The End of Overeating
a book by Dr. David A.Kessler, MD

[An edited version of this book review appeared in Off the Shelf, a publication of the Bookshelf, in the Sept/Oct 2009 edition.]

Are you old enough to remember the days when there were only three flavours of ice cream? To get all three, chocolate, strawberry and vanilla in one cone was a joy. I so looked forward to Sunday afternoons, as a child, when my brothers and I would choose our flavour at the Guelph Royal Dairy on Paisley Road to mark the end of our family outing, usually a drive in the countryside.  This treat looks meager today when compared with the offering of a particular chocolate oreo milkshake, dubbed by some as "diabetes in a cup" and weighing in at 2600 calories.

Something has happened in the last thirty years.  The food industry has discovered what sells. We eat for emotional reward, relief from stress and multisensory effect.  We don't need to chew. We can swallow the melting moments of a cinnabon, enticed by the aroma of warm cinnamon, which is enhanced by three different kinds of sugar, wrapped up in the phenomenal smells of bread rising in the overn, all the while remembering grandma's home cooking.  This is nothing short of "eatertainment".

In 1960, the average weight of women between 20 and 29 in the USA was 128 pounds. In 2000, the average weight of the same age group was 157 pounds. Over 33 years, there has been a 63 percent jump in fat consumption. A 2007 study showed that 90 percent of the population experiences digestive problems.

Prepare to be outraged and appalled as you make your way through Dr David Kesler's book, "The End of Overeating". Dr. Kessler, MD, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, sets out to understand what is driving compulsive overeating and compulsive obsessing about eating. Prepare to finally understand what is fast becoming the number one health issue in North America.

Knowing that if we stimulate the reward centers of the brain, even animals (like ourselves) who are not hungry will cross an electrical floor to secure a reward, helps to explain the power of the chocolate chip cookie, but more specifically the power of sugar, fat and salt combinations. It will come as no surprise to you that Dr. Kessler makes comparisons between compulsive eating and drug and gambling addictions. We all know how hard it is to stop at one. Eating certain combinations creates a drive to eat more! He explains how rewarding foods actually alter our biological brain circuitry.

And still we hear the Stones' refrain, "I can't get no satisfaction". Consumers, he says, don't really know much about what they are eating. Scary. If you are brave enough to go there, this book is for you. Fortunately, Dr. Kessler does give us hope. He gives us a treatment plan to start us on our way to more mindful eating as we learn to eat for nutrition and well-being. 

Upon completion of this informative tome, I am smugly satisfied that I live in Guelph, where through the Royal Dairy is gone, good eateries and opportunities for nutritional awareness abound.

Barbara Wilkinson loves to eat! She also teaches Mindful EAting  classes and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and is availabele for consultation at or 519-824-9831.  As a psychotherapist and wannabe nutritionist, she knows the impact of food on feeling good!

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