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Sunday, August 18, 2013

LibraryThing Early Review

Hijacked: How Your Brain is Fooled by Food
by David A. Kessler MD,
Young Readers Edition adapted by Richie Chevat
from The End of Overeating
Tundra Books, 2013

This is an adapted version for kids, and, sadly, it feels like it was adapted by the "rules" method rather than ability to communicate with kids, with bullet point shout-outs, and breaks in the text. The ideas here are quite interesting, although, like many (if not nearly all) non-fiction books, it should actually just be a long article, as there is too much repetition used to flesh it out to book length. I can only imagine the grown-up version is even worse, with more anecdote and more repetition. (Should I say that again?)

The one key idea is that foods offered by industry with the magic fat:sugar:salt trio are nearly impossible to resist, especially, but not only, if you are not blessed by an inborn ability to govern your appetite. This is an idea to talk with kids about, and teaching my kids to mind themselves and have respect for the temple which is the body feels to me like one of my main jobs as a parent.

My mother is a dietitian, and I am a little jaded about food science, and a bit of a know-it-all, too, but even I was surprised by the fact that processed food is designed to be chewed and swallowed faster SO YOU EAT MORE. I imagine that just pure knowledge of this, and observing it next time we eat something processed, will help move my kids' tastes a little bit back toward food from processed food.

I was also interested to be tuned into the idea that a cute and clever way food companies get around the obligation to list ingredients by amounts is to break up "sugar" into brown sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup and so on, so each one appears as a much less important part of the food, rather than showing us as a single dominant mass at the top of the list. Food label reading is something we do, especially of breakfast cereals, but I think we might read together labels on bread and ketchup to share that thought and increase our awareness.

I was also interested to think about the paradigm of "eatertainment" used by the restaurant industry, and this is certainly a weakness of mine, rather than that of a fussy kid. Not just a hot dog, but 12 varieties of hot dogs, with exotic topping. And what about serve yourself fro-yo in a dozen flavours to be added to your cup. (Have you seen the shock on faces at the cash register when the fro-yo cups are weighed for payment? There should a calorie counter by weight, too.)

The question is, if your kids are not already fighting a weight battle, which has its own motivations, will knowledge be sufficient to retrain their tastes? I will be following some of the suggestions in the book's final section, "Food Rehab", and I was glad to see exercise there as a twin pillar of food management. We'll see. Knowledge is power, and governing one's appetite is a life-long part of good health, so worth some effort and valuable in any quantity.

I keep a few food-health books handy in the kitchen for reference and recipes, The South Beach Diet (for heart health as well as weight control) by Arthur Agatson

and Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health: But Don't Forget the Chocolate, by my friend Liz Pearson and her friend Marilyn Smith. This little book will join them so we can check things out right as they occur to us.

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