“Why Does That Chocolate Chip Cookie Have Such Power Over Me?”

That’s not me asking the question, it’s former FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler.  Dr. Kessler, he’s a pretty smart guy – Harvard MD, Chicago JD, pediatrics residency at Johns Hopkins, ran the FDA under both Democratic and Republican presidents – and a couple of years ago he wrote a book about why we (me, a bunch of you readers, him, etc.) can’t stop eating things we know are killing us.

The End of Overeating:  Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite is something you should read if you’ve ever wondered why you are driven to distraction by the dessert menu at Chili’s … even though you just pounded your way through a basket of chips and salsa and the chicken-fried steak.  Or if you’ve ever wondered why your spouse, buddy, parent, kid, etc. exhibits that kind of behavior.

The Wall St. Journal and the New York Times both agree.  This book is worth your time.  Kessler asked the question in my headline of himself, and had the training and resources to figure it out.  He’s not some skinny doc preaching from an ivory tower to the unwashed masses about why we should avoid bourgeois chain restaurants, this is a guy who says (in the Times article) of himself:

“I wouldn’t have been as interested in the question of why we can’t resist food if I didn’t have it myself,” he said. “I gained and lost my body weight several times over. I have suits in every size.”

I feel like we’re brothers, me and Dr. Kessler.  In the WSJ article, he says:

“The one thing I can assure you: At the core, it’s fat, sugar and salt. Not everything activates each of us the same. Here’s the fundamental point: We are wired to focus on the most salient stimuli in our environment. If your kid is sick today, that’s what you think about. For some people it’s sex, gambling, alcohol. For many of us it’s food. And within that category, different types of food are salient. You have to condition yourself to take the power out of the stimulus.” (Emphasis mine)

Several of Kessler’s points are the same  as the Michael Pollan ideas I discussed in a previous  post.  But the ideas in this book (or just in the articles linked above, if you really don’t have time for the book) are exactly the answer some of us have been looking for.  He doesn’t give you excuses – or at least he’s not trying to – but rather ammunition to use in your war (should you choose to declare one) on the kind of “food” that’s trying to kill you.

I have some examples of what Kessler’s writing about.  You may recall a few weeks ago I wrote about a visit to a local pub that used to be a favorite of mine.  I’d been doing fine on my path to better eating.  But that afternoon, I decided a basket of fries wouldn’t hurt me.  And the waitress brought my beef-n-cheddar melt on white bread instead of wheat.  And I finished a couple of the chicken fingers my sprightly daughters left behind (because they were, you know, there).  I used to eat that stuff, if not every day, four or five times a week at a minimum.  It’s been long enough now that the taste it left in my mouth was not, shall we say, a welcome one.  More importantly, it took me more than 24 hours to get rid of the overwhelming need to eat fatty, sweet, gooey desserts.  Which I was able to resist, partially because I recognized the cause and was aware that indulging the craving wouldn’t end the craving.

Seriously, before that meal it had been months since I had that kind of craving … but all it took was one meal of the kind described by Kessler to kick those cravings into high gear.

Last week I had the same issue with potato chips.  I knew better than to eat them, but once I did my desire for more, More, MORE fat and salt and sugar and fat and salt and sugar and fat and salt and sugar was the single most important thing on my mind for the rest of the day.

Kessler’s writing about powerful stuff here, and he wants to help you and me.  It’s an easy read.  Take the time, and if it doesn’t apply to you, pass it on.  Trust me … you know somebody it can help.


6 responses to this post.

  1. […] 3.)  The End of Overeating.  You may have missed my recent post on this.  Go here and read all about it. […]


  2. […] I referenced in this post, there’s actual research to back up my point that bad food is engineered to make you want […]


  3. […] you may remember from posts like this one, there’s good research out there to indicate that the problem is overly processed and highly […]


  4. […] Why Does That Chocolate Chip Cookie Have Such Power Over Me? […]


  5. […]  Why Does This Chocolate Chip Cookie Have Such Power Over Me?  I love it when smart people confirm my suspicions.  Which is what happens […]


  6. […] I eat myself sick.  At first I thought that must be all in my head (and some of it is) but after reading up on it, I’ve learned that modern over-processed sweets develop a chemical need in some of us for […]


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