Body Hunger


A couple of previous posts had a lot to say about the presentation Dr. Pretlow took to the Global Conference on Obesity Treatment and Weight Management not long ago. The relevant topics are body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB) and the extreme overlap between that and compulsive eating. Eating addiction is a fairly nuanced subject area, and finding answers within it could contribute a lot toward solving the worldwide obesity epidemic.

The presentation is titled “Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model.” The discussion has to do with overeating addiction, which appears to be a combination of comfort eating and nervous eating, and might really not have a whole lot to do with particular substances. Still, although debate may exist over substance addiction versus behavioral addiction, the “A word” is operative in both cases.

The weight of history

Dr. Pretlow goes on to talk about the difference between body hunger and brain hunger. Body hunger is our natural state, which humans have lived in for most of history.

Obviously body hunger is quite tolerable, because people tolerated it daily for thousands of years when unable to hunt or gather enough calories to eat. When a hunting party has to follow an animal for days, waiting for it to finally drop dead from the blood loss caused by a single spear thrust, they remain hungry in the meantime. Back home, the people who are waiting for a share stay hungry even longer.

Throughout history, the most common occupation held by men has been soldier, and soldiers stayed hungry. No taco trucks accompanied Caesar’s armies. Supply caravans were attacked and looted, or bogged down by weather. To make sure the invaders would have nothing to eat, fleeing natives slaughtered their own livestock and burned the crops behind them, and went on to become starving refugees themselves.

The planet has known billions of hungry people, most of whom achieved normal lifespans. In fact, caloric restriction has been touted as promoting longevity, while at the same time, enthusiasm for the theory has waxed and waned.

The field of life extension generates a lot of attention, and is so important that it even inspires gratifying impulses toward cooperation. For, Maia Szalavitz wrote about the research originating from different institutions:

It’s not entirely clear why the two monkey studies had such varying results… To understand why the NIA and Wisconsin groups got such different results, they plan to collaborate to fully analyze the data generated by the two trials. “We consider our two studies to be complementary, not competitive,” says [primate scientist Ricki] Colman, “We have plans to work together to directly compare information from our two studies.” The result, they hope, may be some version of the Fountain of Youth.

The secret is balance, not volume. People do fine on 30% or even 50% less calorie intake, as long as the vital nutrients are all in place.

Back to “Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model”

Returning to the presentation, a short audio collection of highlights is available for listening. The podcast touches upon the problems with the conventional model of childhood obesity, and presents the addiction model and effective treatment methods. Readers might also be interested in this conference workshop, and in the news that Dr. Pretlow’s 90-minute symposium submission was accepted by the World Congress of Psychiatry, which will take place in Berlin in October.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Want to Live Longer? Don’t Try Caloric Restriction,”, 08/29/12
Photo credit: Jennifer McLinden (Mrs. Fogey) via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

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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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