SparkPeople Blogs  •  news  •  celebrity

An In-Depth Talk with the Author of 'The End of Overeating'

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Each time you turn around your box of cereal to read the nutrition label, you have Dr. David Kessler to thank. When your orange juice carton says "fresh," you can trust that it wasn't made from concentrate, thanks to Dr. Kessler. And now, when you open a restaurant menu and see those endless pages of fat-, sugar- and salt-laden concoctions, you can also thank him.

Kessler isn't responsible for the recipes at chain restaurants, and if he had his way, you'd know straight-away exactly what's in them. But thanks to his new book, "The End of Overeating," you know that restaurants are not fighting fairly when it comes to those over-the-top creations. And, after reading the book, you'll know how to fight back.

As a doctor, researcher and former commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration, Kessler knew there were certain foods are irresistible to different people.

We can all think of a food that, as the Pringles jingle goes, "once you pop, you can't stop."

For one of his patients, it's M&M's. This man is a journalist who has covered some of the most dangerous conflicts on Earth, and he breaks out into a sweat and falls to his knees at the site of melt-in-your-mouth chocolate candies.

Kessler discovered that there is a biological reason that we're compelled to overeat cheese fries but not celery: Foods high in sugar, fat and salt alter our brains' chemistry.

Restaurants and processed food companies know this, and they use the most advanced technology at their disposal to make food fattier, more sugary and saltier--and easier to eat, or "hyperpalatable" as Kessler calls it.

A mere 15 percent of us are impervious to the slick marketing and souped-up food. The rest of us (70 million, said Kessler during our 45-minute in-depth phone interview), lose control in the face of highly palatable foods, are unable to resist certain foods, have a hard time stopping once we've started eating, and have a preoccupation with food.

Kessler--who served as FDA chief under both President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton--is among that larger group, and though the book doesn't delve deeply into his personal journey, broke the cycle of uncontrollable eating. The journey ends with him learning to love Spinning, but it begins with an episode of "Oprah," and soon one of the nation's top health experts is diving in dumpsters behind chain eateries.

According to the Washington Post: "The ingredient labels gave Kessler information the restaurant chain declined to provide when he asked for it. At the FDA, Kessler pushed through nutritional labels on foods sold through retail outlets but stopped short of requiring the same for restaurants. Yet if suppliers ship across state lines, as suppliers for Chili's do, the ingredients must be printed on the box. That is what led Kessler, one of the nation's leading public health figures, to hang around dumpsters across California."

As I told Dr. Kessler during our interview, he and SparkPeople are on the same team. We're both trying to educate people about their health and empowering them to make smart choices.

Listen to our audio interview:

It is a little long, so let it play while you go about your business on SparkPeople and elsewhere on the Internet. There was just too much good info to cut it short!

Coach Dean also read the book, and he plans to review it soon.

What do you think about Dr. Kessler's findings? What are your own trigger foods?

Will you try to avoid "hyper-palatable" foods now that you know the power they can have over you?

Have you read "The End of Overeating"? Will you?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


I bought such book at a yard sale last year and have yet to read it. If proves successful, I would love to have a Sparkteam for such! Is there already one created? I could not find.

Thanks! Spark on!

This book is available as an iTunes download. GREAT for listening to on your commute / road trip.
TONS of scientific experiments that talks about why we behave the way we do around those purposely addictive foods. Report
I am totally going to read this book. Report
I have read the book and feel it is a definite must read...Go Amherst College grad! Report
i'm going to check this out! Report
Years ago I read that there were 3 basic trigger groups: fat, sweet and salty. Sweet doen't get me but fat and salty definitely do. Interestingly, it said that chocolate doesn't fall in the sweet category but in the fat category. Makes sense to me as chocolate is the only candy I can't resist easily.

I hadn't heard the motto of Pringles but Lays potato chips has long advertised that "nobody can eat just one!" Report
I'll put it on the waiting list at my library. Something has recently happened that had me flummoxed. I stopped eating fat in the middle of June. No meat, dairy, eggs, or added fat of any kind. Fast food always smelled good to me, but I resisted due to my new program. Then I started noticing that when I drove by a fast food place, it just smelled greasy, but not good. Then on my bike ride yesterday, I rode by MickeyD's and it actually smelled bad!!?? I couldn't believe it, three and a half months to turn my taste buds around to like healthy food and not like fast food. Wow. Report
I gave up most processed foods in February, and act that has helped me keep my weight at a place I am completely comfortable, without a lot of effort. Saying no to the fat on salt on sugar on fat that Dr. Kessler talks about is hard at first, but becomes extremely natural before too long. I read the book after I gave up sugar and gluten and it was very enlightening, I highly recommend it to anyone who has a hard time saying no to food. Report
This book sounds excellent - I know it would be advantagous for my TOPS group, too. I will put myself on the waiting list at the library.

