The Peril of Palatability

A former FDA chief sounds the alarm about dangerously delicious food.

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Diet, by David A. Kessler, Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Books, 320 pages, $25.95

According to The Washington Post, David Kessler’s research for The End of Overeating included late-night forays into the trash bins behind Chili’s restaurants across California. From the chain’s garbage he retrieved ingredient boxes with nutritional labels that revealed the secret of dishes such as Southwestern Eggrolls and Boneless Shanghai Wings. It turned out they “were bathed in salt, fat and sugars.”

Kessler could have saved considerable time and trouble by paying a Chili’s employee to write down this information for him. Or by visiting the Chili’s website, which provides numbers for the calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and sodium in the company’s food. Or simply by assuming that  food promoted as a mouth-watering yet affordable indulgence probably has a lot of fat, salt, and sugar in it. But as The End of Overeating more than amply demonstrates, Kessler is the sort of crusader who spares no effort to uncover the obvious.

Kessler, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco’s medical school, grabbed headlines as head of the Food and Drug Administration under Bill Clinton by taking on Big Tobacco. In this book he mounts an assault on Big Food, but the results are even feebler than his unsuccessful effort to regulate cigarettes without statutory authority. He combines banal observations, dressed up as scientific insights and revelations of corporate misdeeds, with presumptuous advice that overgeneralizes from his own troubled relationship with food. 

Kessler urges readers to eschew pasta, French fries, bacon cheeseburgers, candy, and other “hyperpalatable” foods that he and some people he interviewed for the book have trouble consuming in moderation. Kessler wants us to know he is powerless over chocolate-chip cookies and “those fried dumplings at the San Francisco airport.” Using himself and several similarly voracious acquaintances as models, he argues that “conditioned hypereating” is largely responsible for the “obesity epidemic.” He exhorts its victims to resist the machinations of the food industry, “the manipulator of the consumers’ minds and desires” (in the words of a “high-level food industry executive”).

Kessler fearlessly accuses major restaurant chains of a crime they brag about, relying on unnamed “insiders” to reveal that comestible pushers such as Cinnabon and The Cheesecake Factory deliberately make their food delicious—or, as he breathlessly puts it, “design food specifically to be highly hedonic.” Kessler certainly has the goods on the corporate conspiracy to serve people food they like. “We come up with craveable flavors, and the consumers come back, even days later,” a “research chef at Chili’s” confesses to him. Kessler also reveals that Nabisco lures Oreo eaters through a dastardly combination of sweet white filling and crunchy, bittersweet chocolate wafers, achieving “what’s called dynamic contrast.” Or maybe it’s “what the industry calls ‘dynamic novelty,’ ” as Kessler claims in another Oreo discussion elsewhere in the book. Either way, it’s so good it must be bad.

Not only do these sneaky bastards create irresistible food; they then turn around and tell people about it. “With its ability to create superstimuli, coupled with its marketing prowess, the industry has cracked the code of conditioned hypereating and learned exactly how to manipulate our eating behavior,” Kessler writes. “It has figured out the programming that gets us to pursue the food it wants to sell.” 

If Kessler hadn’t been so distracted by that plateful of chocolate-chip cookies, perhaps he would have noticed the contradiction between his description of how the food industry goes to great lengths to give consumers exactly what they want and his claim that it arbitrarily decides what products it wants to sell, then uses marketing magic to create a demand for them. The only way to deal with such logic-defying nefariousness, he suggests, is to regulate advertising and require restaurants to nag their customers with conspicuous calorie counts. He also encourages readers to “feel angry at the marketing and advertising techniques designed to get you to eat more, at the huge portion sizes served at restaurants, and at the layered and loaded food you encounter everywhere.” It’s all about “reframing seemingly well-meaning acts as hostile ones.” Thinking back on all those times my mother offered me a second helping, I now realize how much she hates me.

Kessler’s discussion of the science behind his theory of conditioned hypereating is at least as enlightening as his economic analysis of the food industry. “Palatable foods arouse our appetite,” one expert tells him. “They act as an incentive to eat.” Once he’s made sure we know what palatable means, Kessler tries to explain why some foods have this quality. It turns out that palatable foods affect neurotransmitter levels, stimulate “the pleasure center,” and activate “the body’s reward system.” Since the same could be said of pretty much everything that people enjoy, this observation is not very illuminating. It falls into the same true-but-dull category as Kessler’s discovery that “people get fat because they eat more than people who are lean.”

