Food Addiction Paradigm Early Adopters Gettinger and Winfrey

Ruby Gettinger

We’ve been going on and on about the difficulty of introducing the concept of food addiction. And it is in many ways an uphill push, but not a hopeless one. Today, we salute some people who have opened their minds enough to look through the psychological food dependence-addiction lens, and see a way out of their personal prisons.

Imagine having your own TV show because you weigh more than 700 pounds and you’re willing to share your weight loss journey with the world. More important, you’re willing to make a major admission about eating:

This is an addiction like alcoholism and drugs.

Lara Martin interviews Ruby Gettinger, the woman who has gone public with her obesity struggle through several TV seasons on the Style Network, and had lost more than 400 pounds. Gettinger describes sharing her life in this way as both funny and serious, as she gets to the root of so many things.

While Ruby Gettinger doesn’t believe that people should let their weight define them, she does realize that many others, like her, see the very good reasons for reducing. She continues to be amazed by the number of people from every age group and societal stratum who write to her and express their gratitude.

Fans tell Gettinger how much she has inspired them, but, she says, it is really the viewers who inspire her, when they tell her their stories, and especially when they tell her they are getting help. She has benefited from working with a therapist and a 12-step program, and encourages others to take their first step right away. She says,

I want to go to the White House with this. They’re starting petitions about childhood obesity and I’m all for that but I need to let them know the number one thing I’ve learned in my journey is that you can tell someone the right way to eat or how to exercise, but you’re not fixing the problem. There is a reason why a child is eating, medicating themselves with food, and we have to get to the root of the problem.

Gettinger herself was originally moved to action by a TV show about women who were homebound by their obesity. That show was produced by television personality Oprah Winfrey, who followed up by announcing her own food addiction problem earlier this year. As reported by psychotherapist and addictionologist William Anderson,

For perhaps the first time, she seemed to realize that her relationship with food and her emotional or spiritual need was more of a problem than her weight problem.

We also salute the thousands of young people who have responded to Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website, and who have let their stories be told in his presentation, “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say.”

See Slide 29, for instance, for the words of a teenage girl who only realized the extent of her denial in retrospect. The kids don’t mince words, they come right out and say “addiction” (Slide 31). Slides 32 and 33 are both actually video clips, where young women frankly state that they are addicted to food.

We probably don’t need too many more semantic quibbles about whether out-of-control eating is a “true” addiction, whether it’s physical or psychological, and so forth. Lives are ticking away. If the addiction paradigm seems to apply, and if the 12-step method works, then let’s go right ahead and use it. If childhood obesity can be successfully overcome by treating it like an addiction, then by all means, let’s get on with it.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Ruby Gettinger (‘Ruby’),” Digital Spy, 05/10/10
Source: “Oprah 2010: It’s About Food Addiction,” Basil & Spice, 05/10/10
Source: “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say,” Weigh2Rock
Image of Ruby Gettinger, from, used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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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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