See? I Told You It’s a Real Addiction!

by Bill Brenner on January 18, 2011

I’ve focused hard in this blog on blowing false notions to smithereens. One of those is the idea that compulsive binge eaters aren’t true addicts; that they’re just gluttons who lack discipline.

Mood music:


My argument — already supported by a growing chorus of medical and mental health specialists — is that this is a true addiction. I’ve lived it. I know it. And the only program that worked for me is the same exact one alcoholics and drug addicts use to turn it around.

Addictive behavior comes in many forms: Food, drugs, booze, the Internet, porn, and usually a mix of one or more. The root cause is always a hole in our souls that sends us in search of comfort in the most self-destructive ways.

People always struggle to include food in there because it’s something we all need to survive. You don’t technically need drugs, booze or porn to survive. Addicts only think that they do.

Well, a column in The Washington Post tackles the issue head on. In “Is food addiction real?” author Jennifer LaRue Huget notes that “for all the fanfare surrounding food addiction, the condition isn’t fully embraced as legitimate in medical and psychological circles. Some argue that our complex relationship with food can’t be easily boiled down to an addiction, as so many factors are in play. Others maintain that allowing for “food addiction” ends up absolving people of the personal responsibility to manage their food consumption. And some experts say the science to support the notion of food addiction remains incomplete.”

But she goes on to write that “for some overweight people — including Michael Prager, author of the book “Fat Boy, Thin Man” — viewing one’s troubled relationship with food as an addiction is the first and necessary step toward improving that relationship. Prager, who once weighed 365 pounds and for the past 20 years has weighed 210, was reluctant to accept the idea that he was addicted to food, but once he did so, he found that treating his addiction as an addiction led to his finally shedding those extra pounds and keeping them off for the long term.”

She admits that she was among the skeptics who felt food addiction was a copout. After meeting Prager and reading his book, however, her opinion shifted.

“Being addicted to food doesn’t mean enjoying big quantities of delicious treats,” she writes. “It’s more like being a slave to food, adjusting your schedule and compromising relationships with other people to accommodate your cravings, needing more and more of certain foods to achieve the satisfaction you seek, and not even particularly enjoying the food you cram into your mouth. Those all sound like addictive behaviors to me.”

Amen, sister.

Thanks for articulating what I’ve been feeling for a long time.

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