The Psychology of Overeating by Kima Cargill

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The Psychology of Overeating by Kima Cargill

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Category: Popular Science
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: From food to fashion, this is a super interesting look at consumerism and how the having it all attitude may be our downfall
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 216 Date: October 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1472581075

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As a nation, we are not the same as we used to be. We eat more, both as in more often and as in more of a serving size. And we eat worse. Processed foods. Sugary drinks. It’s not really news. As a result, our waistlines are larger, our blood pressure is higher, and our sugar levels are whoosh. But it’s not just about the food. This book takes an in-depth and incredibly interesting look at our lives as a whole, to show how the modern culture of consumerism shows up in every part of our day to day living and explains, to quite a significant degree, why many of us are overeating and why it is so hard to stop.

I care about health and I care about nutrition, in the way that anyone who believes you can have chocolate straight after breakfast can do. A little square of Galaxy after some plain, unsweetened porridge (and an hour in the gym) isn’t going to hurt…right? This book swung me like a pendulum from both extremes. At times, reading the case studies I was basking in the smugness of my relatively healthy lifestyle choices (avid gym-goer, lifetime non-smoker, vegetarian, teetotal) but then before I knew it I was reading about various tricks of the food industry that I know I have fallen victim to. Such as their decision to put half a dozen types of sugar into cereal, not for any flavour or food technology reason but so no one individual one comes that high up the list of ingredients, despite their cumulative total representing a significant source of badness. Equally, I know I should shop online for food because that way I would stick to a list and my good intentions, but I can’t help it. It’s October. I need to know what Christmas goodies Cadbury’s have brought out this year. And yes, they invariably do come home with me. And I know that I don’t need to drink constantly, that thirst is a good signal to top up and one I can wait for, but as anyone who has worked in an office will know, drinks rounds can mean an almost constant revolving door of refills you somehow never want to refuse.

This is a book I read word by word and I had a lot of take-home messages from it, including the idea that we should talk about eating addiction rather than food addiction, and how the psychology of binging can be applied to shopping or other activities in exactly the same way as it can to eating. While the book is primarily about food, nutrition and diet, there are a number of other statements and conclusions about over-consuming as a whole.

Using a mix of case studies, literature review and own experience and insight, this book strikes a careful balance between scientific theory and popular science. It is incredibly easy to read and understand without being superficial. The list of references at the back, while not surprising, was unusual for a book that’s so accessible. This isn’t an academic textbook aimed at researchers or theorists, it’s a day to day guide to spotting the many pitfalls of the world we now live in, so you can step over the cracks forged by the food industry, big pharma and many others rather than be sucked in.

One of the hard messages is that although we can have it all when it comes to food we probably shouldn’t. Many of us can afford all the food we need, and then some. But while overindulgence of non-food pleasures (books, gadgets, clothes, shoes, bags) only really damages your bank balance, having more food than we need is harmful in other ways as well.

This book gave me an incredible amount of food for thought and I’ve already started to share and discuss some of the things it taught me. I must thank the publishers for sending us a copy to review, and I fully intend re-reading it in a year or so to revisit the ideas and see if I’ve made and sustained any of the behaviour changes I’d really like to as a result of what I’ve recently learnt.

For a fictional look at the subject, you might enjoy You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman.

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Buy The Psychology of Overeating by Kima Cargill at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Psychology of Overeating by Kima Cargill at Amazon.com.

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