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Transformation Therapy

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite

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I found this book enlightening. It increased my understanding of the neurochemical and social complexities of overeating a great deal. I feel like my understanding is deeper now.
Dr. Kessler was the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under Presidents Bush (GHWB) and Clinton and led the fights to regulate tobacco and nutritional labeling. He was also the dean of both Yale’s and the University of California at San Francisco’s Schools of Medicine. So, no slacker here. 

During his research, he analyzed many scientific studies and publications, interviewed scientists and clinicians as well as food industry executives. Hearing about his candid conversations with the leaders in the industry was worth the cost of the book alone. (I liked that he did not villainize the industry and understands that capitalism is what drive the industry’s continued quest to offer more voluptuous menu options.) The industry insiders discussed that they use layering of fats/salt/sugars to maximize the hedonistic pay-off, encourage cravings, and create conditioned repeat customers. Additionally, they admitted that the industry alters food textures and adds specific chemicals to make food dissolve quicker in the mouth (which leads us to overeat). He also pointed out that the industry uses several types of sweeteners in a product to avoid a sugar type product to be high in the ingredient list. (Good information for those of us that avoid eating sugar.) 

Kessler identified sugar, fat, and salt as the primary culprits in our diet that drive our appetites, induce overeating, and result in weight gain. He indicated that these substances activate dopamine and opioid neurotransmitters and rewire the brain to crave more (which is never enough). He also pointed out that we use food to indulge ourselves almost all the time and that many of us have become conditioned hyper-eaters. 

His suggestions for dealing with these problems are to:

  1. be aware of food ingredients
  2. avoid foods and environmental cues that tempt us to overeat
  3. see processed foods negatively 
  4. develop an individualized food plan to structure food choices
  5. find healthier ways to reward ourselves.
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