Uproot the Seeds of Addiction

Nice picture, but it makes better sense and would be more accurate to say, “Remove the soil from which the seeds of addiction grow.” Sadly, it is difficult to illustrate something, for instance, soil, not being there.

What is the fertile ground that encourages addiction? As mentioned in the previous post, frustration can do the job efficiently. When a child has a particular talent, a natural bent for some activity, too often the parents and other authority figures are eager to thwart those impulses, and use tools like bribery or force to separate kids from their preferences. The result can be terribly sad.

A malleable young person can be persuaded or coerced to give up something they love, but there is a price to pay. Underneath the surface, trouble develops. Dr. Pretlow has compared that kind of situation to a dormant volcano. This quotation is from a previous Childhood Obesity News post that was republished by Obesity Prevention of America:

Often, a distressing life situation causes an overstock of energy to accumulate within a human being. In a very basic, instinctual way, the boiling energy wants to find expression in fighting, fleeing, or engaging in some other activity to “let off steam.” When a person’s preferred form of displacement behavior is overeating, the results can be dismal and long-lasting.

Sure, eating can reduce stress in the short term, but ultimately it creates situations that produce more stress — like being bullied, bursting out of one’s clothes, being nagged to start a fitness program, etc. Underneath, conditions are heating up and a gang of energy is looking for an excuse to erupt. All kinds of negative consequences might accrue. Like natural gas, it can blow the place up, or be tamed into keeping people warm and cooking their food. The “beauty part” is, under the right circumstances and with some help, that energy can be used for good, and repurposed into activities that have some redeeming value.

From an authority

John Foreyt is a Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Medicine and Department of Psychiatry. He’s also the Director of the DeBakey Health Center’s Behavioral Medicine Research Center, Department of Medicine. He’s published 17 books and more than 400 articles, and is regarded as an authority in the field of obesity. Dr. Foreyt wrote to Dr. Pretlow,

From a behavioral point of view, displacement as a major cause of overeating and the treatment you describe makes good sense. To me, life events associated with stress, tension, anxiety, depression, loneliness, fear, anger, boredom need to be treated in ways such as you describe. Maybe if they are caught and treated effectively in children there would be a lot less obesity in adults.

It is a worthy goal, to treat addiction to the point where the individual is in permanent recovery. No one suggests that stamp collecting can take the place of a 12-step program or inpatient rehab. On the other hand, having an interest in life is certainly a useful supplement to any other intervention. As Dr. Pretlow and co-author Suzette Glasner have written,

Rechanneling diverts the focus to a nondestructive medium.

People don’t need to let the restless energy take advantage of them and get them in more trouble. We don’t have to remain at the mercy of the slumbering volcano. We can take advantage of all that rogue energy, trap it and train it, as part of our addiction escape strategy.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Role of Cognitive Behavior Therapy-Based Treatment,” ObesityPreventionOfAmerica.org, 02/14/20,
Source: “Reconceptualization of eating addiction and obesity as displacement behavior and a possible treatment,” Springer.com, 06/22/22
Image by Sara J./CC BY-ND 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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