Why Do We Overeat?

Holiday cheer inevitably means a great abundance of food and drink—delicious, tempting and for most of us a hazard. How often during the Christmas holidays have you heard someone say, “Well, just a little more—I can’t resist”? How often have you yourself said, “I really shouldn’t …”? The pressure to enjoy all these varied good things is very great. But in the back of many people’s minds, there is the thought, After New Year’s I’ll go on a diet. Feasting at festivals and eating meagerly in the long intervals between great events is a way of handling food that is very widespread among the peoples of the world who seldom have more than just enough to live on. It is one way of coping with perennial scarcity that allows everyone to share occasionally a very limited supply of foods that are really good. But this is no longer our way.

The daily abundance of food is one of the main characteristics of our very affluent society. So abundant, in fact, is food that many—perhaps most—Americans find it almost impossible to believe that there are millions among us who do not have access to sufficient food. For the majority of Americans, food is omnipresent. Supermarkets, hot-dog stands, candy counters, snack bars, soft-drink machines and a constant stream of highly colored advertisements continually keep the possibility of eating before us

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