More Addiction Lore


Recently, Childhood Obesity News talked about the advantages and pitfalls of self-reporting as a research tool, and there is more to say on the subject. More was, in fact, said at the most recent European Childhood Obesity Group meeting, where Session 4 included Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote talk, “Treatment of Child/Adolescent Obesity Using the Addiction Model.”

In the scientific realm, reports must fulfill certain criteria in order to be published. Publication implies that at least some of a researcher’s colleagues find plausibility in the proposed new addition to the literature. On the question of successfully treating obesity as an addiction, it seems that only two programs — Overeaters Anonymous and Energy Up — have published material, and both depend on their human subjects to self-report honestly.

Not long ago, we looked at Pathways to Health, a school-based program with an interesting origin story. It began as a way of dealing with substance abuse and violence. What do those behavioral problems have in common with the compulsive overeating that leads to obesity?  All three stem from an inability to regulate emotions, make good decisions, or control impulses. But even this highly-regarded program has a weakness — it is based on self-reported information. As described, students fill out surveys with over 100 questions.

Inquiry … included questions such as, “How often did you eat any fruit, fresh or canned?” Questions about physical activity asked students to self-report how often they were very active in certain situations or whether they were involved in sports. Other questions were posed based on sedentary activity, such as amount of time spent watching television or playing video games.

Is it churlish to wonder how much fudging of the truth, or even how much self-deception, might be involved in self-reporting situations? But what alternative could be satisfactory? Unlike lab animals, humans cannot be observed 24 hours a day. When they are, the psychological disruption is enough to negate the usefulness of any experimental results.

From a website called, we learn that eating disorders  and substance misuse disorders often co-exist in the same person, and “they both involve urges to abuse the body.” This recalls how the singer Elvis Presley ate and drugged himself to death, surrounded by a cadre of sycophantic enablers:

Elvis demanded that every day he receive 3 separate doses of drugs that he called “attacks.” Each “attack” contained a dangerous combination of pills or shots of Valium, Nembutal, Demerol, Quaalude, and Seconal. David Stanley says the first “attack” was usually given between 2 and 3 a.m:
“After he’d take his attack, attack one, he would have a couple of cheeseburgers, potatoes. The “attack one” effect would get him groggy and sleepy…”
After sleeping for a few hours, Elvis would receive “attack” number two:
“That would last for several hours… Then it would be attack 3, which was the same contents of attack one and 2.”

Here was a man with all the fame and fortune the world could offer, who wanted nothing more than to assault his body with potent toxic chemicals, in between consuming equally suicidal meals. His story clearly shows the importance of treating underlying problems.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Childhood eating habits influenced by peers,”, 2014
Source: “Starving Yourself to Achieve the Impossible Figure of Barbie,”, undated
Image by Ian Burt

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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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