But a new book, "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite," blames the food industry for our overindulgence in these foods.
The author, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. David Kessler, appeared on the The Early Show Tuesday to talk about the food industry's conditioning of Americans to eat when we're not hungry.
Kessler told co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez that the common denominators for most foods are sugar, fat and salt. These ingredients, Kessler said, cause hyper-stimulation in the brain, due to the release of a chemical called dopamine that grabs your attention.
"Our brains are being excessively activated by very stimulating foods," Kessler told Rodriguez. "We used to think we ate to satiate us, to fill us up. We're eating to stimulate us."
Kessler added that, when some people's dopamine is released in the brain, it doesn't shut off.
"So once that dopamine activates certain parts of our brain, we want the food, we can't say 'No," ' Rodriguez said. "And we can't stop."
But Kessler said there is hope to overwrite the old circuitry in the brain that goes for the over-stimulating foods.
"It's not magic bullets. It doesn't happen overnight," Kessler said. "There are ways, and just because your brain's hijacked by highly stimulating foods, that doesn't mean you can't do things about it."
Kessler suggested trying healthy substitute foods, and avoiding obsessive behaviors associated with emotional eating.
"When you look at this (food), the real question is, do you want it? If you look at this and say, 'That's my friend. That's going to make me feel better, right? I'm not going to feel normal and I want this,' then you're only going to want it more," Kessler said. "Remember when we were kids, we played with those, what did we call them, the finger cups? The more you pull, the harder it was. So, you know, it's very important not to obsess."
Excerpt:"> "The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite," by David Kessler, MD