Ditch One Problem Food at a Time

Satisfying Overload

In a nicely balanced report for the Houston Chronicle, Kim Morgan explores the question of whether food addiction is real. She interviews a counselor who has his doubts, and a counselor who leads food addiction recovery support groups modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. Dr. David Kessler’s excellent book, The End of Overeating, is quoted to good purpose.

Then comes the part we’re really interested in today: the words of Joan Ifland, who chairs the Refined Food Addiction Research Foundation, and is an active participant in Food Addicts in Recovery and similar 12-step programs. Ifland discusses the mechanics of food addiction and tells Morgan of her own experience. Morgan writes:

She cut flour and sugar out of her diet, and within four days, her blood glucose had stabilized… Three weeks into her recovery, her allergies and sinus infections disappeared…. [I]t took another six months before she could get off caffeine. Three more years for dairy, and 12 years for salt.

In other words, here is someone who has reclaimed a large portion of her health and has revolutionized her own life by incrementally cutting out five major problem substances. Okay, it took 14 years to make this much progress, but where would Joan Ifland be today if she had not done the work to gradually eliminate these addictions? In a state of suffering, or possibly in a state of permanent peace.

That’s what Dr. Pretlow talks about on page 298 of the current edition of Overweight: What Kids Say. He offers step-by-step guidelines by which this concept of gradual elimination works. Dr. Pretlow didn’t just make this up — he took the amazing step of finding out from kids what has actually worked for them. This is a divide-and-conquer strategy.

Briefly: The plan starts with the acceptance that there is going to be a withdrawal period. It’s the price of success. There will be cravings, stress, depression, and malaise. You know it, and you deal with it. After rounding up the usual suspects (identifying the foods that bring out your worst weakness) you single out one of the culprits and kick it to the curb.

Through the withdrawal period, you tough it out, hopefully substituting by other experiences that provide other kinds of satisfaction. Cravings and depression may still show up, but now you have other ways to deal with them.

Then you report on Weigh2Rock that your withdrawal period only lasted a week or two, so other kids who are facing what you just went through can draw encouragement from your victory. Once you’ve adjusted to life without Culprit A, you go after Culprit B.

This is only a rough outline, of course, and there are more details in the book. It’s important to realize that each problem food must really stay off the table forever. It’s just like being allergic to peanuts. There are no peanuts in your future, if you want to have a future. You just have to accept it, and get on with your life. A life of fitting into clothes, and being able to shed the clothes and wear a bathing suit without being laughed at. What’s not to like?

If you’ve been successful with this method, we’d love to hear about it!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Food addiction: Is it real?,” Houston Chronicle, 05/19/10
Source: “Overweight: What Kids Say,” Amazon.com
Image by jennie-o, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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