First, I have to say that The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite is the most highly hyped book I have read in a long time. I heard about it on some blogs and twitter, bought it, and since then have heard the author at least three times on NPR (considering how little I drive, that seems impossible… maybe NPR has some stock in the publisher).
The book gives a credible story about the explosion of obesity it the US. Basically, the problem is a combination of 4 things:
1. The food companies have optimized the sugar-salt-fat ratios in food to have the most appeal to our basic instincts (using sophisticated design of experiments and chemicals… seems I could have made better use of my ChemE degree than semiconductors.)
2. The above mentioned foods are cheap and easily available, heavily advertised, and easy to eat.
3. It is acceptable by society to eat anywhere, anytime – no need to stick to strict breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal times
4. The above factors have resulted in conditioned overeating, where the body is no longer able to give the brain credible input as to whether its hungry or full, rather, eating is triggered by the same biological factors as smoking, drug addiction, or alcoholism.
The author (a former head of the FDA) takes it a step further to recommend how to fix the problem of cue induced automatic eating.
1. Understand that we are being manipulated by Big Food.
2. Become conscious of the cues that lead to over eating and avoid situations that lead to overeating.
3. Exercise – mostly as a substitute award, not just for calorie burning.
4. Develop a structured eating plan: have rules about when, what and how much to eat. Avoid highly processed food.
The content of the book is good – there are a lot of interesting studies cited. It provides some understanding why the simple solution – eat less and exercise more – is so profanely difficult for some people. Unfortunately, the book itself is not a great read. The writing style is choppy and redundant.
Basically – food is new cigarette, and the solutions aren’t much different – except that you have to eat. I think it also gives some insight on how difficult a problem this will be. There probably cannot be enough hype.