Comfort Eating and Kelly Osbourne

British Cosmopolitan

Here is Kelly Osbourne, looking much different than she used to, on the cover of the February issue of British edition of Cosmopolitan, with an article inside, titled “I was an emotional eater.” Reporter Kara Gause says,

[… S]he’s at once Madonna circa ‘Material Girl’ and her own mum, Sharon Osbourne, who has a penchant for carrying tiny pups as accessories.

Hmmm, something to ponder… Is young Kelly parodying her mother and Madonna, or paying homage? Is she making a Lady Gaga-esque statement about the million possible permutations of eternal Woman? In last year’s publicity photos, she seems to have also gone for a Paris Hilton look and an Ivana Trump look. One thing we know for sure, Kelly Osbourne has lost weight. Unhealthy dependencies on both pharmaceuticals and food are lurking in her past. Kara Gause passes along this quotation from the TV star:

I replaced drugs with food. I was emotionally eating and hated the way I looked, but I couldn’t mask my self-loathing with pills anymore.

As we discussed yesterday, one of the successful ways to deal with food addiction is to find another passion to take its place. In Osbourne’s case, she wanted to appear on a TV show called “Dancing with the Stars,” so she started dancing. Because exercise is beneficial for the body in more ways than we can count, she did herself a lot of good with that change alone. She has also publicly credited the Pilates regimen with contributing to her success. And she “re-educated” herself about food and the role that eating plays in our lives.

It’s hard to learn new things when we already took the trouble to learn the old things. But sometimes it has to be done. In Overweight: What Kids Say, Dr. Pretlow tells of some of the successful strategies to overcome obesity, adopted by kids who have reported their success on the Weigh2Rock website. For instance,

They eliminate, hide, and stay away from ‘hookable’ foods… Most of us cannot resist the temptation of having comforting, stress-relieving foods in front of us. So… these kids try to not put these foods where they can see them. They empty the house of junk food. They stock the house with fruits and veggies for snacks. They stay away from fast food restaurants. They go shopping with their parents and buy low-fat, sugar-free foods for comfort and healthy foods like fruits for snacks. They have fun with it… smoothies anyone?

We have mentioned hyperpalatable or hedonic foods more than once. One of the stubborn facts about these pseudo-foods is that the entire supply angle is pretty much out of our hands. But — as healthcare professionals and especially as parents, we can affect the demand. That is what we need to work on.

Fixing a problem is good; preventing a problem is better. Remember what Thoreau said: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” What is the root? Why are so many children susceptible to becoming food addicts? Many of them say it’s for comfort.

Because of the unfulfilled emotional needs that lead them into comfort eating, kids are very vulnerable to the lure of hedonic foods, which are specifically tailored to supply that need. When the pleasure of an experience is more important than any other aspect, that’s hedonism. Hedonism is all about “kicks” or cheap thrills. It’s the seeking of pleasure despite any other considerations, such as the problems that will be created in other areas of life — health, social relations, school, work, etc.

There is a thing called “hedonic adaptation” or the “hedonic treadmill,” which is the tendency of pleasure to become mundane, so that more pleasure is needed. This is exactly what happens to the addict, whether the substance is a hard drug or a soft food. The body and mind become acclimated. Tomorrow, it might take two cupcakes to make you as happy as one cupcake has made you today.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “British Cosmo: Kelly Osbourne Beats ‘Binge Eating,’ Kicks Ex to the Curb,”, 01/04/11
Source: “I eat half an apple before bedtime’: Kelly Osbourne reveals the secrets to her incredible weight loss,” Daily Mail, 02/19/10
Image of British Cosmopolitan is 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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