The idea that food can be addictive has been gathering momentum for some time now. For a website focused on addiction, Jessica Fargen collected some frightening stories, like the one from a woman whose typical breakfast was a couple of sausage and egg sandwiches from fast food franchises, and who had to be hospitalized to deal with the results of consuming two pounds of candy in one night. (The candy, incidentally, was the brand advertised as melting in your mouth, not in your hand.)
This woman also said the same immortal words that have been heard from so many people struggling with obesity, including children and teenagers:
No matter what I ate, it wasn’t enough.
Philosopher Eric Hoffer said, “You can never get enough of what you don’t really want.” That is exactly what addiction is all about. When a person feeds herself or himself, eventually there is a stopping point. When a person feeds an addiction, it just goes on and on, because addiction is open-ended. There is never enough of the substance of choice, because the substance isn’t what the person really wants. What they want is for an emotional void to be filled, and the substance can’t do it.
Biological parasites like tapeworms and toxoplasma gondii will sap a victim’s strength, but their presence isn’t fatal. They very cleverly see the advantage in keeping their hosts alive to serve another day. Food addiction is like a parasite, but a stupid one, because it often kills its hosts.
Of course, it might do other things first, like get them fired. Fargen quotes another woman, whose employment was terminated:
I would be eating when I’d get upset with something on the job. I’d run to the candy machine, run into the ladies room and I would go in the stall and I’d stuff myself with candy bars and potato chips. I stole co-workers’ food from the refrigerator.
Another of Fargen’s sources said another thing that is often heard from food addicts:
There were no limits or boundaries when I started to eat.
The ABC News video, “Inside a Food Addict’s Brain,” offers live interviews with several food addicts, and emphasizes that the problem is chiefly with a certain class of foods, the highly processed, hyperpalatable kind. In Dr. Pretlow’s presentation, “Addiction to Highly Pleasurable Food and Childhood Obesity,” Slide 20 reminds us of the substance dependence (addiction) criteria established by the World Health Organization and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual:
Large amounts over long period
Unsuccessful efforts to cut down
Continued use despite adverse consequences
Time spent obtaining substance replaces social, occupational or recreational activities
“Tolerance” is another word for “no limits or boundaries,” or “never enough.” When a person loses a job over food-related issues, that certainly qualifies as interference with occupational activities, leading to adverse consequences.
Addiction is an insatiable trickster that fools a person time and time again into thinking that heroin or nicotine or alcohol or food will fill the empty space. In his novel Zero History, William Gibson puts these words into the mouth of the character called Milgrim:
Addictions started out like magical pets, pocket monsters. They did extraordinary tricks, showed you things you hadn’t seen, were fun. But came, through some gradual dire alchemy, to make decisions for you. Eventually they were making your most crucial life-decisions. And they were less intelligent than goldfish.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Three tales from the dark corners of food addiction,” AddictionInfo.org, 09/30/10
Source: “Inside a Food Addict’s Brain,” YouTube.com
Source: “Addiction to Highly Pleasurable Food and Childhood Obesity,” Weigh2Rock.com
Source: “Zero History,” Amazon.com
Image by psyberartist, used under its Creative Commons license.