The Psychology of Overeating


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Drawing on empirical research, clinical case material and vivid examples from modern culture, The Psychology of Overeating demonstrates that obesity must be understood as part of the wider cultural problem of consumption and materialism. Highlighting modern society’s pathological need to consume, Kima Cargill explores how our limitless consumer culture offers an endless array of delicious food as well as easy money whilst obscuring the long-term effects of overconsumption.

The book investigates how developments in food science, branding and marketing have transformed Western diets and how the food industry employs psychology to trick us into eating more and more – and why we let them. Drawing striking parallels between ‘Big Food’ and ‘Big Pharma’, Cargill shows how both industries use similar tactics to manufacture desire, resist regulation and convince us that the solution to overconsumption is further consumption. Real-life examples illustrate how loneliness, depression and lack of purpose help to drive consumption, and how this is attributed to individual failure rather than wider culture.

The first book to introduce a clinical and existential psychology perspective into the field of food studies, Cargill’s interdisciplinary approach bridges the gulf between theory and practice. Key reading for students and researchers in food studies, psychology, health and nutrition and anyone wishing to learn more about the relationship between food and consumption.


Psychologist Kima Cargill takes a tough, critical look at today’s consumerist culture from the perspective of research as well as of observations drawn from her clinical experience with patients struggling with weight issues. To stop overeating in today’s food environment means finding effective ways to counter the many moral, political, economic, and social imperatives to consume. The ideas in this book should inspire readers to think of obesity in an entirely different way–more as the result of a consumerist society than of individual weakness. — Marion Nestle, Author of Food Politics, New York University

Kima Cargill’s work is at the forefront of the intersection of clinical psychology and food studies, bringing to the field the insights of hands on practice and the objective humanistic analysis current among food scholars. She is among the very few academics who understands modern eating disorders within the broader perspective of food culture. This book promises to bridge what is an enormous gulf between theory and practice and will prove to be essential reading for working psychologists and students of food in America. She writes with panache and verve in a way that will be accessible to general readers and professionals alike.  Ken Albala, University of the Pacific

An important contribution to food studies scholarship, as no other work covers quite the same territory. Cargill’s discussion connecting consumerism in its broadest sense to food consumption is a unique, impressive contribution to contemporary discussions of food and health in the United States.  — Amy Bentley, New York University