The End of Overeating: A Book Review


Baby Carrots
The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American AppetiteThe End of Overeating by David A Kessler, MD is a book that examines why so many in our society are eating more than they need, both the psychological aspects of overeating as well as how the food industry actually creates processed food to make eating as much food in as short of an amount of time (often without using the mind) as possible.

The Food Industry and Overeating

The first portion of the book covers the food industry. It is explained how even a fast food chicken patty is perforated to both absorb as much of the artificial-flavor containing salt solution as possible, and to make it easier to chew and swallow which allows the consumer to eat it faster and consume more. Fat, salt, and sugar are the key players in the food industry, as seen with ice cream (fat and sugar), chips (fat and salt and the sugar being the refined carbohydrate), even the fast food hamburger (fat and salt in the bacon, cheese, and burger, sugar in the bun), Pizza (fat and salt in the cheese, salt and sugar in the sauce, sugar and salt in the crust).

Society and Over Eating

Next The End of Overeating talks about all the cultural ways that people prone to overeating are pushed right over the edge in this society.  One of the biggest obstacles is that there is food everywhere – doughnuts in board rooms, candy on everyone’s desk, fast food on every corner, and if there isn’t food out and available, there is delicious-looking advertising of food everywhere!

Second, we’re eating all the time.  At my house we recently broke out of this habit too- mainly for the reason that I was tired of wiping the table, cleaning hands and faces, and picking up crumbs every 20 minutes  But in America it is acceptable and even normal to eat nonstop all day, and it’s usually not nutrient dense foods.  Kessler pointed out that just a couple decades ago snacks were reserved only for children because their nutritional needs depended on it.  Adults didn’t snack.  Meals were eaten together, and cooked from scratch.

This constant eating contributes to what the book calls ‘priming’ – a little taste of something will then prime your brain to want more of it.  So eating 5 M&Ms will actually cause most people to obsess on food, and either take an enormous amount of energy and willpower to avoid eating them or they will then give in and polish off the whole bag.  This priming effect is why we start eating junk food, note that it doesn’t even really taste very good, yet continue to eat and eat.  I believe it could also happen with whole foods; I personally don’t like to eat at all between meals because I know I don’t ever keep it to just a bite, and then I’m not hungry for the meal I just cooked! This also makes me question whether the typical diet advice of eating every 2-3 hours; 6 meals a day for adults, is actually helpful for preventing hunger, or does it just keep the dieter obsessed with food?

My Thoughts

The following are some things I wanted to add; thoughts that were spurred by reading The End of Overeating.

Overeating and Nutrient Deprivation

This was talked about a bit in The End of Overeating, but I believe that a big part in America’s compulsion to overeat is that our bodies are starving for nutrients.  I know that even now, after we’ve been eating mostly whole real foods for years, if I eat white-flour spaghetti (even with red sauce and lots of butter) for dinner, a couple hours later I want food, even if my stomach is physically full still.  Also, if I let myself eat junk food in the afternoon, and then don’t want much good food for dinner- I start a cycle of craving sweets and refined carbs, not eating the good food at meals, and eating more and more sweets and refined carbohydrate.

One of My Favorite Nutrient Dense Meals:

Gluten and Milk Free, as those are common allergens

  • 3 leaves of lettuce, as a wrap
  • 6 ounce can of wild caught salmon or 6 ounces of pastured chicken
  • 2 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise made with olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard, no additives including ‘natural flavors’
  • One piece of fruit; banana, sliced apple, orange, etc. Not juice, real fruit.
  • 1-1/2 cups tea, detox tea might be preferable as it will help with bile production and fat digestion- our brains need fat!
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk, full fat, no sugar added, stirred into the tea

Mix tuna or chicken and mayonnaise and mustard as tuna salad. Salt with unrefined sea salt to taste if needed.  Wrap 1/3 in each lettuce leaves and eat as a wrap.

Is the Obesity Epidemic related to the Autism Epidemic?

The entire time I was reading this book, I saw similarities between ADD, Autism, OCD and…  overeating.  All through the book (which is written by a compulsive overeater who has used extreme self control to make healthy choices) I was noticing how similar the drive to eat when not hungry seemed to an autistic child’s drive to repetidly open and close doors, a person with obsessive complusive disorder’s compulsion to pull out hair, someone with ADD’s inability to stay on task and focused long enough to get the entire load of laundry folded and put away.

To others, ‘normal’ people, all these behaviors are all avoidable, but to someone with something (gut flora emitting toxins? Nutrient deficiencies caused by poor gut flora? Undigested proteins leaking through the gut wall and acting as opiates on the brain?) telling them to keep eating/open and close doors/pull hair/change to a different activity, it takes an extreme amount of concentration and willpower to complete what are usually normal tasks or avoid undesirable behavior.

What do you think? Do you see the similarities? Have you noticed that obesity and autism and behavior disorders are all skyrocketing at the same time? If you haven’t yet, you can read more about the gut-brain connection here.