Kessler’s neurological reductionism gives him an excuse to talk about rat studies and MRI scans, but it does not have much explanatory power. “The food we ate for comfort has left its mark on the brain, creating a void that will need to be filled the next time we are cued,” he writes. “The result is a spiral of wanting.” Since all experiences leave a “mark on the brain,” what does this really tell us about why some people eat a few potato chips and stop, while others finish the bag and look for more in the cupboard?

It’s not clear what percentage of the population reacts to food the way Kessler and his hypereating friends do. The government says two-thirds of Americans are “overweight,” but that does not mean they routinely engage in the out-of-control gorging that Kessler describes. Then again, Kessler says “overeating is not the sole province of the overweight,” since thin people can scarf down big bowls of ice cream or M&Ms but compensate by exercising more. It does not make much sense to claim that people who burn all the calories they consume are overeating—unless, like Kessler, you’re promoting a trademarked treatment for overeating called Food Rehab™.

According to The Washington Post, “Kessler estimates that about 15 percent of the population is not affected” by conditioned hypereating, meaning 85 percent is. That seems inconsistent not only with everyday experience but with Kessler’s own analysis of questionnaire data from the Reno Diet Heart Study. He says “one-third of the study population scored high” on one or more of three factors—“loss of control over eating,” “lack of feeling satisfied by food,” and “preoccupation with food”—that characterize the syndrome he typifies.

Yet the section of the book where Kessler describes his Food Rehab™ method seems to be aimed at a general audience, which is like expecting all drinkers to follow the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. “I don’t offer a one-size-fits-all technique,” Kessler claims, adding that “few foods will be totally out of bounds.” Yet he lays down some pretty categorical-sounding imperatives. “Neither sugar nor refined carbohydrates that behave much like sugar in the body, such as white flours and pasta, belong in the diet in significant amounts,” he writes, calling for “a diet based largely on lean protein and whole grains or legumes, supplemented with fruits and nonstarchy vegetables.” For everyone? Just for hypereaters? Maybe both, because by this point Kessler seems to have convinced himself that his impulsive, gluttonous reaction to tasty food is a universal trait.

But what about those of us who reject Kessler’s ethic of rigidly ordered abstemiousness, which replaces hypereating with hypervigilance? Consider celebrity chef and food writer Anthony Bourdain, who supplied a blurb for this book (“disturbing, thought-provoking, and important”) that suggests he hasn’t read it. As anyone who watches No Reservations, Bourdain’s show on the Travel Channel, can attest, his attitude toward food is about as far from Kessler’s as it’s possible to get. While Kessler says we should be wary of delicious dishes, Bourdain conspicuously consumes all manner of fatty, salty, calorie-packed food in large quantities without apology (and nevertheless keeps a trim figure). Bourdain’s fans see a man who relishes life and refuses to sacrifice pleasure on the altar of health. Kessler presumably would see a victim of conditioned hypereating who desperately needs a course of Food Rehab™.

Senior Editor Jacob Sullum (jsullum@reason.com) is a nationally syndicated columnist.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    If only we lived in a society where we were never exposed to cheeseburgers, Hershey bars, pizza, etc. Kind of would be like Playboys filled with women with great personalities. And we know how much joy we would have in our lives.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    Speaking of Playboy, Kessler fails to mention that the word "sex" is subliminally printed on every Ritz cracker. Never mind the fat, sugar, or salt. That's the real reason you can't eat just one.

  • LarryA||

    But as The End of Overeating more than amply demonstrates, Kessler is the sort of crusader who spares no effort to uncover the obvious.

    Money shot. For these folks, “fun” is a curse.

  • ||

    "Litany Against Fun"

    I must not have fun. Fun is the time-killer. Fun is for
    inferiors, servants and the help. I will ignore fun. I will work
    through it. And when the fun is gone only I will remain--I, and
    my will to win. Damn, I'm good.

