Addiction and Consequences

Dr. Pretlow has said that “both addiction and obesity result from repetitive foraging and ingestion behaviors that intensify and persist despite negative and (at times) devastating health and other life consequences.” Whether the problem is substance use, gambling, or compulsive overeating, a classic hallmark of addiction is that the person persists in the destructive behavior despite an array of negative outcomes.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

That saying is usually attributed to Albert Einstein, but according to,

[B]ased on current evidence the saying originated in one of the twelve-step communities. Anonymity is greatly valued in these communities, and no specific author has been identified… The linkage to Albert Einstein occurred many years after his death and is unsupported.

It is an excellent working definition of addiction, where the results are inevitably bad and yet are reinforced by toxic habituation. The person might lose a job, a career, or a love relationship; they might be disinherited from the family fortune, or develop open sores over 90% of their body, but none of that counts, compared to the rewards of the habit.

In dialogue with Duncan Trussell, media celebrity Dr. Drew said of addiction,

The hallmark is progressive use in the face of consequence. By consequence, it’s got to affect important spheres of the life — work or school, finance, health, relationships, or legal status.

Delineating her view of the four stages of food addiction, obesity researcher and author Dr. Zoe Harcombe named health consequences like diabetes and obesity, but there are plenty of others. She wrote:

4) We suffer consequences — only these tend to drive people to seek help.

For someone whose problem is overeating, the consequence that wakes them up might be finding out that they can no longer travel in a passenger plane. A shock less drastic than killing someone while driving drunk, it still could be enough to set change in motion. This has something to do with the spiritual side of addiction, which one authority has helpfully pointed out, may or may not dwell within lab rats.

People with addictions will lie, steal and betray loved ones. They might spend the mortgage payment on dope and render their family homeless. Would a heroin addict or a compulsive gambler do those things? Absolutely. And what about a person hooked on overeating? They might not throw away the house payment but will certainly drop a friend who is sick of their messed-up ways. An eating addict would probably not rob a bank, but might easily do a little shoplifting.

Even if not ashamed of himself, the addict may “project” by being ashamed of friends and relatives, the dummies who let him get away with inexcusable behavior for the dozenth or hundredth time. There is a mindset like, “Honestly, they are so gullible, they deserve to work a second job to pay for me to go to rehab.” Addiction can foster some really twisted thinking, and people who are hooked on eating are no exception. Children are not exempt, either.

The whole point here is, unhealthy dependence on a substance or behavior never comes to a good end. That kind of attachment, like so many other human conditions, is a multi-factorial thing, and not easily sorted out.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results,”, undated
Source: “Episode 133: DR. DREW!,”, undated
Image by Geoffrey Fairchild/CC BY 2.0

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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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