Here are various excerpts with some of my own insertions from a New York Times article written by Tara Parker-Pope. While my quest is for a six-pack…

…the result of Dr. David Kessler’s quest is a fascinating new book, “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite” (Rodale).

(Kessler was the head of the Food and Drug Administration.) He is perhaps best known for his efforts to investigate and regulate the tobacco industry, and his accusation that cigarette makers intentionally manipulated nicotine content to make their products more addictive.

In “The End of Overeating,” Dr. Kessler finds some similarities in the food industry, which has combined and created foods in a way that taps into our brain circuitry and stimulates our desire for more.

When it comes to stimulating our brains, Dr. Kessler noted, individual ingredients aren’t particularly potent. But by combining fats, sugar and salt in innumerable ways, food makers have essentially tapped into the brain’s reward system, creating a feedback loop that stimulates our desire to eat and leaves us wanting more and more even when we’re full.

The book, a New York Times best seller, includes Dr. Kessler’s own candid admission that he struggles with overeating.

“I wouldn’t have been as interested in the question of why we can’t resist food if I didn’t have it myself,” he said. “I gained and lost my body weight several times over. I have suits in every size.”

This is not a diet book, but Dr. Kessler devotes a sizable section to “food rehab,” offering practical advice for using the science of overeating to our advantage, so that we begin to think differently about food and take back control of our eating habits.

One of his main messages is that overeating is not due to an absence of willpower, but a biological challenge made more difficult by the overstimulating food environment that surrounds us. “Conditioned hypereating” is a chronic problem that is made worse by dieting and needs to be managed rather than cured, he said. And while lapses are inevitable, Dr. Kessler outlines several strategies that address the behavioral, cognitive and nutritional factors that fuel overeating.

Planned and structured eating and understanding your personal food triggers are essential. In addition, educating yourself about food can help alter your perceptions about what types of food are desirable. Just as many of us now find cigarettes repulsive, Dr. Kessler argues that we can also undergo similar “perceptual shifts” about large portion sizes and processed foods. For instance, he notes that when people who once loved to eat steak become vegetarians, they typically begin to view animal protein as disgusting.

The advice is certainly not a quick fix or a guarantee, but Dr. Kessler said that educating himself in the course of writing the book had helped him gain control over his eating…

The entire article was published in the WELL column on June 23, 2009. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/health/23well.html?adxnnl=1&emc=eta1&adxnnlx=1248264063-HxhlXiZNdOsULZ4ts00ljg)