  • Spartacus||

    Do you enjoy winning? Because, you know, that would be like having fun.

  • ||

    No, because that would interfere with the focus on additional wins.

    That's from the Harvard Lampoon's Dune parody, by the way.

  • proud libitard||

    well, to be fair, the R's have an issue with people enjoying sex and drugs

  • ||

    Drugs, maybe. Sex, I should hope not.

  • ||

    Kessler is plainly a member of that religion whose central tenent is "...secret fear that someone somewhere is happy." To probably misquote H.L. Mencken.

  • ||

    Yeah, I'll bet he's a blast at parties.

    -jcr

  • ||

    I blame that d*mned lepruchaun. "Magically delicious" indeed.

  • ||

    Telling people the only way to lose weight is by eating food that tastes like crap is not going to be too popular. You can eat great tasting food. It's eating too much of any food that will make you overweight.

  • ||

    Kessler reminds me of the EPA dweeb in Ghost Busters. I really hate people like him.

  • ||

    "Yes. It's true. This man has no dick."

  • Susan||

    A pound of bread, a spud, and a couple of carrots per day is a wonderfully healthy diet and all we need.

  • Warty||

    If you want to become a diabetic. Eat some steak, fatty.

  • Untermensch||

    Until you get the big belly from no protein...

  • The Wine Commonsewer (TWC)||

    Best diabetic diet is the Adkins diet. With wine to wash it down. Veggies, meat, fruit. Skip the taters, skip the bread, skip the rice pilaf.

  • Xeones||

    Susan, you're gonna have to try a lot harder if you wanna troll around these parts.

  • ||

    Susan is doing good. She's referencing this thread.

  • ||

    Yet another example that the Soviet Union, with its life-extending scarcity and want, was the superior social system. You running-dog Capitalists should be ashamed.

  • ||

    There are a lot of people who look back fondly on the British World War II rationing system where people were given barely above starvation diets. No kidding. There are some sick fucks out there.

  • ||

    Would it be a Godwin rule confirmation for me to suggest that Kessler should publish the a nutrition book based on the diets of concentration camp prisoners? It seems consistent with his values to me, somehow.

  • ||

    the

  • Warty||

    I read some of Kessler's book. I got the distinct impression that he was praying for someone to take temptation away from him.

    I especially loved the part where he talked about the plate of cookies taunting him.

  • Untermensch||

    Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time.

  • @||

    He carries that plate of cookies around like Linus's blanket. I saw him on the cable TV the other day and yes, he did point to his favorite prop. "I'm flawed! Protect me! Love me!"

  • Running-Dog Capitalist||

    Arf! Arf!

  • zeroentitlement||

    My chief dislike of this nannyist pearl-clutching about how teh eeeebil restaurants *gasp teh horrorz* make bad food taste good is the reek of classism that follows it wherever it goes.

    Funny how Kessler and his ideological peers don't go rummaging through the dumpsters in the back of joints the likes of Trattoria Carmine's, Rover's, or El Gaucho (where the elite meet to eat in Seattle, anyway). Arguably, the amount of saturated fat in a platter of petit filets dressed in lobster-citrus beurre blanc or Oregon bleu crumbles (time out, need to mop drool) rivals whatever you'll get at Chili's.

    Nay, he's out back of the Outback; of chains that are popular with the hoi polloi: Chili's, FFS. Olive Garden. Claim Jumper.

    This isn't about restaurants insidiously promoting overeating. (If so, there are a couple of restaurants in Tuscany that Kessler really ought to be investigating.) This is only the umpteenth Coastie elitist take on Hatred of Fat Middle-American Slobs (aka the people who grow all the stuff that Kessler and his nebbishy, irritating cronies actually do eat).

    Because it's perfectly OK to overeat...as long as it's tapas, pom-tinis, or Wagyu sliders swimming in horseradish mayo. It's only a vice when it comes from a chain frequented by people who arrived in a pickup truck.

  • ||

    I was thinking the same thing, but you said if FAR better than I could. Bravo!

  • ||

    Bingo.

    Like those books touting the supposedly eco-friendliness of eating locally, it's all about making sure we're different from "them".
    Why can't they just admit they're insecure snobs and stop bothering the rest of us?

