Ever wondered how you could be such an "adult" in so many other areas of your life, yet respond like Pavlov's poor drooling dog when cued by the sight of crispy french fries or creamy frosting, or the smell of a bacon cheeseburger sizzling on the grill?
We know this stuff is terrible for us... yet some of us find it so difficult to resist.
Why the heck is that?
Well, according to Dr. David Kessler (who served as the FDA commissioner in two administrations), part of the reason we overeat is because our brains have been hijacked! In the book "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite," Kessler exposes some fascinating tricks the food industry has for making their products incredibly, unnaturally enticing.
He also explains why our brain chemistry makes us so vulnerable to the cheap thrills provided by sugar, fat, and salt. (So for those of you hopping over from the intro back at Cranky Fitness wondering what the heck "orosensory self-stimulation" is, this it where it comes in: it's "the cyclical process in which eating delicious food tells the brain to make us want more of those foods." And similarly, the "hedonic hotspot" is not a nightclub but a tiny part of the brain about the size of a head of a pin that "causes us to really like something.")
The book also describes a problem that so many in our society seem to struggle with: that of "Conditioned Hypereating." Kessler proposes a treatment theory that involves "food rehab," featuring sensible concepts like like "planned eating." He also advises people on how to make the "critical perceptual shift" necessary to regain control of our diet and our health. (And Crabby promises to stop quoting practically every word the poor man has written "any minute now.")
So this is the part of the review where Conscientious Co-Blogger Merry Sunshine would provide the thoughtful analysis. Whereas I'm going to present instead a gratuitous photo of an Italian Men's Soccer Team in order to distract the heterosexual female portion of our demographic. (But this time, instead of their white undies, the boys are wearing black!):
Did that work? Are you distracted enough that I can get by with a really quick take on the book?
It's actually a fascinating read, and has a lot of great details about how our brains and current food manufacturing technology conspire against us to defeat our best intentions. No wonder we're so tempted to eat such unhealthy stuff! It's one thing to think abstractly "My those Cinnabon rolls sure are tasty" and another to read how carefully they were designed to make us helpless to resist. So the book is really useful in providing perspective on how tough it is to avoid unhealthy food, and to appreciate the power of the forces that lead to "conditioned hypereating."
This would be an especially great book for a friend or relative who does not frequent health blogs and is only just beginning to appreciate how totally f*cked up our society is when it comes to "normal" eating habits.
But for many of us who have long been aware of the Ubiquitous Evil we are up against at our restaurants, grocery stores, and shopping mall food courts... it's a bit like preaching to the choir. And while we all grapple with temptation, many of us have developed our own common sense strategies for indulging only occasionally, in moderation. Kessler's "rehab" techniques, while certainly sensible, are not all that novel or detailed. Because while stating the problem is helpful, it's the "solution" part that's tough to implement.
That said, he does make at least a good start on it, and while many of us may feel we know this stuff, we can always use reminders. Plus, there is obviously a huge segment of the population (no pun intended) that does not frequent health blogs. Many folks are in the dark about how pathological their eating behavior has become, how unhealthy that is, how it's not just a matter of "willpower," and what some good techniques are to regain control over what we eat.
So, want to win a copy?
Leave a comment by Thursday. Unfortunately, this giveaway is limited to folks who can receive mail at a U.S. address. The random number generator will pick a winner Thursday June 18th, which will be announced by Friday, June 19th. Please check in by Wednesday June 24th to claim your prize or we'll have another drawing. (NOTE: I'm going to be out of town for a few days which is why the entry period is longer than we normally do.)
Special Update: More chances to win! Sagan over at Living Healthy in the Real World and Rupal over at 101 Exercises are also doing a giveaways of this book, and they explain it all much better than I did!
Any thoughts on the obesity epidemic, the role of sugary, fatty, salty, processed foods, the menus as restaurant chains, the methods you use to eat healthy in spite of being surrounded by junky temptations, or the Italian men's soccer team? Comments of all sorts welcome!