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Food Rehab? A Review of 'The End of Overeating' by David Kessler, M.D.

Updated on February 1, 2013

Ever find yourself reaching for a chocolate bar, cookie, or even a handful of chips even when you are not hungry? Does food have so much control over you that you just eat and eat eat? Or you can't just seem to eat in moderation?

These are the exact situations that David Kessler writes in his New York Times Bestseller book, The End of Overeating. He was a former FDA (Food and Drug Administration in the USA) commissioner who helped to expose the dangers of the tobacco industry. This book covers how the modern food industry is taking advantage of the way our brain reacts by using marketing strategies to ensure that customers keep coming back for more food. He claims that we have lost control over our own appetites and food in general.


How the Book is Set Up

The book is divided into six parts. It starts off by investigating behaviors of people who overeat (they might not be obese, like many of you might think) and how our bodies are wired to crave salt, sugar and fat. This goes all the way back when hunter gathers needed to survive, and these three ingredients were easy ways to get much needed calories into their systems. This part goes in to investigate how these three ingredients touch the reward system in our brains, and why it keeps us coming back for more. Soon, this reward seeking behavior becomes a habit.

The second part covers the food industry and how they effectively layer salt, sugar and fat into foods so you'll keep frequenting the same restaurants or buy the same foods again. Even the author himself seemed surprised to discover just what was in some dishes at the restaurants he went to! This part of the book also delves into how food becomes an emotional experience and no longer just a simple meal one eats. It leads nicely into the third part where it talks about how the food industry can condition us into 'hypereating', and how children are at risk.

The last three parts of the book go over how to stop our bad habits with eating and how to go into a treatment which the author calls 'food rehab'. Here he offers some suggestions on how to retrain our brain into stopping our overeating tendencies and having a better view of food.

Is It Worth Reading?

The book follows a logical progression from beginning to end, hooking the reader with the problems in how we eat, and using scientific research to back up his claims on how our brains behave and react to sugar, salt and fat. In one research result, Kessler goes on to describe how an experiment showed that animals preferred the sucrose water over regular water. It releases dopamine the brain, the area responsible for reward driven learning. It then flows nicely into how the food industry takes these reward cues to layer their products with as much salt, sugar and fat as they can to ensure customers come back. The book is well researched as Kessler goes into great lengths to describe favorite dishes at some of the most popular restaurants in America and how they are all layered with this three ingredients.

Kessler also gives reasons on why we eat the way we do, and through his insightful research, warns us of the danger of conditioned hypereating and stuffing our faces with loads of sugar, fat and salt. If by the halfway point in the book you don't want to acknowledge you have a problem or have a desire to eat better, then you are heavily in denial!

Try using a journal to track your progress!
Try using a journal to track your progress! | Source

What is 'Food Rehab', and Can It Work?

'Food Rehab' are some techniques in which Kessler offers advice to the reader on how to change their eating habits for the better. It involves changing our reward cues and teaching our brains to look at healthy foods as the 'reward'. The author wants to show us how to break the cycle and to take back control the food can have on us.

Kessler recognizes that embarking on this journey will not be easy, so he reassures the reader that it's ok to make mistakes along the way. He also suggests taking an individualized approach, and making sure that we do not feel like we are depriving ourselves when we change our behaviors for the better.

In essence he recommends the following:

  • Plan your meals and how you eat, and create your own rules for how you plan on doing so
  • Consciously plan on how you will not eat the 'bad' foods when you encounter them, and it can include changing the route you drive home to avoid seeing a certain restaurant
  • Provide rewards for good behavior
  • Learn to associate bad or offending foods with something negative. For example, think about how horrible you smell when you smoke, and continue to imagine this every time you think of cigarettes until the negative association sticks.
  • Prepare 'if' situations, such as cause and effect. An example would be "if I eat this piece of chocolate cake, I will develop a rash on my face so when I see my clients I will not be as confident as I need to be to secure that sale."

The author is very encouraging and provides some solid examples of how people have been successful. He stresses consistency and that you need to be willing to consciously change your habits. Kessler also encourages you to be realistic and match your new diet to the realities to your life. If you don't take that into consideration, the chances of you failing are fairly high.


Even if you don't have a problem with your diet and eating habits, this book is worth a look simply because it teaches us something about the food industry that you might not have noticed before. The writing is straightforward and is presented in a way to that is not intimidating and easy for anyone to ready. The advice he offers is practical and realistic, and he offers no easy one-size-fits-all solution. He encourages you to make your own choices and make mistakes along the way. For anyone looking to change their lives for the better, this is one book I'd definitely recommend you check out.


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    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      The foods we eat either make us fat or ill interesting output on this book thanks for updating me on such information

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 4 years ago from USA

      @eurpoewalker- Don't we all? lol

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 4 years ago from USA

      @careermommy-thanks for stopping by! I used to have a strong sweet tooth too, and this book really reminded me why.

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 4 years ago from USA

      @hawaiianodysseus-yes, it does sound like the aversion technique. It's one that not many people take advantage of unfortunately.

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 4 years ago

      Interesting subject. I could definitely use help to stay away from sweets and baked goods! I crave them everyday. Thanks for sharing.

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Sarah, this is a very well researched and interesting hub. it's very interesting to know why we eat the way we do, especially me with having such a strong sweet tooth. Nice job.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Hi, Sarah!

      Sounds like what the author is promoting, at least in relation to the unhealthy foods, is an aversion technique. And I like the idea of the reward scenarios for the healthy foods. Great strategies for strong, creative minds like we Hubbers have! Thanks for sharing!

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 4 years ago from USA

      @stephanieb27 - I got this as a Christmas present and I barely put the book down once I started it. I can see the confusion. Who wouldn't love cookies? haha!

    • stephanieb27 profile image

      stephanieb27 4 years ago from United States

      Sounds like a great read! I've been reading up on a lot of information regarding food lately, it's amazing what I've learned about the foods we put in our body. I've always been an eat-whatever-I-want type person. For the past two weeks, I've been eating mostly gluten-free. Last night I had 1 cookie at an event for my son. It felt like it sank to the bottom of my stomach and just sat there. My mom and I were laughing at how my body was confused now. :)

    • sarahshuihan profile image

      Sarah 4 years ago from USA

      @Claudia - Thanks for the comment. I tend to be the same when it comes to foods that trigger rewards. If you do read it I'd like to hear your thoughts on it.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

      Sounds like a very good read for someone who wants to change his eating habits. Eating has clearly developed an emotional aspect. I know I tend to overeat when I am feeling down. Eating chocolate for example really does make you feel momentarily better but doesn't provide a solution to our problems, and the high doesn't last much. In that sense, it is exactly like a drug. The author seems to provide quite good solutions to break through this destructive cycle. Great review.