Top 5 Takeaways from Hooked – How to stop food addiction in your life

Written By Katherine O

Hooked – Food, free will, and how the food giants exploit our addiction

Author(s): Pulitzer Prize winning, Michael Moss.

Publish Date: March 2021


Difficulty Level: Easy Read

Finally someone is digging in hard and calling out companies like Nestle, Kellogg, Mars, McDonald’s, and other giants that create highly addictive substances (that resemble food) and gotten far too many of us hooked (even beginning even in the crib). Dr. Moss dives into the science of addiction, how the mechanisms work, our best hope in fighting off these cravings, how Big Food has learned from the mistakes of Big Tobacco and is both evading consequences and adapting to maintain their juggernaut.

Highlights from the book:

  • Moss dives into the court cases and other limited efforts made to attempt to hold these companies accountable — much of which will never make the kind of headline news it deserves. 
    • He starts with the case of Jazlyn Bradley a seven year old when her addiction to McDonald’s began and led to her 250 pounds by her sixteenth birthday
    • When smoking was classified as an addiction in the courts it dramatically changed the culpability and her lawyer attempted to make the same argument with McDonald’s
  • Part of the reason the food companies that are causing epidemics of obesity, Type II diabetes, and all sorts of other chronic disease have managed to get away with it Moss hypothesizes is that we have latched on to the notion that will power and self-control are admirable and food addiction is not perceived in the same way as drug and alcohol addictions by the public at large
    • Despite being similarly (or in some cases more) addictive than these substances
  • Much like Lustig and others, he dives into the brain and the chemicals that wire many of us for sugar, processed food, and McDonald’s addiction
  • But Moss also takes it further delving into the role memory and smell plays in how we experience food and how it can make habitual food behavior so sticky when it is more than nourishment, but is deeply tied to our memories of comfort, safety, and loved ones
  • And, then how advertisers leverage this wiring to sell more and more — not just the original goodies, but diet and “healthier” versions of them that are nearly as tantalizing
  • How Weight Watchers (and other popular diet companies) are owned by Heinz (and other food giants) where they create a vicious, lucrative cycle whereby the food products that lead to weight gain and the need for diet programs then leads to the marketing and selling of diet products by the very same company that do not ever address the underlying root cause or have the customer’s best interests at heart

“Most of us are finding ourselves unsettled by food in one way or another; we’re feeling not quite in control of our eating, or we’re taxed by the effort it takes to exert that control; we’re anxious that our appetites are doing us more harm than good, or we sense a disconnect between what we think we want and what our bodies need; we’re feeling the loss of the beauty, resonance, and rituals of food as it was, before we fell so hard for the convenience and other allures of the highly processed.”


Publisher’s Summary:

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of Salt Sugar Fat comes a “gripping” (The Wall Street Journal) exposé of how the processed food industry exploits our evolutionary instincts, the emotions we associate with food, and legal loopholes in their pursuit of profit over public health.

“The processed food industry has managed to avoid being lumped in with Big Tobacco—which is why Michael Moss’s new book is so important.”—Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit

Everyone knows how hard it can be to maintain a healthy diet. But what if some of the decisions we make about what to eat are beyond our control? Is it possible that food is addictive, like drugs or alcohol? And to what extent does the food industry know, or care, about these vulnerabilities? In Hooked, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Michael Moss sets out to answer these questions—and to find the true peril in our food.

Moss uses the latest research on addiction to uncover what the scientific and medical communities—as well as food manufacturers—already know: that food, in some cases, is even more addictive than alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Our bodies are hardwired for sweets, so food giants have developed fifty-six types of sugar to add to their products, creating in us the expectation that everything should be cloying; we’ve evolved to prefer fast, convenient meals, hence our modern-day preference for ready-to-eat foods.

Moss goes on to show how the processed food industry—including major companies like Nestlé, Mars, and Kellogg’s—has tried not only to evade this troubling discovery about the addictiveness of food but to actually exploit it. For instance, in response to recent dieting trends, food manufacturers have simply turned junk food into junk diets, filling grocery stores with “diet” foods that are hardly distinguishable from the products that got us into trouble in the first place. As obesity rates continue to climb, manufacturers are now claiming to add ingredients that can effortlessly cure our compulsive eating habits.

A gripping account of the legal battles, insidious marketing campaigns, and cutting-edge food science that have brought us to our current public health crisis, Hooked lays out all that the food industry is doing to exploit and deepen our addictions, and shows us why what we eat has never mattered more.

 You can find Hooked hardback, ebook, and audio versions here! 


  • Here are a few other fasting resources you may enjoy:
    • Dopamine as a Superpower in Your Life–This resource is wildly different than what typically appears here. This interview between Anna Lembke (MD at Stanford Medical school) and serial entrepreneur, Tom Bilyeu centers on the benefits of fasting within Lembke’s new book: Dopamine Nation – Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence. 
    • The Fasting Cure – Lessons from fasting in the early 1900’s – Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), former American Pulitzer Prize winning writer, political activist, and the 1934 Democratic Party nominee for Governor of California shares his tips on fasting in his book The Fasting Cure.
    • Some of Dr. Jason Fung and Dr. Megan Ramos’ other books: The Obesity Code, The Diabetes Code, and The Cancer Code

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