Brain Hunger


The illustration on this page is from “Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model,” presented at the Global Conference on Obesity Treatment and Weight Management. Among other subjects, Dr. Pretlow discussed body hunger, which has a basis in physiological reality. Brain hunger, on the other hand, has the illusory quality of an emotion, because that is what it is — an emotion masquerading as a legitimate sensation.

Most of the time, when we think we need food, we don’t need food. We need a hug or a foot massage, or some good news. The point is, what we perceive as need is something much less authentic. What we think of as “need” is usually just plain old “want.”

Why do we want anything? Usually, as relief from any kind of stress. Even good stress, like preparing for a wedding, is still stress.

There is another word for this kind of bogus need, which is craving. Childhood Obesity News has amassed an archive of posts about the theory and practice of craving. “Fast Food, Hospitals, and Cravings” examined the implications of a paper cup imprinted with the image of a happy teenage girl and the words, “I’m a candy craver!”

Cravings and Temptations” offers some tips on how to tell the difference between a craving and a need, and words from a British expert on the futility of trying to train 8- and 9-year-olds (or, more likely, their parents) in the art of packing a nutritious school day lunch. As chef Jamie Oliver discovered when he visited the USA, the homemade lunches assembled by American parents were no better.

Uncontrollable Cravings and Food Addiction” follows the story of Amanda, one of the young people who have corresponded over the years with Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website. Incidentally, this is where kids can connect for a live chat with Lucy, a Registered Dietician who used to be an overweight teen. The topics cover parents, exercise, bullying and teasing, holidays, goals, stress, and, of course, cravings.

Welcome to Temptationville” talks more about cravings, which originate from inside a person, and temptation, the falsely induced craving that is purposely and cynically set up by our culture of ubiquitous advertising. And “Welcome Back to Temptationville” discusses holidays and the difficulty of dealing with the universal equation of feeding with hospitality, and the unavoidable relationship that often exists between churches and food.

All About Food Cravings” touches on binge eating disorder, and “The Mystery of Food Cravings” delves into Australian research on the psychology behind the nagging reminders that food is everywhere and introduces a tool that can help to distract the mind from the constant barrage of propaganda that says, “Eat! Eat! Eat!”

Next time: More highlights from the full roster of posts about cravings.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image: Slide 26, “Obesity Treatment Using the Addiction Model”

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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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