Up there with Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food), Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me) and of course Alice Waters. But as a doctor/scientist/political administrator (former FDA chief under Bush 1 and Clinton who led the march against tobacco), Dr. Kessler rounds out thework done by the investigative journalists described above with a vastly different perspective.*
David Kessler's new book seems to explain every single thing that I've gone through in the last 4 months. He's on a book tour and doing the media circuit. I heard the last 5 minutes of him on Diane Rehm and almost had a heart attack as he was describing me so perfectly. He's on Fresh Air today too. He explains the answer to "how did you do it?" so much better than I ever could. I always say "A switch flipped in my head" and I just didn't feel taunted by cravings all the time any more. (I did need to learn to manage hunger, but that's another matter.)
He describes the science of how we think about food, and how it captivates us so madly. He claims that layers of sugar, fat and salt come together to pull us towards food at all times. The food industry understands this brilliantly and is expert at triggering us thousands of times a day.
His main thesis is that you need to do two things to combat this super-strong desire for high-sugar/fat/salt foods.
- want something else more
- have rules (I imposed a lot of rules on myself with WW which I now have relaxed a bit.)
- understand and internalize unhealthy foods as disgusting in the same way that (most of us) see cigarettes.
This is so strange, as I did these exact 3 things but kind of by accident.
At first the thing I wanted more was just to be comfortable in my clothes and to be at a healthy bmi. Now I want more than that - to stay at this much more healthy, active weight, to continue to receive all sorts of accolades, to be able to go shopping and buy clothes in fun styles....
And as for the 'seeing unhealthy food as disgusting' part. That happened completely unconciously and unintentionally as I ate less sugar and fat. And I didn't aim to eat less sugar and fat - I thought I could just eat smaller portions. However, I soon realized that eating high-fat and sugary foods used up all my POINTS and I ended up starving. After giving those foods up for a while I stopped craving them. They gross me out. Or a bite or two is enough.
So the answer to "how did you do it?" is that I started seeing food differently and wanted to be healthy more than I wanted the food.
On a more political note....
Dr. Kessler also explains in a concrete, scientific way how the food industry is so adept at driving us towards food. But he does not just blame the food industry. That industry does not operate as an island. The societal norms as a whole do not look negatively upon massive quantities of unhealthy foods, and food eaten all day long. If everyone around you think a 12oz steak with onion rings and chocolate cake is an ok dinner than you will too. We can each try to change our own internal perception of what that huge plate of food looks like - something filling and hearty, or something dangerous and gross (like a cigarette). His larger point is that placing this much burden on the individual is not good for society as a whole, when the health costs of obesity are factored in. And, that if society as a whole starts seeing overeating in a negative light, then our individual stimuli will be slowed...I hope he has a place at the table in health care reform discussions. Obviously it's a big and complicated topic.
*It should be noted that Dr. Kessler has also had his own struggle with food, which are sobering to hear, when you think that he was head of FDA.