Sunday, May 03, 2009

If It Looks Like a Duck...

I. Am. So. Angry.

I've stopped in the middle of revising the eleventh chapter (don't get excited: I didn't dig into heavy revising until the fourth or fifth chapter & have lots of places marked to return to) to read a hot n
ew book, David A. Kessler's The End of Overeating. The first half of the book focuses on the power of sugar-fat-salt in our diets and on the food industry which exploits those qualities. Good stuff, albeit in need of editing -- you'll have a lot of "Didn't I just read that?" moments along the way.

The last half explores how to get off the sugar-fat-salt "hypereating
" that the U.S. has evolved into in the last 30 years.

Within the first 30 pages, Kessler presents a couple of colleagues with unwrapped fast food candy and bakery products. In discussing the affects of their sight and smell, one of his friends says "'...I cannot control my desire to eat them. I'm obsessing. I feel totally out of control.'" (p. 25) Throughout the book, people liken eating calorie dense food to the experience of a compulsive gambler who walks into a casino. He ends the book by talking about the aversion therapies used by those who treat smokers and compulsive shoplifters, and five pages from the end of the book he writes, "We can lead long and healthy lives without consuming alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs of abuse, so treatment for those addictions can be built around the principle of abstinence. But since we can't survive without eating, we need other strategies for changing our perception of foods..."

Did I mention I was angry? Actually, I'm shaking with anger.

He states early on that he's not talking about "compulsive overeaters" or "bingers" or bulimics, and yet he blandly passes by his colleague's sense of powerlessness and his friend's gambling simile. I really, really need to ask Dr. Kessler: If it quacks like a duck (or fizzes like a rootbeer float), isn't it possible that it's..."an acquatic bird of the family anatidae"???

I talk about 12 step programs for eating disorders all the time in this blog so if you're really adverse to the idea of them, first remind yourself that I have never recommended that anyone go to one. You are the only one who can decide to do that and the day you decide is going to be one of the ugliest days of your life. There aren't many people I'd wish that on.

Next, I advise you to stop reading this now.

Having established, in mind-numbingly over-technical, new-fangled language that made me go back to reread in the same way that a slice of pizza drives me to more pizza even when I hate myself for it (i.e., "incentive salience" = desire-driven, or "hyperpalatable," which means extra tasty and confounds my and Blogger's spell check) that industrial food stimulates serotonin production (also not in Blogger's spell check) and blocks dopamine receptors, he suggests a largely self-monitored cognitive cure.

To whit, did you know that a pint of Ben & Jerry's is a dangerous thing to bring home at night? Maybe you shouldn't eat ice cream. Maybe a diet of moderate portions high in protein, whole grains and vegetative stuff is what you should be eating instead of Big Macs...

By dressing up all the stuff that many of us have been writing about, talking about, doing stepwork over and reading about in swan's down, he's still turned out a duck.

Although fascinating in many parts, especially so to those who haven't dug around to find the heretofore obscurer studies on sugar addiction. At least he's brought half of it out into the clear light of National Public Radio.

The other half is that if neural pathways change over time because of the disproportion of mood-changing neurotransmitters affected by what I eat makes it hard for my brain's pleasure centers to get going from anything except sugars and fats...then I've got an addiction that works exactly like cocaine or heroine or speedballing or booze. And like them, it's degenerating because I need increasingly more to keep my buzz on. (Or off, in the case of
serotonin.) In the end, after having taken my life, it will simply extinguish my life.

And I don't see him suggesting self-rehab for that.

Nota Bene: I told my sponsor about this post and she, too, was outraged. She called Kessler a quack...

OK, maybe it's just funny in the moment after a long day of trying to fit serotonin, dopamine & endorphins into as little space as possible...

The Martha Beck book looks interesting & yes, I, too, am glad whenever an expose of the food industry comes out. He does some fascinating work with industry consultants.


Thinning said...

Have you considered reading Martha Beck's "The Four Day Win"? It explains how you get addicted to food...and what to do to conquer the addiction. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Today, my big HATE is "Hungry Girl." I don't care if she can create a reduced cal. recipe for Cap'n Crunch (TM) encrusted chicken tenders, that stuff is still whack. At least Kessler recognizes that advertising hits people in those parts of our brains vulnerable to addiction. If I ever see "Hungry Girl" in the street, I'm going to push her down.

Unknown said...

This is SO timely for me, Frances. I was just emailing to a group of friends that I must lose weight to save my life, but the thought of "giving up" the foods I crave causes me to become ... insane. I am definitely addicted. You wrote:

"...if neural pathways change over time because of the disproportion of mood-changing neurotransmitters affected by what I eat makes it hard for my brain's pleasure centers to get going from anything except sugars and fats...then I've got an addiction that works exactly like cocaine or heroine or speedballing or booze."

I have come to believe this is the case for me. One of my challenges is that we have a 16 year old boy in the house who can, and does, eat lots of things that are triggers for me.

I had just been saying to my groups of e-friends: "I'm thinking of joining Overeaters Anonymous." Weight Watchers simply enrages me (wtf?!). My problem is deeper, more entrenched, and tangled in some nexus of psychology and biochemistry and genetics. I really need help. OA meeting around the block from my office: Tuesday at 5:30. I need to go.

Thank you for blogging this. I needed to hear it today.

