Today we return to the concept of food addiction, which some critics have recently complained has no utility. A reviewer of one of Dr. Pretlow’s manuscripts wrote of “evidence showing that only a tiny percentage of obese people seem to binge eat routinely (the core defining element of food addiction).”
It is not certain that food addiction, or even eating addiction, is defined this way. The phrase “to binge eat routinely” is self-contradictory. A binge is an episode of extreme consumption. But if extreme food consumption happens every day, as it does with many obese people, then it is, by its very nature, routine.
An episode is the opposite of a routine. Take binge drinking, for instance. An alcohol binge might last days or even weeks — and then not occur again for months or even years. This is hardly synonymous with “routine.”
A binge is a blowout that happens occasionally, even rarely. A routine, on the other hand, is mundane and unremarkable. Consider gambling addiction. Sure, some gamblers binge, maybe taking a big trip to Vegas once a year to risk a strictly predetermined number of dollars — but they are not the addicted ones. And some binge only because they periodically go broke and can’t afford to gamble — otherwise, if they had their way, they would be doing it every day and it would thus be routine.
In fact, the true addicted gambler never gives it a rest, and is on the job constantly. A gambling addict will bet on anything, including which cockroach reaches the edge of a table first.
Also, contrast binge eating with heroin addiction. For the person bent on enjoying opiates, a binge is most likely an attempt to “chase the dragon” — to inject enough of the drug to at least feel high. But the individual soon learns that trying to recapture the initial, paradisiacal experience is futile. The attempt will eventually lead to death by overdose.
But the normal, acclimated, broken-in heroin addict merely aspires to dodge the misery of withdrawal symptoms. An opiate addict needs a steady, regular amount, a routine supply of enough junk to avoid feeling sick — because this is not the stuff to binge with.
Here are a few Childhood Obesity News posts concerning binge eating disorder, and a few describing basic precepts of food addiction:
- “Obesity, Binge Eating, and Fooling Ourselves”
- “Relationship Between Food Addiction and BED”
- “BWL, BED, and CBT”
- “Eating and Other Strange Behaviors”
- “Facets of Emotional Eating”
- “Philosophies of Behavior”
- “DSM-5 and Binge Eating Disorder”
- “Chasing the Dragon”
- “The Lizard Brain Chases the Dragon”
- “Obesity and Food Addiction Terminology Roundup”
- “Questions of Terminology for Obesity and Addiction”
- “How Was Food Addiction Left Out?”
- “It’s Official: Food Addiction Is Real”
- “Addicted to What?”
- “The Universality of Addiction”
- “Heroin, Liquor, Food — Addictors Compared”
Your responses and feedback are welcome!