago when he watched a well educated, well dressed women on Oprah explain how she ate all the time and hated herself for it.  He was struck by her inability to break free from that cycle and wondered how that addiction worked.  What follows is a long series of short chapters alternating numerous scientific studies with the personal experiences of many people struggling with their weight.

Kessler regulated food from late 1990, when President Bush 41, appointed him until early 1997, and yet he expressed shock at what his dumpster diving at restaurants turned up.  We've allowed the food industry to take the nutrition out of our food and to put sugar, fat, and salt and a lot of additives in its place.  We get a lot more immediate pleasure, but we're less satisfied and a lot less healthy.   We've doubled the incidence of type-2 diabetes in the past 20 years and currently spend $13 b. annually on diabetes medicine alone.  Our food addictions are literally killing us.

The best part of Kessler's book is his very specific step-by-step recommendations at the end on how to overcome eating addictions.  His main legislative recommendation is that restaurants and foods be clearly labeled with the amounts of added sugar, fat, salt, and flavor enhancers.  That seems a little meager, until you consider that Kessler started a tobacco labeling battle 15 years ago that just this week culminated in Congress giving the FDA complete control over tobacco products and advertising.  Kessler noted that tobacco is by far the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. and processed food is next.

We economists like to believe that consumers are rational, but, when it comes to food and tobacco, we're clearly not.  Now that Kessler has established the depth and breadth of this externality, it's time for the government to require better food labeling.

aka, restaurants providing the food the customers like

I'll take Kessler seriously when he opens a chain of Kessler Kitchen Restaurants and thrives doing so.

Economics of Food

Kessler's suggestion to provide more information will lead to more junk being put in our food like aspartame.

The problem is not nutritional, it is cultural.

My ex girlfriend would count every calorie in her food, every macro and micronutrient, and she would end up eating disgusting protein pancakes and eggplant for dinner. This follow's Kessler's rules, but it is not healthy.

The United States in the only country with a food pyramid.

Michael Pollan has it right: we need to view food as something cultural in additional to being biological.

-Don't eat food that doesn't rot.
-Don't eat food your grandma wouldn't recognize as food.
-Don't eat food that is advertised.
-Eat at a table, not a desk.
-Eat meals, not snacks

There's a lot more in his book: In Defense of Food.

The problems are probably deeper

things like carbohydrates supposedly cause melatonin to be created and that makes people feel happy. A chocolate chip cookie has carbs and chocolate is a known stimulant. Fat is a long term energy source.

I lost 80 lbs by simply seeing that my emotions were coupled to what I ate; these days, I'm just about free from the co dependence; I latched onto the endorphins generated by exercise in order to break the bond.

My next obsession was music and reading.

At this point, things seem a lot more balanced.

So I definitely recommended glycemic diet habits that balance carbs, proteins and fat; For breakfast, I now use 1% fat instead of non-fat milk to help ensure that I get the carb boost and then a "fat based" long term energy source.

Of course I throw some fruits in their too...

It‘s a lucid, well-researched

It‘s a lucid, well-researched and gentle book that takes a shot at explaining why we overeat. Knowing and understanding this could be a valuable first step toward eating better and with less torment, and maybe to losing weight or avoiding weight gain too. I think that Kessler’s book is a good read for anyone who eats food and for every parent raising kids in our food-crazed culture, and that includes those of us who have never struggled with overweight.

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