Dr. David Kessler shares some interesting results of his research into how we seem to eat more and more and what we can do to take charge of our health.
Host: Gloria Tsang, RD
Guest: David A. Kessler, MD
If you are like most people, the month of January finds you dreading the tighter fitting clothes and regretting all the excess calories you ate during the holidays. Former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler is here today to share some interesting results of his research into how we seem to eat more and more and what we can do to take charge of our health.
Gloria Tsang, RD: If you are like most people, the month of January finds you dreading the tighter fitting clothes and regretting all the excess calories you ate during the holidays. Welcome to the Nutrition Tidbits Podcast. This is Gloria Tsang, Editor-in-Chief for HealthCastle.com. Joining me today is Dr. David Kessler, former FDA Commissioner and author of the book The End of Overeating. He is here today to share some interesting results of his research into how we seem to eat more and more and what we can do to take charge of our health. Thank you for joining me Dr. Kessler.
David A. Kessler, MD: It’s a pleasure.
Gloria Tsang, RD: In your book you mentioned about the food industry’s three points of the compass. Can you tell us more about that?
David A. Kessler, MD: The three points of the compass are sugar, fat and salt. Especially when you put them in combination like fat & sugar, fat & salt, and fat, sugar & salt, stimulate us to eat more and more.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Now you outline some dramatic examples on how highly-processed our restaurant foods are. Are the three points of the compass related to the refined foods that you were talking about that melts in our mouth?
David A. Kessler, MD: Both go in to stimulating us to eat more and more. I thought when I was eating, I was eating to fill myself up, I was easting for nutrition, I was eating for satisfaction. I didn’t even realize that most of the time, when I’m eating what I am doing is just stimulating myself to eat more and more. We know that when you put sugar, fat and salt together in those combinations that we are actually stimulating the brain. We are activating certain parts of the brain, the reward circuits, to get us to come back for more and more. And when you layer and load that sugar, fat and salt into processed food, what you are doing in processed food is taking out, in the processing, anything that slows down the eating so the food goes down in a whoosh. In essence, we are eating adult baby food. Again, that is stimulating us to eat more and more. We are eating for reward; we are not eating for eating for nutrition.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Based on your experience and research, what’s the main difference between our so-called American cuisine and other culture’s traditional cuisine?
David A. Kessler, MD: American cuisine is highly-processed foods, which is both layered and loaded with fat, sugar and salt. And take any appetizer from a modern American restaurant. Take Buffalo wings for example, what are they? Take the fatty part of the chicken, fry it in the manufacturing plant first, it loads about 30-40% fat in. Fry it again in the restaurant or kitchen that loads another 30% fat in the food. The red sauce; fat and sugar. The white creamy sauce; fat sugar and salt. What are we eating? We are eating fat on fat on fat on sugar on fat on salt.
Gloria Tsang, RD: I find most shocking when I drive by some of the fast food chains is that I see boneless chicken wings and I couldn’t get my head around it. Chicken wings actually have bones and skin so what exactly are we eating? That refers to your point of fat, sugar and salt. So what about other traditional cuisine like French?
David A. Kessler, MD: It’s interesting. The French, up until recently, did not have the kind of problems with obesity that we have. And they ate highly palatable foods. Now what’s the difference? First, their portion sizes. They eat about two-thirds less if you look at the portions, they are smaller. The French until recently only eat during meals. They had certain boundaries. What did we do in the United States? We took down those boundaries. We took fat, sugar and salt and put it on every corner. We made it available 24/7. We made it socially acceptable to eat any time of day or night. We made food into entertainment; it’s as if we are living in a food carnival.
Gloria Tsang, RD: That’s scary. Now that we have addressed the reasons of overeating in our culture, can we talk about planning? So what can we do? What can we do to avoid these trap foods?
David A. Kessler, MD: Once your brain gets activated, once you have those initial signals, once you get queued… the power of foods comes not just from the taste of food but a memory of that taste and experiences. So the next time you get queued, a queued can be the sight, the smell, the time of day, it can be the location. I was walking down Powell Street in San Francisco and just walking on that street was a queue because I had been in a place six months earlier that I had forgotten all about. So just being on that street queued me to think about certain foods. Being in a car can be a queue. Driving just on the highway past certain places can queue you. Those queues set up thoughts of wanting. It activates the brain and arouse you so at very early stages, once you are queued, you need to shut off those queues. You need to understand as soon as those queues and thoughts of wanting start, you need to try to cool down that stimulus very early on. But the best way to change how you eat is to view how you view the stimulus. Look at 30-40 years and look at how we used to view tobacco. We used to think it was glamorous, sexy and cool. Now we view it as something that is deadly and addictive. If you look at the huge plate of French fries and say that’s my friend, that’s going to make me feel better, there is very little I can do to help you to stand between you and those fries. You have to change how you look at food. If you think it’s going to make you feel better, if you think it’s your friend, then you are going to only want it more and it’s going to be harder to stop. So put in place certain boundaries and plan your eating. Know what you are going to eat and when you are going to eat. Then really change your relationship with food. Food needs to be enjoyable. We have to make food pleasurable. But certainly big portions, processed foods, we need to change how we view that.
Gloria Tsang, RD: These are all powerful thoughts. To wrap up, you’ve discussed something called “Just Right Eating”. Can you tell us the concept about that?
David A. Kessler, MD: “Just Right Eating” is eating what you want in a planned fashion but not in huge amounts. For most of us, we could probably eat half of what we are eating and still be as satisfied or as satiated. I eat about half of what I used to eat and I am just as satiated. So it’s really adjusting your portion sizes. Eating foods that you want but getting it so that you are satiated but you are not eating just endlessly.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Thank you so much. Thank you for joining me Dr. Kessler.
David A. Kessler, MD: My pleasure.
Gloria Tsang, RD: We have been talking to Dr. David Kessler, author of the book The End of Overeating. For more healthy eating tidbits and information and about this show, go to HealtHCastle.com.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.