Well, I’m 5 days into my Intermittent Fasting experiment. And you know what? It’s going really well! My body has responded positively so far, but I’m not going to go into too much detail right now; I’ll save that for a full post a little bit later on. Just know that my transition into this style of eating has been… (dare I say it?) easy for the first few days. Let’s hope it keeps going in this direction!
Speaking of eating…
I told you guys a while back that I had a few book reviews coming at ya. Here is the first of those, and I must say up front, this is a book that I really enjoyed. I actually read it twice, the second time taking some notes so that I could actually write a good review for you all.
In this book, The End of Overeating, by David A. Kessler, MD, the author investigates the physiological and psychological factors behind over eating. He also explores the lengths to which most large food corporations and restaurant chains go to manipulate us as consumers, helping to encourage the overeating epidemic. It’s a theme that many of us can relate to, but even if you aren’t a habitual overeater, but taking the time to learn about how our bodies respond to certain stimuli can be useful in helping you reach your health and nutrition goals.
Kessler spends time in the beginning of the book describing why we overeat, and what exactly is going on in our brains when we do so. According to him and his research, the brain creates a reward response to “hyper-palatable foods”. What makes a food hyperpalatable? The combination of sugar, fat, and salt. If you think about the foods in the standard american diet (SAD), many foods are essentially just layers of these three things. Think about a plate of nachos, which is really just fat on salt on fat. Not only does this combination make food taste good, but it also activates the reward system in the brain, making us want more (and more, and more).
And what else makes a food hyperpalatable, according to the author? The presence of multiple stimuli within the food. Think chocolate-chip-caramel-brownie ice cream vs. strawberry ice cream. The additional stimuli (mixture of textures and flavors) in the former are what makes it so palatable to the average consumer. (Plus the layering of sugar and fat, of course).
Take away point: We don’t always just eat too much because we like the food in front of us; highly palatable foods actually change our brain chemistry, leading us to seek continued stimulation.
Now let’s think about Big Food and modern food processing. Are major food manufacturers and restaurant chains aware of the appeal of fat, sugar, and salt? Of course they are. And according to Kessler, they use it to their advantage (and our major health disadvantage).
How do they do this?
- Pre-chewed meat: Yes, you read that right. Did you know that the “chicken breast” at most chain restaurants has been “pre-chewed” in a machine before being sent to the restaurant and then to your dinner plate? This makes the food more easily chewable, helping you to eat more in a shorter amount of time. Pretty gross huh?
- Excessive Layering and Multi-Sensory experiences: Think about your favorite chain restaurant (and if you don’t frequent chain restaurants, think about the commercials you see for them on TV). Think about the meals and appetizers they advertise at these places; super-loaded nachos, loaded potato skins, burgers with 10 different toppings, etc. These are all very deliberately created meal options, all with multiple layers of flavors, textures, fat, salt, and sugar.
So do we even have a chance of changing this behavior?
The author suggests that just because many of us have been conditioned to seek out these hyperpalatable foods, this is not the end-all be-all of our eating habits. There are ways to shift our perception of foods and to change the way that our brains respond to the stimuli. He suggests a few different strategies for overriding the old behaviors, but I’m not going to get into those here because I really do recommend reading this book yourself.
All in all, I thought this book was an excellent read. The science and theories presented can be applicable to many different people, and the author does a great job of presenting the information in a way that is intellectual and informative, yet still entertaining. I am a little weary about the way that fat is demonized, but I understand where he is coming from in terms of the standard American diet. I think learning about the brain’s responses to certain foods is fascinating, and I agree with the author that there is much more to overeating than just “poor will power”. I recommend this book to everyone, not just those who have trouble with overeating. It will change the way you look at junk, it will change the way you think about your cravings, and it will change the way you look at Big Food.
Do you think that you struggle with overeating? Do you ever feel that food has control over you rather than the other way around? Have you read this book, and what did you think?
Note: I found this book by a random search on Amazon, the author has no idea who I am or that I’m writing this review. This is NOT an advertisement. 🙂