  • Lexicon||

    "He's out back of the Outback."

    Beautiful.

  • ||

    Superb.

  • New World Dan||

    There was a resturaunt near my office and their gimmick was printing nutritional information on your receipt. They failed miserably. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, the reason they failed had nothing to do with what was printed on the receipt: the food was terrible.

    And if I can offer one bit of advice for anyone concerned about their health/weight: don't eat french fries. Deep fried starch is about the worst thing you can eat.

  • Woody Allen||

    the food was terrible

    And such small portions.

  • ||

    Deep fried starch is about the worst thing you can eat.

    But so tasty.

  • ||

    And if I can offer one bit of advice for anyone concerned about their health/weight: don't eat french fries. Deep fried starch is about the worst thing you can eat.

    I prefer my deep fried starch with extra sugar...

  • SRPinPGH||

    And they were spending a hell of a lot of money on register tape. Not very green.

  • anon||

    Take in less calories than your body uses and you'll lose weight. I can't figure out what is so hard to understand about this. If you want to eat fattening foods, you can, but you need to exercise more. If you want to sit on your ass playing XBox 360 all day, you'd better lay off the Mountain Dew and Cheetos unless you want to be 500 lbs.

  • Warty||

  • Warty||

    Since Wikipedia doesn't talk about it: if I remember right, the subjects lost a small amount of weight while they were being starved, gained it all back and then some after they were done, and went crazy in the process.

    So no, don't starve yourself.

  • anon||

    Eating fewer calories than your body uses != starving yourself.

  • Warty||

    If you like.

  • anon||

    OK, how else would you suggest losing weight? If you eat more calories than you use, what happens to those extra calories?

  • Warty||

    If you eat more calories than you use, you get antsy and you'll want to increase your activity. If you don't eat enough, you'll be miserable and you'll have no desire to move. Your body really likes being the weight it is right now, and you have to fool it to change.

    If you want to be less fat, quit eating sugary and starchy bullshit so you don't have a huge insulin response after every meal. Plus, you get to keep your legs when you're old.

  • ||

    Umm . . . so what is an "insulin response" then?

  • KD||

    Carbohydrates tend to cause your body to release more insulin to bring your blood sugar to normal levels. The bad part about this is that insulin drives fat storage and steals nutrients from cells, so it's not good to eat foods that produce more of an insulin response. This is the nutshell explanation.

  • zeroentitlement||

    If you want to eat fattening foods, you can. Period. If you want to exercise, fine. If you don't, fine. There are consequences for long-term overeating without exercise for most people, but some never seem to get that comeuppance. And some don't mind the consequences as long as they get to do or eat what they want. Basically, it's none of your neighbor's damned business what you eat, or whether you're fat, unless you fall on top of them. A person's body is not a public trust; s/he can treat it as s/he pleases. A fat person has no obligation to you or to anyone else to "exercise more" or "lay off the Mountain Dew and Cheetos."

  • anon||

    Where did you get out of that that I was saying anyone had an obligation to anyone but themselves. I said cut out the Cheetos and Mountain Dew unless you want to be 500 lbs. Hey maybe you want to be 500 lbs. That's cool.

  • Slut Bunwalla||

    I eat whatever the hell I want. I sit around on my ass all day long, both at work and at home. Every time I go to the doctor, he tells me I need to gain ten pounds because I'm underweight.

    I don't understand how that works, but I can't say I mind it too much.

  • ||

    So how old are you? I was skinny as a rail till I hate the age of 36.

  • ||

    Not only do these sneaky bastards create irresistible food; they then turn around and tell people about it.

    The government should do something about this.

  • ||

    Is there nothing that can't be done by the miracle of government?

  • ||

    So the embedded ad is for somebody Jillian Michael.

    Am I the only one who thinks maybe she was Michael Jillian, before the surgery?

  • ||

    (S)he's got a serious case of man face.

  • ||

    Oh, R C, I envy your state of blissful ignorance. If you want to pop your J.Mike cherry and see some fatties run/cry, see The Biggest Loser. Her trainwreck face is ubiquitous.

