Are you a conditioned hypereater?

The term, conditioned hypereater, was coined by Dr. David Kessler in his book titled, The End of Overeating. He defines conditioned hypereating as a “syndrome, or a condition characterized by a cluster of symptoms” such as “loss of control over eating; lack of feeling satisfied by food; and preoccupation with food”.

Some of you may resonate with the aforementioned symptoms; some of you may not. When speaking with patients, colleagues, and through examination of his own behaviour Kessler noticed that many individuals (of all shapes and sizes) spoke about the power of certain foods. The power was so strong that it often took over, removing any form of personal control and/or logical reasoning ability. Others he spoke to said that such individuals just lacked willpower. Kessler thought differently.

In his book he explores the notion of conditioning, amongst many other topics. How have we become conditioned to eat more and more food? Why do we continue to eat, even though we are sated? In large part, Kessler blames the American diet which has changed considerably over the past 30-40 years or so. More specifically, he talks about the food we eat at restaurants, fast food chains and the pre-packaged meals from the grocery store. It seems, from reading his book, that such food is no longer food. Well, it is still food (because we are ingesting it and it is providing us fuel), however, it is not necessarily the food you think it is.

For example, take the Southwestern Eggroll from Chili’s. The majority of Canadians I know have visited the USA at some point in time and may have had the opportunity to enjoy a meal at Chili’s (I did, just this past New Years Eve). The dish is described on the menu as “smoked chicken, black beans, corn, jalapeno Jack cheese, red peppers, and spinach wrapped in a crispy flour tortilla, served with creamy avocado and ranch dipping sauce”. You’re likely thinking, this sounds pretty healthy…guess again.

Kessler had an anonymous food industry source break down the meal in entirety.

“The tortilla is deep-fried which reduces the water content from 40% to 5%, replacing it with fat” (yummy). “The chicken”, the industry source said, “has been chopped and formed much like a meat loaf, with binders added which makes the calories easier to swallow” (yes, all those binders allow you to chew less, allowing food to go down faster and thus, allowing you to eat more before you realize you’re full). What is a binding agent? Ingredients that hold moisture such as autolyzed yeast extract, sodium phosphate, and soy protein concentrate. The industry consultant added, “the green stuff in the meal allows people to think that they are eating something healthy”.

Looking at the actual meal break down, Kessler writes that salt appeared 8 times on the label while sugar appeared only 5 times in the form of corn-syrup solids, molasses, honey, brown sugar, and sugar.

How has this type of reformatted, calorie-packed, revolutionized food conditioned us into eating more of it? It’s high in fat, salt and sugar. And when we eat more of this stuff, we want more of it. It is a never-ending and unfortunate cycle. This leads to the hypereating aspect. And as you would guess, hypereating begets hypereating.

Anyways, I think that is enough for today. Later on this week, I will talk about what happens in the brain to conditioned hypereaters that may help to explain why some feel a complete loss of control around the foods they love.





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