Fatland: A Report on Obesity and the Food Industry in America
By Lindsay Seamans
Based on information in the book
‘The End of Overeating’ by David Kessler
I like to read. Mostly on my lunch break because it gives me something much more productive to do than sit at a table and play games on my phone or read the news on my phone. I’m not even sure how I came across this book; I think I was researching articles on gluten free diets. Anyway, the fact of the matter of is, ‘The End of Overeating’ was amazing an amazing book; it was also disgusting, disturbing, enlightening, and incredibly honest.
The author, David Kessler, is a pediatrician, lawyer, professor, author, and former commissioner of the FDA. So let’s just say that while the premise of the book sounds like it could be that of a conspiracy theorist’s wacky idea, the guy knows what the hell he’s talking about. Kessler put huge amounts of energy into the research of this book.
Don’t worry though, I’m not going to write some long chapter by chapter overview, I’m just going to hit the highlights. If my report interests you, please go pick up this book as it will totally change the way you look at food in the grocery store and especially the food you are served when you go out to eat. After reading this book it was painfully obvious why so many Americans are not just overweight, but obese and why America will continue to be the “Fatland” unless a lot of companies or a lot of people, or both, change they way they serve, package, market and consume food.
I’m going to start off with saying that the food industry is basically the devil and one of the main causes of our society being overweight. While there are people who are more prone to overeating than others, and no, not all overeaters are overweight, the food manufacturers are the root of all evil. They’ve made food easily accessible (cheap), taste good by layering flavors (I’ll get to that in a minute), and most of all, addictive.
What they’ve managed to do is to process food to such a level that when you eat it, you want more and are only temporarily filled. Think about it. You go out to eat at a Mexican restaurant and they have free chips and they keep refilling the bowl. The chips are cheap for the restaurant. You also keep eating them, they bring a refill, you eat more, yet aren’t full. That’s because they’ve used flavor layering to get your attention, hold your attention, and keep you wanting more. Another day you order out Chinese food, eat ALL of it, and then are hungry 2 hours later. Did you ever wonder why? The food industry has come up with ways to serve you crap, cheap crap, that tastes heavenly and leaves you wanting more.
Flavor Layering and Processing
The food industry has come up with a magical formula for food to make it soooo tasty and irresistible. They’ve realized that there are 3 main flavors/ingredients that will keep people wanting more; salt, sugar and fat. And they typically don’t use JUST one of those, they layer them. Take chicken wings for example. The wing is already one of the fattest parts of a chicken, then they quick fry it before packaging them to be sent off to a restaurant. Once at the restaurant, they are then fried again. Before being served to you, they slather on some sort of sauce. Therefore chicken wings are a combination of: fat-on-fat-on-fat-on-sugar. Pretty disgusting, isn’t it?
But wait, it doesn’t stop there! Even most of the meats you order are processed! You think that chicken breast is JUST chicken breast? What they do in the instance of chicken breast, especially at Chili’s, is by far one of the grossest things I have learned about. They inject the chicken with water and the needles will actually start to break down the muscle and connective tissue. This makes it easier to chew, so essentially you don’t have to use as much effort in chewing and will therefore eat more because the meal doesn’t take as long to eat as it should. You see, when you take your time to really chew and taste your food, you won’t be able to eat as much as you would if the food is very easy to chew and you eat a large portion quickly. It takes your stomach 20-30 minutes to tell your brain that it’s full, so if you can quickly chew a huge portion of food in 20 minutes, the industry has successfully gotten you to overeat. When they inject chicken with water, they want the water to be replaced with fat when it’s cooked to make it more appealing. The chicken leaves for the restaurant with almost 30% water, and when it’s cooked, it’s got about 5% of that water left and almost 25% of that water has been replaced with fat (butter, oil, dressings, etc.)
They have food down to such a science that nothing is overlooked, from the flavor down to the texture. That’s right. They even manufacture the food to have a particular texture. The example given in the book is Dorito’s. They get layer upon layer of flavor to lure you in. Then the texture hits you. You chew the chip and it begins to break down, and the mass it forms in your mouth is pleasant. You barely have to chew after the first initial movements, and it slides down your throat without much effort. Think that wasn’t planned?