  • Warty||

    She looks like she breaks into a cold sweat every time she sees a cake. Just...one...bite...won't hurt anything...

    And she has no idea how to do her job.

  • ||

    Are you Josh, Wartster? Or do you just roam the blogosphere searching for ways to lose that stubborn fat?

  • Warty||

    Josh? Being named Josh would be even more shameful than being Canadian, or using the word blogosphere. So, maybe.

  • ||

    You can't blame all Canadians for your disastrous love affair with poutine.

  • ||

    I agree with him that the food at SFO is palatable. I can always find something non-heinous to eat there. And you probably don't want to get between me and an Oreo. I don't need saving, though. Is it wrong to wish that someone would eat Mr. Kessler?

  • Chad||

    Kessler could have saved considerable time and trouble by paying a Chili’s employee to write down this information for him. Or by visiting the Chili’s website, which provides numbers for the calories, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and sodium in the company’s food...

    You do realize that this data wasn't publically available until a few years ago, when chains such as Chili's were forced to display it in certain jurisdictions. Oh, the glorious irony of a libertarian praising the results of government coercion.

  • ||

    Yeah because it was just unfair to retards like you not to explain that eating a chilis big mouth burger and fries topped off with a sunday wasn't good for your waste line.

  • Chad||

    Obviously, just about everything in these restaurants is bad...but it was very hard to know how bad, and which things were even more bad than you expected. Now the data is out there, thanks to the government.

  • ||

    You do realize that this data wasn't publically available until a few years ago,

    Bullshit. Private consumer organizations have been testing food and publishing their findings for decades.

    -jcr

  • Chad||

    Where? If it was out there, it was sure hard to find. All I could find was other people looking for the same information. This stands in stark contrast to fast food joints, who have made the data readily available for decades.

  • anonymous||

    It surely couldn't have been hard to buy a few to go boxes, test it, and post the results? The main difference now is that the expense of testing falls on the companies, who presumably pass it on to consumers, whether they value the information or not.

  • Julian Droms||

    Americans eat shitty tasting food in large amounts. Europeans and Japanese eat great tasting food in small amounts. If Americans appreciated good tasting food, they couldn't afford to get fat. Because really, is McDonald's so unhealthy because it's the greatest tasting food on the face of the Earth? Or because it costs less than dirt and can be had in less than 5 minutes?

    Most fat Americans don't know what good food tastes like.

    Kinda blows that whole theory out of the water.

  • Chad||

    I agree. Fat-ass food isn't delicious or satisfying. It just tricks you into thinking it is.

    Once you start caring about what you eat, fat-ass food rarely seems appetizing.

  • G Mc||

    As long as this guy remains a former FDA chief, then I have no problem with him writing this book. It's a commentary on a very real phenomenon in American society - the rapid rising obesity rate. If consumers read the book and begin to demand healthier foods, then we'll get them.

  • G Mc||

    *rapidly

  • ||

    You don't really buy the propaganda that there is an "obesity epidemic" do you?

    There is no irrefutable, unimpeachable, comprehensive evidence to support the propaganda.

  • Chad||

    If our massively increased rates of obesity aren't irrefutable evidence, what is?

    As a side note, I was reading an article about the Depression the other day, which had lots of photos. Think about the skinniest person you know. EVERYONE in the photos were that thin. It musta been genetics. Who knew that our grandparents horded all the skinny genes for themselves and only left us with the fat-ass ones?

  • JW||

    Not to worry, we'll all soon be on the Paulson/Gietner diet and end up in just about the same place, but we'll have fabulous abs compared to those Okies.

  • JW||

    Oh, and Chode, you really aren't that stupid, are you?

  • jpocali||

    You are referring to an article that showed pics from the Depression as proof? They didn't have any concentration camp photos?

    It wasn't genetics, it was called not getting enough to forking eat! Not sure if you know this or not, but poverty is second only to meth at controlling weight problems......

  • G Mc||

    To Libertymike:

    To be honest, I haven't really spent any time researching the subject. I had thought that it was generally accepted common knowledge that obesity rates were rising, but I'm open to evidence/arguments to the contrary.

