Nurture the Enthusiasm, Part 2

In “Reconceptualization of eating addiction and obesity as displacement behavior and a possible treatment,” Dr. Pretlow wrote,

Displacement behavior is a bio-behavioral mechanism that allows an animal to deal with situations that cannot readily be faced nor avoided, or that are thwarting. It may explain compulsive overeating (eating addiction).

[A]bstinence is not a feasible or appropriate treatment goal. Accordingly, understanding and targeting the behavioral and psychological precursors to compulsive eating behaviors is essential as a means of facilitating control over food intake to mitigate obesity.

When the BrainWeighve smartphone app was being developed, 14- to 18-year-olds tested it out. Among other things, they learned to identify life situations they couldn’t avoid but also couldn’t face, and went on to develop action plans to address each situation. Dr. Pretlow reported that participants “found the displacement component to be understandable and user-friendly.”

Most of the young people who tried out the app used the “Dread List” feature, and collectively came up with 90 dread situations that were fueling their displacement-based overeating. Guided by the app, they developed action plans to cope with their “dread situation” problems.

The conclusion was that “The displacement mechanism may be a useful basis for treatment of eating addiction and obesity and may provide individuals with hope that they can curb their addiction without relying on willpower to not overeat.”

This next quotation is from Dr. Pretlow’s “The displacement mechanism: a new explanation and treatment for obesity“:

In addition to dealing with the sources of the displacement, it also is possible to replace the displacement with another displacement that is less destructive.

And as long as there is any amount of destructive-type energy hanging around, the second meaning of displacement is to get something else to put in place of whatever it is we’re unproductively doing now. Twelve-step programs encourage service as an activity.

So, do a good deed for somebody, or do a good deed for yourself — play the drums, fix the alternator, or go fly-fishing. Just do something, persist with it, and get different voices going inside your head other than that tedious, everlasting “food noise” or nicotine noise, or booze noise, or whatever your particular weakness is.

This is just the beginning. A non-harmful displacement behavior is so much more than that. Sometimes, it’s the thing you always wanted to do and never had the courage to undertake. It could be a thing you never heard of before, and would not have encountered if you hadn’t mistakenly followed the false path first. Any person who has found a non-harmful displacement behavior to keep them sober, or to prevent them from ever falling into addiction in the first place, is a winner.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Reconceptualization of eating addiction and obesity as displacement behavior and a possible treatment,”, 06/22/22
Source: “The displacement mechanism: a new explanation and treatment for obesity,”, 07/31/20

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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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