[Never Say Diet] Can You Be Addicted to Food?

Addicted to Food

Oprah and Tennie McCarty — “maverick” eating disorder therapist and star of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s new show “Addicted to Food” sure think so.

I have more complex opinions about this than can be whittled down to a 500 word blog post, but Tennie and I had a pretty interesting conversation, which you can check out over here. (You can get more of the  science behind our understanding of food cravings and addictions in my story, “Must. Have. Chocolate,” in the current issue of Fitness.)

And then, tell me what you think: Does addiction rhetoric about food help ED sufferers? Or does it just fuel negative stereotypes about them being sneaky and food-obsessed? (No, I am not saying all addicts are sneaky and obsessed, just that the word “addict” is well, super loaded in our culture.) Does a 12-step program apply when the source of your “addiction” is something you have to interact with every day?

I know a lot of you have way more expertise in this arena than me, so please, educate away! Over there and here.



Filed under Never Say Diet

3 responses to “[Never Say Diet] Can You Be Addicted to Food?

  1. schmemily

    Groan. I hadn’t heard about this show yet, and I sort of wish it were otherwise. I am extraordinarily skeptical about the concept of food addiction, and McCarty’s explanation wasn’t especially convincing. The relationships between our brains and foods, and our brains/drugs may be similar in some ways, but they are not the same. Here’s a great blog post (written by a former addiction counselor) that addresses this. Honestly, I think “addiction” is just a construct that we’re comfortable with as a culture, which is why the addiction model has crept into so many other areas.

    (P.S. Even if people can be addicted to food, I also have a huge problem with someone suggesting that the [not especially successful] 12-step model is the way to go for everyone.)

  2. I’m not entirely comfortable with the “addicted to food” mantra, mainly because I think it could be foisted on anyone with a BMI above normal, and some folks would buy it. However, in the case of someone with a binge eating disorder, I can definitely see how food can act like a drug.

  3. js

    In my experience, food can absolutely be addicting. You have to remember that addiction is made up of physiological, behavioural and psychological components. I had problems with heroin and pills for about 8 years, and the way I finally stopped using was moving accross the country and changing my entire life. I’ve had problems with alcohol since I was 13, and only in the past couple of years have I learned how to control that, being able to drink responsibly in social situations, but I still have cravings after a stressful day, and I expect I always will. I have been a binge eater since about 10 yrs old, and intermittently bulimic since about 15. As I decreased my use of drugs and alcohol, my binging and purging dramatically increased, and in paying attention to the patterns of it, it was when I was most stressed, and when I would ordinarily have gotten high. And the binging and purging definately made me feel better, lessened my stress if you will. It was like taking your first shot of the day; that’s what you need to do, then you can get on with your day. And the craving to eat would be unbearable, like all consuming. I’ve been dope sick, and it’s not like that, because that’s physical withdrawal, but the inability to take your mind from the thought of getting high is exactly the same. I have had great success this year in controlling my ED, i believe because I have started eating a vegan diet. That limits my food choices and eliminates many of my trigger foods. It’s also not limiting my food choices in an effort to restrict my eating, rather it is more as a benefit to something other than myself. I’ve had lots of friends in treatment and in AA and NA, and I’ve gone to meetings, but I could never get into it, because I’m an atheist and a control freak, and I just can’t “give it up to God” or anyone else. I would rather be able to control my actions, and I have found ways to do that.
    Sorry this was so rambling, basically I guess i want people to know that, regardless of the exact mechanism, food and eating can definately be addictive. That’s not, however, an excuse to let it get out of control or ruin your life.

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