    The real issue, it seems to me, is whether or not the "problem" warrants government action.

  • JW||

    It *might* be relevent, if "obesity" meant the same thing as it did 20 years ago. It doesn't.

    Funny that.

  • ||

    If you don't think there is an obesity crisis, just take a trip to Disneyland. Seriously - the most obese people I've ever seen...

  • ||

    I remember Kessler as the guy who did more than any FDA head before or since to try to gather more power into his hands. If I ever meet him, I'll make damned sure I eat something he doesn't approve of right in front of him. Hell, I might even smoke the first cigarette of my life.

    -jcr

  • HeadTater||

    Well, I guess the food industry should just follow the lead of the cable and print media and offer a sub-par product that people will stupidly consume.

    Maybe we should go after the entertainment industry for making violent/sex-ridden movies, songs, shows and games so fun.

  • Robert||

    They have fried dumplings at the airport in S.F.?! What are we wasting our time here for?

    I'm obese, have heart disease, and will soon take another glucose tolerance test to see if I've finally made it to diabetes. (The amount of urine I've been putting out lately is not encouraging.) And yet, this article, while I have a rosemary-spiced chicken roto-broiling behind me, is the most appetizing stimulus I've had in a while. I once went for group hypnosis for overeating, but it turned out to be aversion (as it appears Dr. Kessler recommends), so it didn't take. I want to continue enjoying eating what, and as much as, I eat.

    I met Dr. Kessler at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1988 during one of his fat periods.

  • jpocali||

    What an absolute dumb-ass! Really, those evil bastards have figured out what we like and they also know how to let us know that they have it? They are diabolical! How do they stay in business with that kind of business model!? Do you think this guy starts drooling when he hears a bell ring???

  • ||

    About a year ago, I went on a pretty big diet and lost about 30 pounds and have kept most off. It's really not that hard. All it takes is discipline. Just don't eat the fucking oreos if they're so unhealthy. Didn't need some genius at the FDA to tell me that. When will people learn? Fuck!!

  • kimchihater||

    kimchi is nasty

  • ||

    It's obvious that this guy, with a JD-MD is way fucking smarter than any of us could ever be, so maybe we should just shut up and listen.

    But seriously, anyone who gets both an MD and JD is probably someone with a superego...There is virtually no financial rationale for doing such a thing; clearly the guy has an ego to serve...telling us what to eat helps him with that, maybe.

  • ||

    excuse me, but "superego" doesn't mean "really big ego." To quote Mr. Freud:
    "The Super-ego can be thought of as a type of conscience that punishes misbehavior with feelings of guilt. For example: having extra-marital affairs."
    The policeman on the corner between the id and the ego, if you will.

  • ||

    about a decade ago, an equally retarded book called "fast food nation" was published that became wildly popular for some time. I actually had to read that foolishness for a freshman seminar course as an undergrad. basically, it enlightened us to the fact that big macs and whoppers aren't healthy and that the fast food industry abuses everyone and is more deceptive than the church of satan. barf.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Great, like we need another daddy-statist telling us shit we already know...

    Oh, and piss off, Chad. Food Police supporters, we don't need. Find some more jackboots to polish.

  • Chris||

    Bad link - The link to the guy's book is actually a link to this same article. Either I'm in a hall of mirrors, or maybe a link to Amazon or something was intended?

    It's interesting that after 89 comments, no one's pointed that out. No one's doing their own snooping, I suppose.

  • Thomas||

    Are we really going to listen to David Kessler? He eats people!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A....._in_London

  • William Furr||

    I think Dr. Kessler is a mole, or a plant. Either that, or he's just stupid. His book makes a straw man out of a very real problem.

    There is a real problem with humans and food. We did not evolve in an environment where fats and sugars were abundant, but instead were very scarce. We have an evolved tendency to gorge on fats and sugars when they're available (like the berry bush you just found or antelope you just ran down) and store up the calories for the lean times when we have to get by on roots and other random crap we find just to get by on.

    If it's ever seemed stupid to you that the best tasting foods are some of the worst for your health, that's why.

    A hunter-gatherer who has to work their ass off to find enough to eat every day is not well suited for the radically different environment of the sedentary eater with an industrial food system to provide their every want.

