I Could Have Saved Him Some Time

In an experiment of one, Dr. Kessler tested his willpower by buying two gooey chocolate chip cookies that he didn’t plan to eat. At home, he found himself staring at the cookies, and even distracted by memories of the chocolate chunks and doughy peaks as he left the room. He left the house, and the cookies remained uneaten. Feeling triumphant, he stopped for coffee, saw cookies on the counter and gobbled one down.

“Why does that chocolate chip cookie have such power over me?” Dr. Kessler asked in an interview. “Is it the cookie, the representation of the cookie in my brain? I spent seven years trying to figure out the answer.”

The two gooey chocolate-chip cookies are Chekhov’s gun. Maybe a scientist has to spend 7 years figuring this out, but any student of literature knows that the deliberate introduction of such a compelling device demands that it have consequences.

That said, the larger point, that 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, is an interesting one. The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite is the book he wrote about it.

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