Prevention is always better than cure. No argument there! The prevention of childhood obesity, for instance, is much preferable to letting obesity develop, and then trying to help a 300-pound person shed half their weight. One cause of obesity is the astonishing amount of gratuitous eating that people do. Now, it looks as if quite a lot of that is actually displacement activity, in reaction to life situations that seem inescapable by any acceptable path.
To step one increment further back, what if we could help kids avoid desperate life situations? Or, what if they could figure out how to handle those occasions more effectively? Or, what if we could make it easier for them to find something so interesting to do with their time and talents, that other matters would fade into obscurity?
The good kind of displacement
For purposes of this discussion, let’s just go ahead and call it a passion. If a person has a passion in life, chances are that preoccupation might use up enough of their mental energy to keep them out of at least some kinds of trouble. Also, this is a twofer. Finding a passion can both shield someone from becoming an addict in the first place, and help someone recover from their destructive relationship with eating.
A person can consciously rechannel their tumultuous overflow mental energy to a nondestructive behavior. As Dr. Pretlow and co-author Suzette Glasner have written,
[W]e sought to examine the application of displacement theory as a novel treatment for eating addiction and obesity.
If the rechanneled behavior becomes destructive, it is possible for the individual to consciously rechannel the overflow mental energy to a nondestructive behavior. Examples are rechanneling to breathing behavior (by taking slow, deep breaths), rechanneling to squeezing the hands, and rechanneling to hobbies.
“Hobbies” seems kind of dismissive and superficial. It could imply a lot of different types of activity, and a wide range of relationships to the activity. Watching sportsball on TV, while perhaps a legit hobby, will probably not pull somebody out of an addiction. But something might, if the person is really into it, and if it satisfies a lot of needs on different levels. A passion might help a person break up with their habit, or better yet, protect them from acquiring it in the first place.
Anyway, in this paper the authors go on to say,
If the displacement mechanism accounts for overeating, then targeting this mechanism in treatment should facilitate significant reductions in overeating without necessitating willpower to eat less.
As everybody knows by now, willpower doesn’t work. So the idea of having something that does work sounds pretty good.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Reconceptualization of eating addiction and obesity as displacement behavior and a possible treatment,” Springer.com, 06/22/22
Image by graibeard/CC BY-SA 2.0