Are Criticisms Justified?

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.”

Some comparisons

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:

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Photo credit: Marco Verch on Visualhunt/CC BY

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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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