Even restaurant menu’s have been made to look appealing. They have a nice picture of the food and exaggerate the food descriptions. Do you want breaded and fried shrimp with a dipping sauce or do you want beer battered shrimp fried until golden brown and crunchy and served with a tangy sweet and sour dipping sauce? Why do they do this? To trick your brain into saying “that sounds amazing, I want that”, when really it should be saying “deep fried = fat and sauce = sugar”. For most of our parents, eating out as a kid wasn’t a normal practice, it was reserved for special occasions. Now more of us eat out regularly because it’s cheaper to do so and more accessible. If you frequent a restaurant, they design the food and atmosphere to make you want to keep coming back.
Kessler got all this information from talking to a former executive from Chili’s and Frito-Lay by the way. These executives know exactly what they are doing and the fatter Americans get, the more obese people there are, the more it becomes “normal” to be overweight and eat out multiple times per week and people who are concerned with their health that will pass on over-processed, high fat, high carb, high calorie food become fewer and fewer in number and these evil companies in the food industry are getting rich while America is getting fat and developing lifelong health problems and passing on bad habits to the next generation who will grow up overweight and stay that way for life.
Through his research for this book, Kessler discovered that everyone is prone to overeating. Not just people who are overweight. Skinny people have this problem too. Everyone has a food or 4 that they struggle with. When they see it, they can’t stop thinking about it, daydreaming about it. This then creates an internal struggle of “do I eat it, or do I avoid it”? And the more you think about avoiding it, the more you want it. You know how it tastes, you even know how eating that particular food item will make you feel. Yes, the food industry has now not just messed with your taste, vision and olfactory senses, but now with your emotions.
They’ve created that comfort food. To do this, they’ve created food that has a reward value. You get that food when you’ve done something well, or are angry or sad and are in need of comfort. (I’m sure all of us girls have eaten a spoonful…or a tubful…of ice cream when you suffer heartache.) They’ve done this because our society is filled with rewards. You do well at your job, you get a raise. You do well in school, you get an award or scholarship. Food is also given as a reward for many achievements in life, big and small. If you played little league baseball or rec-league soccer as a kid, what did you do you after a game? Went out for ice cream! We’ve been trained to overeat and we’ve been trained to expect food that really has no place in our diet as a reward for achievements in life. The worst part is that this behavior starts out in your childhood and you carry that behavior with you through life and you then pass that behavior on to your children. For those few who don’t overeat, it’s simply because they have stronger willpower.
The End of Overeating
The end of the book focuses on how to stop overeating. Easier said than done. We have to retrain our brains and put into motion a series of rules to follow. And this is not universal. My rules may not work for someone else, and their rules may not work for me. Some people can look at food they want and think, “Will I really feel better after I eat that?” “Is that really what I need?” There has been a study, though not mentioned in this book, regarding cravings. You crave chocolate, go eat an apple instead, and eventually through repetition, you will crave the apple and not the chocolate. It’s up to each individual to stop themselves from overeating and to not be drawn in by the food conglomerates and get addicted to their half-assed products they label food.
What I’ve Learned Personally
I don’t take eating out for granted anymore. I’m very jaded now when I look at menus and try to read between the lines. I’m also trying to change some of my eating habits, because honestly, I am one of those people who can be lured in by certain foods (pizza, ice cream, sweet potato fries, chocolate chip cookies and so much more.) I think about food and how it relates to my personal fitness goals, “Will this (food item) help me get to 12% body fat?” “Will this affect how I train and perform as a fighter?” Go out and buy a swimsuit or a dress that you can’t fit into and hang it on your closet door, look at it everyday and when you think about grabbing that giant oversized chocolate chip cookie with your sub at lunch, think about that swimsuit or dress or pair of skin tight pants.
I’ve also learned that if we don’t do something collectively as a society, we’re all in deep shit. The average woman in the 1960’s was 128 pounds…the average woman today is 158 pounds. Think on it. Write your goals down. Make your own rules that you can follow to eat better and stop overeating. Put a copy in your purse, wallet, tape it to your fridge, bathroom mirror, bedroom mirror. Then learn the rules, memorize the rules, take them to heart and stay committed. And more importantly, get other people to realize things need to change so that America stays “land of the free” and not “land of the fat”. And go pick up ‘The End of Overeating’.