They Said It, We Believed It — Teens and Food Addiction

The Awakening's Giant Hand

One of the features of the Weigh2Rock website is the Comfort Eating Board, which is typical of the several different discussion groups that are available so kids can talk about and seek help for their obesity problems. It even has a search function. Just for grins, we plugged the word “addict” into the search box, and guess what? These teenagers have poured their hearts out, in an astonishing display of honesty.

The complete entries are on the page, with the age and weight of all these different young people. But just for the sheer intense impact of it, we’ve isolated the parts where they self-identify as food addicts, and make the connection between this addiction and their obesity. When these excerpts are all strung together, they read like one huge, doleful lament.

The kids say:

I’m addicted to food.
It’s like I’m addicted, and I really don’t want to be.
I’m so addicted to food, I don’t know what to do.
It feels like I’m addicted to food. I have to eat until I’m full. And then I eat again, perhaps an hour later.
I feel like I have an addiction to over eating I pick up something and I’ll want it again again.
I just feel so bad I’m addicted to food!
I’m so frustrated with my weight. I’m addicted to food, seriously.
I am addicted to food.
I am like addicted to food, I eat it because it’s there, not because I’m hungry.
I want to be thin and cute again, but I seem to be addicted to food.
Once I start eating I just want more and more! Food is a total addiction to me, how do I stop it???
I try to lose weight but it’s just impossible, I’m addicted to food.
I am addicted to junk food and eat it all the time.
I am addicted to food, when I get home from school I always eat tons of stuff and then later I eat a normal supper.
My emotional addiction to food makes me go off my diet pretty quickly, which in turn blows my whole exercise program.
I am sick of being overweight and I don’t know how to handle being overweight and how to handle my emotions and also my addiction to food.
I need to lose like 150 lbs. I have a food addiction, I’m a binge compulsive eater.
I have no friends, because people don’t want to know anyone who is fat. People laugh and stare at me when I go out. I am addicted to food.
The problem is I have a huge addiction to food!
I’m 70 pounds over weight… it’s like I’m addicted to food.
I’ve tried like just eating a little bit of something but for me food is addictive so I just keep eating more of it.
I love to eat and I have an emotion addiction to food.
I’m the fattest girl in my class, maybe the ugliest, loneliest and the most miserable one… I think I’m addicted to food.
I’m so addicted to food.

And, of course, there are longer anecdotes of individual misery. A teen girl says,

My mum is such a b*tch!!!! I asked her, ‘Can you please stop buying junk food, I really think it would make us healthier and we might lose a little weight.’ You know what she said?? ‘No, I need it.’ I said she sounded like a drug addict and she agreed!!!!

Some people say, “Oh well, you know teenagers, they always talk crazy and magnify everything. They don’t really mean they are addicted, it’s just a figure of speech.”

How patronizing! How condescending! And how rude, too, and anti-therapeutic. Imagine a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. A member stands up and says, “I’m Trudy, and I’m an alcoholic.” Some heckler jumps up and scolds, “Oh, don’t be such a drama queen.”

Wouldn’t that be just about unthinkable? When somebody is courageous enough to admit to their addiction, you just don’t treat them like that. Is it any wonder that Dr. Pretlow writes, in his article titled “Food Addiction in Children” (PDF),

This compelling evidence points to an actual addictive dependence on highly pleasurable foods as a substantial component of the childhood (and adult) obesity epidemic, shockingly similar to tobacco, alcohol, and even drug dependence… Acknowledging highly pleasurable food as an addictive substance for a segment of the pediatric population is emerging as an important factor for control of the childhood obesity epidemic.

Dr. Pretlow quotes one of the communications sent to Weigh2Rock by a 16-year-old girl:

A teen who does drugs or smokes would get in trouble if their parents found out. But no one’s going to ground you for eating, which can be equally as damaging, and is equally as difficult to stop.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Food Addiction in Children” (PDF), Robert A. Pretlow, M.D.
Source: “Comfort Eating Board,”
Image by, used under its Creative Commons license.

8 Responses

  1. Hi, my name is Kaley, and I’m addicted to food. I’m 14, 5’9 and about 210 lbs.. I’ve struggled with this since 2nd grade, when I eat, I can’t stop, it’s almost like impossiable, I eat until my stomach is hurting so bad and I’m ready to puke.. It gets worse and worse each day!! If I do stop eating whrn I’m full and not sick, il think about over & over again until I finally get up & eat until I get sick. I never thought it was ever rral, food addiction, until I watched a show about it!! i’ve tried during, our just eating smaller portions but as soon as I get upset about something, I just give up and eat soo bad. I got home schooled this past year from constantly getting made fun of.. I couldn’t take it no more!! The thought of food is constantly going thorough my head from the time I wake up until I go to Sleep. Its driveing me crazy.. I tell my mom to buy healthier foods, but she says its all about portion control, well, if I knew how to do portion control I wouldn’t be a food addict!! She says I’m too dramatic & has to much free time.. Ive gone through some tragic stuff, both of my grandparents died last year and I was close to both of them.. Idk if that has to do with anything?? Idk what to do anymore, I’m losing hope that i’ll ever be the girl I want to be.. Please, someone help me, please!!

