Jill Richardson :: Today I posted a piece on the food blog Zester Daily called "Trained to Get Fat." In it, I focused quite a bit on David Kessler's new book The End of Overeating. Kessler goes through the biological reasons WHY humans overeat, and then explains precisely how food companies and marketers exploit that tendency to ensure that we frequently DO overeat.
The End of Overeating
Kessler begins with the introduction of the term "hyperpalatable foods" - foods that are tastier and more irresistible than anything found in nature. In fact, I found that there's a stark difference between foraged foods and domesticated foods (for example, Bing or Rainier cherries are MUCH bigger and sweeter than wild black cherries). But when we're dealing with domesticated foods, we're still dealing with something that evolved in nature in its unrefined form.
The problem is when you go from sweet corn to high fructose corn syrup: from a natural form of food to something that never existed in nature. Our bodies are programmed to favor sweet, salty, and fatty foods due to an evolutionary need to pile on the calories when they were available to avoid starvation. But just because the highly refined junk that's available (and ubiquitous!) today never existed in nature doesn't mean that our evolved favoring of sugar, salt, and fat turns off when we eat those "hyperpalatable" foods. We just keep eating and eating and eating.
What happens to those who overeat (which is a large percentage of us - myself included!) is that we get conditioned to overeat these hyperpalatable foods. Kessler calls it conditioned hypereating. Maybe the first time you saw the Golden Arches, you thought, "Hmm, am I hungry today? Yes! I am. I'll get a burger." Over time, you become conditioned to cues - the sight of the Golden Arches, the smell of McDonald's fries, etc. At a certain point it becomes automatic. See McDonalds, eat a burger. Or eat an entire supersized value meal. You don't even wonder if you're hungry before doing it. You just act automatically as you are conditioned to do by those cues.
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