My trigger food is ice cream - once I start, I just have to finish the entire container! I don't keep it in the house anymore - if I want ice cream, I go out for it! Report
Any one who dumpster dives for the good of his fellowman is a hero! I have not read the book...yet! Report
I loved this book, the info is very eye opening. It made me quite angry at my favorite fast food and restaurant chains. So I haven't been to eat at one since. It's so worth a read. Report
I'm almost to the end of the book. Very facinating! Will recommend it. It makes sense-- not too many people would settle for a plain piece of bread when a gooey cinnamon roll can be had. Shame on the food industry!!! Report
I will be reading this! Report
This book was fantastic. I would definitely recommend it. It gives you an insight to yourself, your eating, and the food industry. Enjoy the book! Report
Ah, that would be chocolate.... And no, I probably won't give it up, but I do restrict myself (mostly!) to organic, fair trade varieties, which cost so much I rarely indulge! I've ordered the book and can't wait to dig in! Report
I just requested the book from the library. Looks like it is very popular as I am on a waiting list. I'm sure it's worth the wait. Report
This explains a lot. I am a junkfood junkie when it comes to restaurants. I try to limit the times and places that I frequent. Report
I've read his book. It's excellent. He brings up a very good point. The food industry designs the food to be more "enticing" as he calls it. By adding more fat, more sugar and more salt, those foods become more appealing. The more enticing a food is, the more a person will eat and as a result, the more product will be sold.

The thing is, we must have some fat, sugar and salt in our diets in order to be healthy. Without them, we'd die. However, these days we get too much fat, sugar and salt. It's those three items that Dr Kessler says we should watch out for. He tells us to read the labels. Look for all the ingredients that add extra, well, everything.

I was shocked at how many products I ate that DID add extra fat. Example, nuts. I eat nuts every day. Well, after reading the book, I took a closer look at the ingredients. Gee, what a suprize. He was right. there was added FAT in my nuts i.e. canola oil. Why ? adding extra fat added extra flavor. the more nuts I'll eat, the more I'll want to buy. Take a look at your can of nuts. They do add extra fat for flavor enhancement.

I tell ya, it's a racket. You really do have to be careful what you buy.

No, I haven't read it YET. Sounds like a useful tool when dining out.

CARISSA81: Sorry about that. Turn up the volume and that helps. It worked just fine on my computer. Report
Wow, the sound quality is HORRIBLE. I can barely understand the interview, and after 2 minutes couldn't stand it anymore. What happened? :-( Report
What a wonderful well written message from DR KESSLER. What great challenges he has given us to change our downward slide into unhealty eating & obesity.
I have been on this new track of eating for the past 5 Years & have made enormous changes in my health, tastes for healthy foods & weight & I just THANK DR KESSLER for reinforcing it!
DR KESSLER is a LIFE SAVER!!!!! Report
The book is very interesting for very different reasons, and I salute Dr. Kessler's dedication to the cause (dumpster-diving for information is danged near heroic). But could I ask the Spark folks to upgrade their audio equipment? I wanted to listen to this, but it was so muddy-sounding I bailed about three minutes in. Report
I read it and it is fantastic! He speaks from personal experience as well as profound medical knowledge! And that makes it REAL. We are very much manipulated in our food choices by corporations that produce food, supermarkets, and the media. I highly recommend people read this book. Report
I am looking forward to reading this book and I really do hope that someday chain restaurants will be required to post their nutritional data. I have written to my local congressman and senators requesting such legislation.

However, one poster seemed to indicate that capitalism was the root of all evil. I guess I am pretty mad at companies for misleading us. However, I find it preferable to being one of the millions of people who have been starved to death over the last several years in North Korea. We still have the choice to say no. They have no choices whatsoever.
"Hyper-palatable" foods are ABSOLUTELY among my TRIGGER foods and are avoided by me at ALL COST! Once I start, I can't why ever START?!?!

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers & Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams Report
I read the book and found it quite fascinating. I think I need to review it because I'm currently experiencing some challenges as I eat more of my food out. As much as this country needs it, I doubt we will ever see food villainized the way tobacco has been. After all, we don't have to smoke, but we do have to eat. Now that nutrition information is beginning to appear on menus, we may have a better chance of making good choices while eating out. The first menu I saw that had calorie counts was at the movie theater. It was certainly eye-opening to see what some of that stuff would "cost" you! The prices weren't the only numbers that were high.

