1. Donnelly, Gloria F. PhD, RN, FAAN

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I collect diet books!! My collection is quite extensive, from high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets to complex carbohydrate diets to Mediterranean approaches, heart healthy diets, health food diets, low-density food diets, zone diets that balance fat, protein, and carbohydrates, and the ever-popular "no diet" diets. I have battled the bulge for most of my life, and lately, through a combination of regular exercise and some rather simple changes in my eating habits, things finally seemed to be coming together slowly. And then I saw David Kessler, MD, former head of the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), on TV talking about his new book, The End of Overeating,1 and I knew that I was on the right path. His insights and theories on overeating in the United States should be required reading for all of us who claim to use holistic approaches to health and healing.

Figure. Gloria F. Do... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Gloria F. Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN

Shortly before I began writing this editorial, I was watching TV for an hour or so. Having recently heard Kessler, I became even more aware of the continuous cascade of lavish food commercials interspersed throughout the TV programming. Trays of bubbling, sauce- and cheese-laden pasta; pizza with pepperoni; foot-long, food-packed hoagies; talking candies; dripping chocolate; and finger-licking, gooey macaroni and cheese.


We live in a land of plenty, bombarded by images of food that is filled with fat, sugar, and salt. I don't know about you, but salt is my nemesis; I could resist chocolate and apple pie, but put a bowl of potato chips on the table and I lose all restraint. What I learned from Kessler is that my brain circuits, particularly those associated with reward, become rewired by certain foods, in my case potato chips, so much so that I want and eat more than I need. The trick is in making a "critical perceptual shift" that will change the way I view potato chips.


The End of Overeating takes us on a dual journey, through the brain and its reward systems and through the food industry and its quest to design foods that become such powerful stimuli that the most disciplined of us has trouble resisting, even if we are not hungry. Holism preaches the creed of self-responsibility and self-efficacy. Kessler, however, places the problem of overeating in a much broader context, exploring not only the biological but also the psychological, social, and economic facets of this problem. It is much more than just an individual's willpower that influences food choices, and Kessler gives us a fuller understanding of these mechanisms.


The evidence is compelling that healthy food choices play a part in the prevention of heart disease and cancer and lead to healthier and longer lives. Less fat, sugar, and salt will go a long way in creating a healthier nation. Kessler is the director of the FDA who fought long and hard for the mandatory use of food labels on every product. His message in The End of Overeating is that we are all subjected to powerful forces designed to make us eat but we can break the cycle of overeating.


Reading Kessler's book may lead me to become a collector of exercise books instead of diet books. There is always hope!!


Gloria F. Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN






1. Kessler D. The End of Overeating. Rodale, PA: Rodale Press; 2009. [Context Link]