Laura N said...

When are "they" going to get it? "We" have. The experts suck. They clearly aren't addicted to food & have no idea what they are talking about. Seriously, until someone starts talking about this as it truly is--an addiction--it's never ever going to get better for a lot of people. Those of Us who have figured it out are going to find our own way--with the help of each other--but to hell with the experts who want to tell us the same old BS as always.

Channel that anger, girl. Go kick some ass somewhere that makes you feel better, whether writing or walking or even just taking a nap. The food establishment doesn't warrant any more of your precious energy.

Great post.

Nan said...

Kessler has rubbed me the wrong way since he was FDA head in the early 90s.

April said...

Kessler tries to organize and make sense of the unexplainable. There are no easy answers, no known solutions or simple "reasons" for what happens to those of US who have twisted relationships with food. Saying it is like addiction may be a close approximation, but it still isn't "it."

I am one of those who cannot see the OA thing, despite my wish for it to be an answer. I tried to go ~ took months and months and months to finally get to a meeting(after years of thinking about it... ever since the first time I read "Passing for Thin" actually!). It was a complete and utter failure. I don't see myself that way and cannot see myself finding answers there, unfortunately. I cannot believe in a higher power. I need to believe that I am the only one who can save me. I don't have the answers, but I need to believe that if I work hard enough, I might find them. I wish it were different, but for me it isn't.

I am reading "Passing for Thin" again, by the way. It is my 5-th or 6-th time. It offers me some strength to continue my search. That's all I can ask of anything...

Anonymous said...

Like Cindy, above, I believe I am the only person who can "save" me. And yet I've done a miserable job of it so far. The "higher power" thing has stymied me all of my life.

This line made my hair stand on end. It got to me like nothing else I've read lately: "In the end, after having taken my life, it will simply extinguish my life."

So much for my ability to save myself... I need to think about this more.

Gallis said...

"The first half of the book focuses on the power of sugar-fat-salt in our diets and on the food industry which exploits those qualities."

THIS is news?

Gallis said...

PS. No wonder you were ticked. LOL

Jill P. (JSP) said...

I think this post and your most recent Psychology Today post are related. Food addicts are "eaties", this relates to alcoholism in that alcoholics don't care what they drink, they do it to get drunk. Foodies are different I suppose, you could find the coorelation better than me. This may be why some people don't relate as much to the twelve step solution. These two posts have helped me, I feel like I am circling a way to better handle my current situation. I am stuck half way to my weight loss goal and keep losing and gaining the same ten pounds. I don't know why I just can't get it done, I have lost fifty pounds, I know what to do but I am stuck.

I loved your book "Passing for Thin", it really put into words how the world is different to fat and thin people, and how other people relate to weight loss. That and so much else, I have read it multiple times as well. I found your blog because I really wanted to know how you are. I am happy to now have two to read. Thank you for these blogs and your honesty.

Susan said...

I have read your post several times, and must admit that I don't understand your anger. Are you angry because the author glosses over the reasons why people overeat, or because he doesn't offer much in the way of solutions?

I haven't read the book, but I notice it is getting good reviews at Amazon.

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Unknown said...

i have hated kessler ever since he complained it was unfortunate that the folic acid supplementation in food to prevent birth defects was going to subject men and boys to unnecessary vitamins. it has since been shown that folic acid helps protect against heart disease, so it wasnt useless or harmful to men at all!
humans have been making food more delicious by breeding sweeter fruit, less bitter vegetables, fattier animals and by cooking, for millenia. it is ridiculous to claim deliciousness is a modern manufacturing technology innovation/conspiracy!
i am very fat, but i have been a vegetarian for 30 years, do not drink any soda other than seltzer, and and cannot eat at fast food places because of avoiding any meat ingredients. yet i am fat. i know lots of people who keep kosher who are fat. i suspect even if most fat people abstained from refined sugar and salt, and even were vegan, but ate food that gave them pleasure, and ate without restricting or counting calories or grams, they would still be fat. being fat seems to be a combination of genetics, inactivity, a ruined metabolism from repeated dieting, side effects of many medicines, and using food as self-medication. none of those would go away just from less availabilty of hedonic sweetspot food. certainly HFCS makes things worse with stealth calories, but many people were fat before the era of HFCS. i think lack of physical activity is probably even more relevant to obesity than is true a lot of drugs do become more addictive as they are processed to be more purified and intense -- coca leaves vs cocaine vs crack is the best example. i dont think processed food has that big a differential over simpler food. i have had coconut oil/cocoa/maple syrup candy [just those three ingredients mixed together]and it is delicious, more so than a hershey bar. it is astoundingly expensive though. i think the goal of processed food is the best taste for the least money and longest product storage life. if food being delicious were the main problem, obesity would correlate with cuisine, and the french would be far fatter than us, and the english would just waste away!

fredt said...

I have been around OA for a long time, and that program has kept me going. God is just a concept, once you understand that, the steps become a framework of cleaning up our lives.
There are many separate additions to different food components. Sugar, wheat, glutin, Omega 6 oils, chocolate, caseins, nuts, dense carbohydrates, are addiction. Conditions like hyperinsulinemia and leptin resistance all contribute. Your diet must treat your condition and addictions. If you do not get both right, you are going to have a difficult time to recover from overeating.