Anyway, I throughly enjoyed this book and I think it was a really important read.  You can buy The End of Overeating here.

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  1. Lee says

    I recently heard a lecture by Jordin Rubin ( Garden of Life) and he commented briefly on this same thing. He said the common dietary advice
    To eat many small meals throughout the day sets usup for multiple problems including poor digestion. We don’t allow time for all of the endocrinological processes to complete their cycles before we send in more food, we don’t allow ourselves to actually become hungry – a necessary condition for proper digestion as it primes the body to produce the correct enzymes needed to digest. This all goes hand in hand with what you are saying about gut dysbiosis and behavior problems!

  2. says

    Thank you so much for highlighting this book. I will definitely read this.
    My pathway to wellness has been a winding journey….and I have definitely identified with the children with autism and the parents who have tried relief through diet. My experience echos your thoughts. One day medicine will catch up perhaps.

  3. says

    This would be an excellent book for my husband and I to read. Your outline highlights some reoccurring things in our home, for sure! Thanks for the review.

  4. Andrea says

    Thanks for this review. Looks like an interesting read.
    I totally relate to being tired of the day feeling like one perpetual meal for my kids. Any tips on making the transition from grazing to eating more at actual mealtimes?

    • Cara says

      It was mostly discipline on my part. I put out foods that I know they liked at set times (for us that’s about 7, 9:30, 11:30, 2:30, 4, and dinner at 5:30-6) and when they are acting done by getting down or playing with their food, I say all done and clear their plates. I sat down with them and just sat if they were eating a snack, or ate my meals with them. Before, if they didn’t eat much I’d leave their plates out in case they wanted more later- that’s what was making the constant mess.

  5. Lorinne Burke says

    If I eat like I should, I’m hungry every three to four hours. I fill up quickly on good foods and then I burn them off fast. If I eat the crap, I alternate between extremes. I overfill, can’t eat for hours, and then overeat again. I think there’s a huge connection between the kind of foods that have been chemically created for mass consumption, and the rise in compulsive disorders. Great Review.

  6. Nicole says

    I have been a compulsive over-eater all my life. I have had some relief since doing the gaps diet for the last 4 years but sitll have to watch it. If I eat really well with lots of protein, fat and veg I can stay away from junk and bingeing. However, if I cheat a little here and there it slowly but surely builds up into a binge which can last a few days. I seem to be able to get back on track quicker now though as I absolutely hate the way I become a slave to the food in those binges. I would have thought though that after four years my gut is healed. Very interesing and I would say complex topic. I think I still have healing to do. I am starting to look into the possibilities of heavy metal poisoning as I still have some mental problems, phobias. Thanks for talking about the topic of over-eating.

    • Compulsive overeater says

      I would love to know how you’re eating has been, since writing the post?
      I have been going to over eaters anon (laugh if you will, but I have accepted that I have a problem with food.. Or I have a problem and use food as my addiction) and I have seen a change in my thought process and changes in my weight.
      It sounds as though you have unknowingly been following some of the overeaters Annon steps.
      I hope you have found peace with food, for which I’m still searching.

  7. Cassandra says

    I’m not quite grasping something about your review. It says that eating small, frequent meals is actually bad, but isn’t that essentially required for Intro GAPS? Or is that an exception? My husband and I completely failed at doing GAPS specifically because we were so hungry all the time, we could never stop eating, which is a shared sentiment amongst quite a few people I’ve talked with about it. On top of the fact that we simply could not afford to buy so much food. I spent a month saving up to get us started and used up almost an entire week’s worth of food in a single weekend, doing pretty much nothing else except cook and clean the kitchen. Even with all the fat and meat, it was only satisfying for about 30 minutes. Not that I find grains to be able to fill that void, it was more a combination of things.

    Also, I can totally relate to the concept of eating and eating and eating even though it doesn’t actually taste good. My fatal weakness is baked goods. I just love the hell out of cookies especially and will eat any cookie, even if it’s gross. Oreos are the perfect example. They have almost no flavor, but I could pack em away. We’ve come sooo far but just can’t kick the last few bad habits.

    • Cara says

      Not necessarily saying that it’s bad, just challenging the assumption that it’s a one-size-fits-all solution

  8. Dolores says

    I have poor digestion and my son has wonderfull digestion. Everyone digests at a different pace. If I ate the amount my son eats I would gain weight because my metabolism is terrible. Although we both started eating more more potatoes and no grains now my metabolism is back on track. For years I’ve been eliminating sugar, soda. Adding fresh foods. Going vegan then getting protein deficient. It’s just been an angry cycle for my stomach. I am down 30lbs. Since June of this year. My son went down 100 lbs since January this year (2012). we’ve narrowed it down to two diets that we stumbled upon. Paleo diet or GAPS diet they are very similar. Except I’ve noticed I have to bake Bananas to eat them or I get bloated. So I’m still not sure which one I’m on. But its working great.

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