Outspoken Addicts

We have mentioned a recovering food addict and author of several books, Phil, or Philip Werdell. Last October he hosted the Food Junkies Summit, along with Mary Foushi, an individual who lost 195 pounds and kept it off for 30 years. Since 1995, Werdell has run SHIFT, described as “a workshop-based program for those middle- and late-stage food addicts who did not need hospitalization or direct medical supervision.”

He is also the author of several books, one of them being The Disease Concept of Food Addiction: A Story for People Interested in Recovery, described as “built upon a highly successful introductory lecture he has presented to clients interesting in finding out whether they are food addicted.” It seems to be suitable both for laypeople and for professionals who want to know better how to talk to their patients and clients.

His work has affected people like Jana, who commented online about her personal experience of inspiration:

[T]here’s a certain category of junk food that I know I just can’t start on because if I do, the switch gets flipped back immediately and in a big way. Those boundaries are setting me free!

If you think you may have a sugar or food addiction — or your everyday emotional eating is feeling out of control — I encourage you to consider multiple kinds of help.

Werdell seems to post excerpts or passages of commentary online, and then remove them when the book comes out. This quotation from an expired page is an example:

Their secondary chemical dependency on alcoholism has universally been classified as a cross-addiction. Unfortunately, even this has had little effect in calling for the diagnosis and treatment of possible food addiction prior to making the decision to undergo bariatric surgery.

He’s talking about how many patients, post bariatric surgery, develop alcoholism “serious enough to warrant in-patient treatment.” He puts this number at between 6% and 8%, which is very disheartening because the preparation and the surgery itself are so expensive in terms of effort, emotional investment, and actual money. When it does not work out for any reason, that is bad enough, but a lapse into alcoholism is an outcome to be truly dreaded.

This is only one of many reasons for the urgent need to get this food addiction thing figured out. Werdell also seems to be saying that, while trauma-based eating disorders do exist, food addiction is not one of them. And yet, the world contains many people who learned as children that putting on weight could protect them from criminal abuse. The author appears to grant that they have another type of eating disorder, but not food addiction.

He frequently mentions denial, and places a lot of emphasis on learning to recognize and avoid it. Denial can ruin everything, which is why the traditional AA move was to proclaim, “I’m Jane Doe, and I’m an alcoholic.” It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but the fact that a person is able to say the words in front of witnesses goes a long way toward enabling them to do something about it.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Disease Concept of Food Addiction: A Story for People Interested in Recovery,” Scribd.com, undated
Source: “How emotional eating keeps you stuck,” OhThatstasty.com, undated
Source: “Science of Food Addiction” (page expired, website still active)
Image by Pat Hartman

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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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