A Review of Killing The Food Monster by Jason Stanley

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Killing the Food Monster:
Eliminate the Weight Forever!
by Jason Stanley
2000, $19.95usd

What is a food monster, and why do you want to kill it? According to Dr Jason Stanley, the Food Monster is the compulsion to overeat, and it stems from deep psychological needs arising from early childhood. Approximately 95% of chronically overweight people have a food monster (and some normal weight folk too). If you do have a food monster, Dr Stanley says that most of the control type programs which weight watchers go on will be ineffective or will only work for a short while, because they deal with the symptoms of weight gain, not the cause. By identifying the food monster as a psychological and subconscious drive to eat, we can begin attacking the drive through retraining methods rather than by trying to use willpower.

The book is simple to understand, and actually makes sense. As someone who has had issues with food in the past, I can recognise the factors which contribute the creation of a food monster, along with that desperate desire to eat for psychological, rather then situational, or physiological reasons. Dr Stanley’s suggested methods for retraining the subconscious to associate good feelings with things other than eating or food are reasonable, and none of his methods are gimmicky, unsafe, or irrational.

The book begins by looking at the different types of weight gain, and explaining why diets are an ineffective way to deal with this. On this score there can be no doubt. There are scores of diets of all types on the market and it is the chronic dieters who seem to suffer the most from weight gain. I didn’t begin to feel comfortable in my perfect weight body until I finally stopped going on senseless and dangerous diets, which undermined my well being, and started focusing on taking care of myself physically and mentally, and this is really the simple tenet behind Dr Stanley’s book. Through some very basic Freudian self-analysis, the book suggests ways to identify the creation of the ‘monster’ (your subconscious motivation to eat), and to work out how large your monster is. There are lots of case studies, presumably from Dr Stanley’s own files, along with some specific ‘tricks’, to break the monster’s stranglehold, so that you can eat normally.

These tricks are, again, very simple psychological games which you play consistently with yourself, in the aim of retraining the subconscious. The first is Shadow Eating, which involves doing something you enjoy along with eating. In brief, it involves starting to eat, stopping, putting down your food or utensils, and doing the other activity, and then beginning to eat again – for something like 15 minutes each activity. The idea is to substitute the non-eating activity for the eating activity. Thus, instead of a food monster, you get a book monster, or a knitting monster, or whatever activity you choose.

Other tricks involve improving your self-esteem by positive affirmations, formally and visually forgiving whoever hurt you in your past, and learning to eat slowly, deliberately, and with pleasure. The book explores saboteurs or people, and situations where your attempts to kill the food monster will be undermined, and also provides some ideas on joining or starting a Food Monster support program.

One other interesting chapter is one which surprisingly talks about the damaging impact on weight loss of diet sodas and other products with aspertame. Again, Dr Stanley’s arguments seem perfectly valid, and correlate with my own experiences. Even if diet sodas aren’t as potentially destructive to weight loss as Dr Stanley suggests, their lack of nutritional value, and the carcinogens and chemicals they are packed with should be enough warn anyone off of them.

As weight loss books go, Killing the Food Monster is pretty good. It combines good nutritional sense, with a low key, non-faddy, and perfectly valid psychological approach to dealing with the root causes of overeating. If you are tired of dieting, losing and gaining weight, and want to address why you overeat in the first place, this is a good starting point. Follow Dr Stanley’s advice to the letter, and combine it with a good support program, and it is very likely that you will not only lose that extra weight, but will also begin feeling a lot better about yourself.