I just finished David Kessler's book, "The End of Overeating." His name might sound familiar since he was the FDA Commissioner during the Bush and Clinton administrations. He also is a pediatrician and lawyer who has tried to regulate cigarettes, another American vice.
Kessler's book is thought provoking except for the first half of the book. I already know how the food industry manipulates consumers to buy over processed, high calorie food. I wanted to learn something new and he delivered towards the end of the book. Kessler writes about the psychological and physiological effects with eating. He talks about how we are cued with a food memory just by going to the location where we ate a certain food. The anticipation of eating a ice cream cone or hamburger happens just by driving that restaurant. We are constantly bombarded with cravings because of our food memories.
Kessler seems to think we are doomed for a lifetime of obesity. In a way he's right. American culture is heavily weighted towards food. We don't have to go far to find a fast food restaurant or convenience store full of high calorie, salty and sweet sustenance. Kessler contrasts this with eating in Europe. The French and the Spanish don't think to eat between meals because snacking is not an European habit. It's very American and we don't like going hungry for very long.
The types of food we eat have changed with industrialization. White rice, potatoes and white bread are easy to digest and offer little nourishment to our bodies. We should instead be eating vegetables that don't occupy a major portion of our dinner plate. Why don't we eat what's good for us?
"Overeating" describes the problem. Our brains are wired for high calorie, easily processed edibles. Likewise, we use food as a reward rather than support for our body. It also takes about twenty minutes to feel full so quick consumption can make us miss that message. This explains why American's have such a difficult time staying thin. We look for convenience foods because we are always in a rush to go somewhere. We especially don't take the time to enjoy our dinner hour.
I tried using this knowledge for eating this week. I decided to consciously pay attention to my responses while consuming sweet, salty or fatty foods. I tried to stop zoning out while eating this type of food. It's hard to do when you are ravenous. I also leave food on my plate now. I try to eat the minimum portion to feel slightly full.
I try not to snack anymore. I am starving for lunch and dinner. It was challenging at first because I sometimes get a headache if I don't eat dinner right away. However, I now like being hungry for my main meals. I also like feeling not stuffed after eating.
I put a picture on my refrigerator of the new jeans I want to purchase after I lose ten pounds. I want to give myself non-food rewards when I reach my goals. Its unfamiliar territory but I want to prevent food from having power over me.
After a week of these new habits, I have lost four pounds. That's a good thing since I am still recovering from minor surgery and can't exercise. Do I think this habit will stay? I hope so. Kessler seems to indicate that our drive for rich foods doesn't stop. At least I understand why it's so difficult to interrupt the cravings.
David Kessler's The End of Overeating
The Cleveland Clinic: Psychology of Eating
Controlling Food Urges by Dr. David Kessler