As for cravings, I did have some success using EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) to tap away a craving as I drove past my favorite candy store today. You can learn the technique free at Look for their free downloadable training manual. Also, on the article pages, there are many examples of how the technique has helped with cravings and weight loss. It's another great tool to have under your belt that can help you overcome all of that programming we have had to eat the wrong things. Report
I have already purchased this book and it is in my TBR sooner than later pile for sure Report
Wow, I'm off to the bookstore asap! Fast Food Nation had a profound effect on how I ate food, and this book looks equally fascinating. I've discovered that nothing curbs my apetite like a little politically induced anger! Darn corporations, governments, etc. always pulling our strings for the sake of a dollar's worth of revenue! Report
I've known about how food can effect the brain for a long time, but I feel that reading Dr. Kessler's book would be an excellent book to read for anyone. Report
I need to read this book. I'm so glad that the Dr. is policing our foods. It's a shame what the restaurants get away with. I'm doing pretty good at losing weight, but do love to eat in restaurants. I eat salads, mainly, but in the restaurants, they are loaded in fat and sugar. I'd love to see the list of fats, sugars, salts, listed beside these foods, on a menu. we might not be such an overweight group of people. Report
What a great person to dumpster dive to find out what the restaurants weren't telling him. You know he's on our side!!! I may read this book. I have been trying very hard to cut back on processed sugar, fat, and salt. I'm sure they alter our brain chemistry. When I eat them I crave more and more and more. When I eat better the cravings subside significantly. Do they ever go away? Or do they resurface even if you are avoiding them? Report
I read this book a month ago and really agreed with the author about foods having control over me BUT two weeks ago I was diagnosed with a tumor (benign) and told I needed to lose weight, clean up my diet if I wanted to live a full life. Guess what - the control food had over me is gone. Amazing what happens when faced with pure medical facts. Bottom line- if you ask yourself if foods (fat, sugar, salt) are worth losing your life may surprise yourself. Report
Sweets, that's my vice. Ice cream and baked goods. I've turned to fruit a lot as a way to steer away from it.

You have to avoid those types of foods (or at least minimize the quantities) in order to reach your goal. I eat out less and less often now because the calores add up so quickly when you eat out. Report
I so want to read this book i am putting it on my x-mas list LOL !!! Report
I am with Thoms1...I LOVE sugar and chocolate - my weakness!!! i am working through it though, baby steps. this book sounds like a great read!!!! Report
I would read the book, and my trigger foods are just about anything with sugar and or chocolate attached to them. Report
I can't wait to read the book. Report
I bought and read "The End of Overeating" this summer. I was already aware of my own personal trigger foods, or maybe I should just say food: chocolate. This book helped me to understand why it is so easy to overindulge and why I can't always have chocolate in moderation. I also found it to be a nice complementary read to "Shrink Yourself", which concentrates on the emotional reasons why we overeat. Armed with the knowledge of the emotional and physical reactions to food, I am much more empowered to break my own personal cycle of overeating. Report
I just put the book on hold at my library. There are 24 ahead of me so I may break down and buy my own copy. Sounds like one to be read and reread. Report
An excellent book! I read it first from the library then I bought it so that my family can read it too. It should be required reading for all parents so that they can teach their children good food habits. It is frightening to see parents in the checkout lines at grocery stores buying all the processed food for their families. What are the long term effects of these chemical saturated foods to the next generation and how much is this related to many of today's defects and illnesses? Report
sounds like an interesting book. I'll add it to my list. Report
This is an excellent book! Report
I have not read the book, but I've heard a lot about it and can't wait to read it. Report
I will definitely have to read this one! Thanks for the heads up! Report
I say thank you Dr. Kessler. If they hid tobbaco in our food and we were smoking without really know we would all want to know, right? It the same thing with food. We want to know what high fat and cholesterol foods we are eating so we can save are heart or whatever else. We have a right as a consummer of food to know what we are consumming and how it will hurt us. So thank you again Dr. Kessler! Report
I have so many trigger foods, I couldn't list them all! I have learned to not touch them - ever.

There is no such thing as moderation for me so abstinence is the key. People tell me I "HAVE" to have treats or I won't be able to sustain this for very long. My response is always "I only have to do this today." Every morning I recommit to one day at a time and I only have to control what I eat that day.

There are some trigger foods (french fries, cheesies, chips, caramel corn, chocolate bars to name a few) that I haven't touched in almost 5 years. And I won't have them today, either.

I will add this book to my wish list. Report
This book sounds interesting and will check the library to see if they have it. I know from experience there are certain foods I cant just eat a few. once I start I end up eating them all. So found best just not to buy those things. Report
I just received this book from my daughter and I am looking forward to reading it. Report
Iwill check it out at library Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.