    1. Dear Kaley,
      You’re not alone. A lot of kids have felt the same way, and many have found ways to help each other.
      We hope you will go to the Weigh2Rock website and communicate with others who have found a way to cope.
      The help you need is mostly inside of you, and they can guide you to find it.
      Start with finding ways to handle the upset feelings. This is something that other people your own age can give you ideas about.
      For the parts of the help that aren’t inside of you, the site can guide you to resources.
      Very best wishes,

  2. Addiction to food is totally possible; I know it from my own experience. Recognizing and admitting this to yourself is hard enough. The added pressure of non-supportive parents or friends only makes it all the more difficult. The thing that bothers me the most is that both the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association fail to recognize food addiction as a disease or disorder. If it isn’t a disorder, then what am I and all these other people suffering from?

  3. I was born overweight and pretty sure i will die overweight. I never had a childhood I’m only 15 I’ve spent my days wondering how it feels to go out with friend nd looking ouy the window wondering how those kids who wernt fat felt like as they were walking in a group laughing having fun i got beat up home nd schol i fidnt have ftiends i spent recess talking to myself in a little tunnels fosum time my home will was shattered nd thru it all i ate nd now i can’t stop I’m addicted and god is in heaven helpin g me but i need ppl to rrlate to to help mr also

    1. Dear Jjay,

      Thank you for responding. Please don’t give up, and do try to find a program that can help you. It is absolutely not true that you are destined to die overweight. You are facing one of the hardest situations for a teen, and I believe you can find it within yourself to look for a solution, make a plan, and follow through with it. You have many years ahead of you and I believe you can make them good years.

  4. Hey guys…
    look i know everyone who is reading this probably feels really bad about themselves right now but trust me if you put your mind to it YOU CAN LOST WEIGHT and be everything you want to be. I’m saying this because i have experience, i wasn’t severly overweight but i was overweight enough that all my friends started teasing me saying i look like a butter ball and not just them even my family! think how devastated i must’ve been feeling, i was close to getting depressed but i realised one thing when i was sitting alone crying about my body. I realised that if i want anyone to love me i need to eat properly and exercise. So i got up put my music out on loud and just started dancing like there’s no tomorrow that night i danced for a full hour and felt amazing afterwards. I recognised my goals which were to lose weight overtime not drastically but slowly which is the healthy way. Around 6 months ago i was about 65 kg’s which was a lot according to my height and now im 56 kg’s which is normal for a 14 year old. Now i feel so much better when i look in the mirror and all my friends are congratulating me for my achievment. So the main point is how did i do it as everyone asks me i’ll like to help anyone you wants to lose weight from a few easy tips that helped me:
    1. Try your hardest to cut out all junk food!!! As impossible as it may seem, it is the biggest step to having a better future
    2. Exercise for atleast an hour a day- for me i started off with cycling in my street for an hour a day and dancing (just jumping up and down and moving your body) for about half an hour
    3. Eat everything in small amounts even eating to much of something can be fattening. Have a varied diet with a little of everything, for example: for breakfast- just have 2 breads and 1 omelette then at recess have a apple or mandaring and at lunch have your lunch but try to have something light like chicken snitzel in bread, after coming home try to have another piece of fruit or if your really tempted have a tiny piece of chocolate (but not everyday) and if your still hungry eat almonds or other types of nuts because they satisfy your hunger then have a small dinner with healthy vegetables and meat or something. warning: DO NOT SKIP MEALS!!! trust me i’ve tried that and i ended up fainting and getting sick so you have to eat but just eat in moderation and eat healthy
    Tips: The main thing about losing weight is developing healthy eating habits and exercising regularly everyday. I know it seem hard but it is NOT impossible always remember that. Try getting help from a friendly teacher you can trust, i went to my PDHPE teacher for advice when i first wanted to lose weight and she guided me through it, you dont need to go to expensive gyms everyday to lose weight all you need to do is research the internet for helpful information about food, start exercising and eat healthy! By the way its also really really really helpful to start counting calories, go on google and write the foods you regularly eat, you’ll be suprised how many calories one little bar of chocolate has, research and find out how many calories your body needs, there’s a BMI (body mass index) calculator that asks you for your height, gender and weight and tells you how many calories you need on a daily basis. For example: i need around 1300 calories a day so i aim to eat less that so i dont gain weight again, because if you eat more than you need you gain weight, if you burn more than you eat (by exercising) then you lose weight. So start counting calories and i hope this wasn’t too long just trying to help 🙂 good luck everyone, just aim for your goal and use everything that hurts you as your strength (when your exercising think about all those hurtful words people might have said to you trust me it’ll make you more motivated) good luck again and think positive and be happy 🙂

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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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