Uncontrollable Cravings and Food Addiction

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Every social problem sooner or later manifests a person who embodies it, what the media calls “giving it a human face.” Among the confessions and pleas for help that have been posted in the Comfort Eating discussion at Weigh2Rock, the communications from some of the young folks are destined to stand out for different reasons. One of these extra-noticeable kids is Amanda, a young lady who has responded many times, and very energetically. A person could almost be tempted to use a term like “the poster child of food addiction and childhood obesity,” except for three things.

First, anonymity is preserved at Weigh2Rock, so kids can feel comfortable talking about their obesity issues. Obviously, nobody would put the actual Amanda on an actual poster. It’s just a figure of speech. Second, obesity is not in the same category as a permanent condition, like cerebral palsy or spina bifida. Obesity need not be an immutable destiny. Third, it would be a disservice to Amanda to single her out. Hers is certainly not the most extreme case of either childhood obesity or food addiction.

Amanda is just a kid who started out at a certain weight, and set herself a destination weight. Rather than slimming down, she has gotten heavier. Amanda has not advanced toward her goal. Instead, things have gotten worse, and her lively remarks trace the course of a young woman who becomes increasingly frustrated. Fourteen years old, with tipping the scales at over 300 pounds, she writes:

When I went OVER 200 I thought that was so huge and it couldn’t get ANY worse! Going over 300 seemed IMpossible! Now I would LOVE to only be 200…

In her various posts, she enumerates the everyday difficulties encountered by an obese young person:

I feel so HEAVY its like carrying a MOUNTAIN all the time!!! UnFaIr!!!
EXERcise is OUT of the QUESTION because of my WEIGHT.
The AIRcondtionING went OUT and won’t be fixed until THURSday or FRIday! It’s so hot I can’t STAND it!! I’m SWEATing like CRAZY and I can’t even take a NAP because it’s too HOT to sleep! I’m BURNing up because my FAT is like 20 COATS I can’t take OFF!!
ALL I want to DO this SuMmEr is SLEEP. I’m happy to not have to WALK around…

Going to school is a strenuous and humiliating experience:

I can barely FIT into the desks at school. They PUSH on my stomach but I DON’T want to sit at a table! That would be SO EMBARASSING! My ankles and knees HURT so much just walking between classes.
I’ve alREADY been LATE THREE times in a MONTH because of GETting TIRED. The WORST is when I have to WALK across the WHOLE school to get to MATH class and then CLIMB up the STAIRS because its on the SECond floor! It’s REALly HARD to go UP the stairs because walking made me TIRED alREADY and my StOmAcH is so HEAVY!
When I get to MATH I’m too TIRED to listen and I’M DUMB in MATH anyWAY so I might FLUNK.
In SCHOOL I can’t even LISTEN because of how UNCOMFORTable it is to be SO HEAVY but ALL I want is to go HOME and have ICEcream or COOKies to feel BETTER.
Today I could barely concentrate at school because of the CRAVEing for THANKSgiving dinner.

Ah yes, the cravings:

WHY is it SO hard to resist CRAVEings??? I’m SUFFERing with all this WEIGHT but I still HAVE to eat what I’m craveing!
The LONGer I wait when I get a craveing the MORE I eat
I try to talk MYself OUT of CRAVEings but I have to EAT to stop going CRAZZZZZY! How do I STOP CRAVEings but without willPOWER because I don’t have THAT!
I don’t deserve so many PROBlems just because I can’t reSIST CRAVEings!
I hate CRAVEings!

Rohi Shetty is a doctor who has published several articles on weight issues. Recently, Shetty reviewed a book by Dr. Neal Barnard, the title of which is Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings. Shetty says,

Recent research studies have proved that chocolate, sugar, cheese, and meat trigger biochemical effects similar to those of tobacco, alcohol, morphine and heroin. They are not as strong or dangerous as opiate drugs like heroin but seem to act through the same chemistry of addiction.

Dr. Barnard reports on studies which indicate that the pharmaceutical drug Naloxone, which acts on the brain’s opiate receptors, can help food addicts. Dr. Barnard also offers a seven-step program to defeat cravings.

As we have mentioned before, Dr. Pretlow has of course also addressed the subject of food cravings in Overweight: What Kids Say and in his presentation “Why Are Children Overweight?

Getting back to Amanda, desperation is evident in all of her posts:

Things are going REALLY bad for me! I think I’m ADDICTED to FOOD, I read about that on the web but what can I do??? I TRY to eat RIGHT but I go CRAZY until I eat stuff that TASTES GOOD!
I know I NEED to stop OVEReating, but I TRY my BEST to diet and CAN’T!
I try to TALK myself OUT of OVEReating but it DOESN’T work!
HOW can I stop BEing ADDICTed to FOOD????

One very noticeable feature of Amanda’s journey is that she often mentions the unfairness of her condition. That might be something a therapist would pick up on and want to work with. Being stuck in resentment over the unfairness is a major obstacle. “Fair” doesn’t enter into it. We can try to create more fairness in the world. We can work for laws that guarantee that the members of our society are treated fairly. We can take personal responsibility for being as fair to others as we possibly can. But life is, basically, unfair.

If I could be Amanda’s fairy godmother and wave a magic wand to change one thing, that’s the gift I would give her: the understanding that life isn’t fair, and that’s how it is. It’s just something that a person needs to understand before any further progress can be made. Get over it, and move on.

What Amanda has going for her is her own recognition and acknowledgement that she truly suffers from food addiction. This is very promising, because once the problem is identified as addiction, it can be treated. There are programs, and there are other kids on hand who have successfully escaped their addictions. They also write in and leave comments in the Comfort Eating discussion, such as this one from “Motivated,” age 19:

You can do this. You will do this. Take it one mouthful at a time, remembering that each bite counts, and you WILL succeed!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Comfort Eating Bulletin Board,” Weigh2Rock.com
Source: “Addiction to Chocolate, Sugar, Cheese, And Meat: How Food-Cravings Are Caused And How They Can be Conquered,” Bukisa.com, 11/24/10
Image: Fotosearch,  courtesy of Dr. Robert Pretlow.

Comments

  1. Hi Pat,
    My heart goes out to Amanda. I have two nephews who are also struggling with weight-gain and all its associated problems, which is what has prompted me to research and write about solutions to this all-pervasive problem.
    I have written two more articles which may be of interest to Amanda and others:

    Lose Weight Easily and Permanently Using Six Simple Strategies
    http://weightloss.suite101.com/article.cfm/lose-weight-easily-and-permanently-using-six-simple-strategies

    and

    Lose Weight Without Dieting With the Volumetrics Weight-Loss Plan
    http://weightloss.suite101.com/article.cfm/lose-weight-without-deiting-with-the-volumetrics-weight-loss-plan

    I request readers to leave comments in the box below the articles for any further help.

    I plan to write more articles in future, which will help children like Amanda to live happier, more healthy lives.

    Thanks again and warm regards,
    Rohi Shetty

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