Here's the chapter that many of you have been waiting for: the chapter on overeating and obesity. Or perhaps you didn't wait. Perhaps you just went straight to this chapter without reading any of the preceding ones-despite their providing much information that would be helpful to you in understanding what's to come next! But prepared or not, here you are, and I'll do my best to explain to you what scientists know about food consumption so excessive that it's considered abnormal (overeating) and about body weight that's significantly greater than average (obesity).
Over 60% of men and almost 80% of women in the United States report monitoring what they eat in order to maintain their weight or lose weight. 1 Given this huge interest in preventing and treating obesity, including among those of you reading this chapter, I feel perhaps a particular responsibility about what I put in this chapter. Exacerbating this feeling is the fact that the published scientific literature on overeating and obesity is absolutely huge, so huge that it couldn't possibly be described by the content of many books, much less one chapter in one book. This means that I have to pick and choose very carefully the studies that I tell you about. And perhaps more importantly, I need to ensure that, when you've finished this chapter, you're an informed scientific consumer who knows the characteristics of a good study and how to interpret carefully the results from a study. In this way, when you encounter, as you certainly will, descriptions of research on overeating and obesity that aren't included in this chapter, you'll be able to decide for yourself what the results of that study may or may not mean.
You're probably going to find what this chapter has to say about overeating and obesity to be fairly depressing. There are, unfortunately, no easy solutions to the problem of weight control, at least not in surroundings