Rehab — What’s Out There?

Bavarois a la fraise

Without necessarily endorsing any of them, Childhood Obesity News is looking at treatments for obesity. Since food addiction is such a major component of the obesity picture in both adults and children, programs that are based on the addiction paradigm are the most interesting. Last time, we mentioned the difficulties that might be encountered — even if a person faces up to being hooked and wants help.

Scott McCann of the website AnonymousOne urges that anyone who thinks their eating habits are life-threatening to get medical help immediately. It’s also necessary to get medical help for a loved one with a food addiction that causes morbid obesity and other health consequences.

Necessary, but not always possible. Anyone who has dealt with an addicted family member in real life knows how messy and complicated the situation can become. An addict is very intent upon having her or his own way. If family members are easily guilt-tripped and emotionally blackmailed, an addict can continue to deny the necessity for change and put it off for months or years.

McCann lists the choices available to someone who recognizes their own food addiction problem:

Consult an eating disorder specialist, doctor, psychologist, or clinic. Not diet clubs or diet doctors. Attend meetings of Overeaters Anonymous (OA). Obtain OA publications and printed materials. If there is not an OA meeting in your area, attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous or purchase a copy of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and substitute the word ‘food’ for ‘Alcohol’. Listen for the similarities of feelings, emotions, and consequences.

For the person who wants their involvement limited to whatever self-help is available online, AnonymousOne offers “A Plan of Eating — A Tool for Living One Day at a Time.” The first part of the plan is to understand what is going on. For instance:

For people with eating disorders, the first order of priority is emotional. We eat for excitement, love, celebration, loneliness, escape, pleasure, and comfort. We devour food, purge, or abort eating to anesthetize ourselves. We eat out of anger, resentment, envy, jealousy, fear, pride, guilt, and grief.

The site also examines the problem of cross-addiction:

Unfortunately, many people with compulsive eating disorders use drugs and alcohol to moderate their eating patterns. Some are given prescription appetite control drugs that are either opiate or amphetamine based. When it finally comes time for treatment the Eating Disordered are treated for drug and alcohol addiction and their eating problem is ignored.

McCann also mentions the work of a Norwalk, Connecticut, researcher, Dr. Marshall Mandell, who discovered through treating hospitalized schizophrenics that more than 90% of them had addictions to common substances. This doctor also reconfirmed that allergy and addiction are related, and that there is a reason why sweetened breakfast cereal is so popular:

Using a test group of patients diagnosed as ‘hard-to-treat neurotics’, he found that 88% were addicted/allergic to wheat, 60% to milk and 50% to corn.

Childhood Obesity News has mentioned Dr. Jeanette Thornton, who was interviewed by Cathleen F. Crowley. Dr. Thornton is a psychologist and a psychiatrist specializing in addiction, who has designed a way of life for herself and her husband, a gastroenterologist. Comparing it with the practice needed to learn to play an instrument, they have followed it for several years and found it effective. Crowley says:

Thornton’s treatment plan is a tough one. She removed all sugary, fatty and salty foods from her diet. Like any addict, she has lapses. Thornton and her husband […] fill their diet with whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Thornton writes down everything she eats and weighs herself every day. She eats 1,200 to 1,500 calories and 15 grams of fat each day. Thornton believes that if you stick to the plan for three to five years, it will become part of your lifestyle.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What is Food Addiction?,” AnonymousOne
Source: “When food becomes an addiction,”, 11/03/11
Image by meshmar2 (Edward Russell), used under its Creative Commons license.

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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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