Book review: David Kessler – The End Of Overeating

I rarely review non-fiction books here on Shout, but I’ll make an exception for this one. David Kessler’s The End Of Overeating is a comprehensive look at the science behind rising obesity levels in the western world.

You don’t read a book like this without a reason. For me, I’d decided a while back to tackle my own dependence on takeaways. But without a clear starting point, this habit of phoning for a Chinese when I couldn’t be bothered cooking was becoming a problem. I hit 34 this year, so it’s high time I took my nutrition and figure seriously. But how?

Well, if you read David Kessler’s book, it may just scare you enough to make you rethink your diet. Kessler has a thorough look at convenience foods and the reason why people feel they “can’t resist” their favourite junk foods. From an errant cookie sitting on the table to a full-fledged super-sized Burger King meal.

The End Of Overeating will talk you through the reasons why we’re drawn to fatty foods. It’ll expose the habit-forming methods that the food industry uses to get you virtually addicted to junk food. You’ll find out about how food science has worked out ways of layering fats, sugars and salts together to make meals hyperpalatable and require virtually no effort to chew. If you don’t walk away from this book suspicious of any advertisement that claims food will just “melt in your mouth”, you may already be a lost cause!

Kessler exposes such a volume of data and research that you’ll be acutely aware of the psychological reasons for craving bad food. I think fairly, Kessler stop short of pointing the finger at big, evil industry, though clearly they’re happy to profit and invest in research programmes to make their products ever more ‘craveable’.

The one small problem with the book is that it’s incredibly repetitious. The information, and variations on the major points Kessler makes are regurgitated, rephrased, refactored. However, as much as it would often send me to sleep, I thought having the information drilled into my head helped in creating the perceptual shift that Kessler talks about.

Reading the book kick started a new healthy-eating regime for me. It may well have helped to break the pull of junk foods for me. Not completely, mind you, but someone like me can’t bear feeling like they’re being compelled to do anything by advertising. If I feel like I’m being manipulated into eating something, I’m much less likely to do it.

And the later stages of the book – in which Kessler talks about ways to break the cycle of overeating – reminded me that I had already broken an eating cycle. A few years ago I’d broken a daily pattern of “packet of crisps and bar of chocolate”. I’m not saying that’s a massive achievement, but I was sure that I could repeat the trick again. And with the information in The End Of Overeating, it’s been easier to break the habit.

Where I’ve been lucky – and where the book kind of leaves the reader in limbo – is that it doesn’t introduce us to healthier options. I have a health-nut sister-in-law who crafted a weekly menu for me that means the weekly shopping contains overall more fresh food and our daily meals are less processed and full of garbage.

Still, I heartily recommend reading this book if you’re stuck in an unhealthy eating cycle. It may open your eyes to the reality of what you’re putting in your mouth and how you can regain control of your nutrition. At the same time, I also recommend picking up something that gives you healthy alternative food options. Kessler will scare you straight, but you still need something to guide you toward healthy meals – whether that’s a nutrition book or just a cookbook full of low-fat recipes.

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