    Thankfully, evolution provided us with another tool so we don't have to wait for natural selection to adjust our genome to be suited for a different environment: culture and free will. We can instead adapt our behaviors to our new environment. It's a bitch, though, when your instincts and your conscious thoughts are in conflict.

  • ||

    "Hyperpalatable" - man, what a total dick.

  • SteveGW||

    "Taking Control of the Insatiable American Diet" says the subtitle. Since when have diets been insatiable? Do they mean the insatiable American appetite, or do they mean the insatiable American's diet?

  • Jim Brennan||

    Food Rehab™ says more than enough about the true intent.

    I make linguini with kamut and whole wheat to get a good texture. It is pasta and wholesome. If you want to eat a good diet with great taste don't spend time reading books about body filler, take control and cook your own food. It is also good financial planning.

  • ||

    "Another item, being a pet peeve of mine for many years (and I have voiced my opinion about this in various culinary forums) is the officially permitted exclusion of food additives of particular kinds on food product labels."
    Please read on:
    January 27, 2009, 7:42 pm
    Q and A With Thomas Frieden
    By Nick Fox
    http://dinersjournal.blogs.nyt.....ref=dining

    My comments about this article:

    Dr. Frieden, to quote from the intro in this article: “…………..and a requirement that chains post the calories for their menu items.”
    I find it totally useless to provide calorie counts on Restaurant menus. The majority of the US population does not understand, comprehend, nor is willing to inform themselves about calorie intake.
    The education should lie by letting people know what actually calorie consumption will do to them, and not just telling them how many there are in a particular food item eaten.
    I totally object to forcing the restaurant industry to be a guidance counselor to health problems of the public. Forcing the public school system to teach nutrition and valuable eating habits to first graders and up, would have a better impact overall in awareness.

    These unlisted ADDITIVES, meant to enhance foods for flavor, preservation and appearance. ADDITIVES of these kinds will and do not only entice but draw young children and adults towards a HIGHER consumption, leading to ADDICTION of a certain product, which in turn increases caloric intake resulting in OBESETY.
    Please remember, “ADDITIVES” (unknown to smokers) in tobacco products led to addiction and ultimately to illness and death.
    So please make it your point to have industry divulge any and all additives, have independent labs examine these and find the relation of quantitative food intake where these ADDITIVES are present. Let the public know the outcome and results of such study versus making restaurants, of any kind, nutrition educators.
    Thank you, and I am excited to hear from you.
    Peter B. Wolf

    ********************************************

    Another point made here in Chowhound
    John Tracy: I agree with you, the emphasis in the article lies with the fact of how much flavor comes from these chemical factories.
    But, my alert and focus to the reason of these additives is, the horrible growing and production of our natural resources without any flavors. Everything has been altered over the years to look good and uniform, thereby loosing out on the natural original makeup of the products. Consumers don't want Macs or Grannies that are not uniform in size, shape and color.
    Industrial agriculture has shaped nature into tasteless uniform entities, producing tasteless food stuff that needs to be filled with flavor enhancers as additives.
    | Permalink | Report | Reply
    Peter B. Wolf Dec 29, 2000 10:45PM

    ********************************************

    Another comment to the same issue:

    Weight control problems are entirely up to the consumer.
    And since we all eat more, because “it all tastes soooooo good”, all we need to do is eat less of these ‘Good Tastes’.
    Everyone should rather look into the “FOOD ADDITIVES” in prepackaged manufactured foods, i.e. Cake Mixes, Canned Soups, Cookies, Cereals, ready-to-eat Dinners etc., which do not need to be listed on labels, but are the real culprit for us to want more of the ‘Good Tastes’.
    These Food Additives have the same effect on daily food consumption as the “TOBACCO ADDITIVES” from years ago, and were proven to turn regular smokers into” ADDICTS “ !!!
    Food manufactures should be made responsible to reveal these “Food Additives” and assure us that these are NOT !!! ADDICTIVE !!!
    — Peter B. Wolf

    *************************************

    ………….and read this:
    Healthy Eating: Artificial food additives affect children’s behavior

    ******************************************

    ………..also this:

    Please forward to Ms. Katherine Hobson.
    I watched Ms. Hobson this Morning on the Today NBCTV Show.
    Would like to make a comment to additional caution about processed food manufactures which were not mentioned on the above show. I personally strongly believe that food additives, which do not need to be listed on packaging labels, contribute to , I call " Taste Experiences", which in turn lead to increased consumption and ultimately to our growing problems of obesity.
    Your comment to me about this issue is appreciated. Thank you.
    Peter B. Wolf, CEC
    135 Litchfield Rd.
    Farmingdale ME 04344
    207-623-5243
    kanope@roadrunner.com

    Received canned response from them:
    Thank you!
    We appreciate your feedback. Your comments have been forwarded to the U.S. News Public Relations Department.

  • ||

    Just a query . Are all the folk who comment happy, obese, fun-loving 'realists'? One gets the impression.

  • ||

    Just returned from France after a glorious two-week immersion in hyperpalatable high fat/calorie/salt foods -- no obese people in sight and coronaries are much lower there -- and eating is a national passion. Take care Kessler, the likes of you are swiftly guillotined at the Place de La Concorde

  • ||

    By putting "obesity epidemic" in quotes you imply there is none. My evidence is only from casual observation, but a trip to Walmart says there are lots of really fat people out there. Maybe it's that a high percentage of Walmart's customers are poor, and poor people tend to be ignorant and/or careless about nutrition. Also, the whole exercise and fitness trend seems to have bypassed the poor. Perhaps a good start would be to restrict food stamp use to exclude insalubrious (but highly salacious!) items like Doritos and Doctor Pepper.

  • James||

    Kessler was a blot on the Bush 41 administration.

    One of his first acts was to seize warehouses full of orange juice because they were labeled "fresh'.

    He's anti-business to the core and G H Bush should be ashamed for appointing him.

  • ||

    That paranoid comment on food additives is about as valid as saying guys with red cars seduce more women. There are a few sane and rational comments among the 100 or so above:foods are supposed to look and taste good and not spoil too soon. If you can't resist overeating, then don't begin blaming the restaurants, the farmers, the food companies, the cook in your home. Would you blame drug addiction also on everyone else instead of the addict? An understanding of basic human physiology, especially calorie use and management and the food system from farm to kitchen is something that is as badly needed as driver education or money management (which most people know nothing about). I bet most of the obese are also grossly indebted to credit card companies.

  • ||

    I'm hungry.

  • ||

    To quote 'Roger' here: "That paranoid comment on food additives is about as valid as saying guys with red cars seduce more women. "

    No, but thousands of 'paranoid' smokers are dead. and many women are drawn to 'red cars'.

  • ||

    Re: "While Kessler says we should be wary of delicious dishes, Bourdain conspicuously consumes all manner of fatty, salty, calorie-packed food in large quantities without apology (and nevertheless keeps a trim figure). Bourdain’s fans see a man who relishes life and refuses to sacrifice pleasure on the altar of health. Kessler presumably would see a victim of conditioned hypereating who desperately needs a course of Food Rehab™."

    Bourdain also smokes and make no apologies about that either!

  • SRPinPGH||

    Replace the salient words in Kessler's arguments with those of the global-warming crowd and stand back all-amazed. SSDD.

  • ||

    It boggles the mind to see perfectly literate people write that the reasons for overweight in an individual lie with the food that is grown, prepared, and presented to the public and all the folks who have chosen those activities. Why aren't disciplined individuals overweight, such as athletes, most actors and actresses, most executives and other decision makers? It must be human nature to find a scapegoat other than yourself for any ill that has struck you. And lawyers are ever-ready to help you gt money for the misfortune along (such as the lady who spilled hot coffee on her lap). Can I sue every company that peddles red processed food because it makes me salivate and eat more of it than I should?

  • ||

    What Milton Friedman said about business never having been a friend of freedom I think can be said of the food industry, government, the medical industry, agriculture, and dogmatic political philosophers about our health (and, for that matter, even truth). The usefulness of government mandated food labels in my own personal life, however, has actually inflicted more than a little crack in (what I considered to me my rock-solid) libertarian foundation.

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