Feed the Enthusiasm, Part 2

Many people experience “food noise.” For others, it isn’t even that conscious, but just a primitive instinct that commands, “See that thing over there? Lunge at it. Take it down. Eat it.” Sometimes the food noise voice sounds more like a motivational speaker: “Within the next half hour, you can and will consume an entire package of cookies.”

Is this from a psychological, symbolic of a feeling of emptiness? Sure, why not? That’s a mental condition, caused by the brain grasping at straws to do something other than confront the insoluble problems of life. There is a colorful old expression: “I didn’t know whether to ____ or go blind.” A person often feels like that when they don’t know whether to fight, flee, freeze, feed, fornicate, fool around, fidget, or faint.

A paper written by Robert Pretlow, M.D., and Suzette Glasner, Ph.D., says,

Theoretically, the displacement mechanism functions by rechanneling overflow mental energy to another behavior… If the rechanneled behavior becomes destructive, it is possible for the individual to consciously rechannel the overflow mental energy to a nondestructive behavior.

“Food noise” — is it overflow mental energy wanting to be displaced by eating? Sure, for some people, some of the time.

For many of us when experiencing a problem, “Eat it into submission” is the answer. We are the lucky ones, because food consumption has much greater societal acceptance than “Beat it into submission.” Fortunately, most of the time, the people who experience violent impulses do not obey them. Those of us who respond to stress by merely putting on pounds are relatively lucky. Our morbidly obese bodies may be cumbersome to lug around, but we probably will not go to jail — not for that, anyway.

Now, to reward ourselves for not being as bad as cold-blooded killers — let’s go have lunch!

Say whut?

When it comes to holding absurd beliefs and making up rationalizations for our own less-than-admirable behavior, the human brain is endlessly inventive. As the great Lewis Carroll wrote, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Massive, life-altering revelations can be remarkably formative, depending on a person’s willingness to honor certain conventions. Short-term distractions can help, too, as an intermediate step toward mastering our tendency to consume.

Small steps and little actions can work wonders. The BrainWeighve smartphone app has an area called the Distractions Jar, which offers suggestions for temporary relief. The manual says,

The difference between distractions and rechanneling activities is that distractions may not use up overflow mental energy. For example, watching TV is a distraction but does not use up overflow mental energy and won’t help you with an urge to eat. Doing something that engages your mind, like drawing a picture or shooting hoops, will use up overflow mental energy.

The many short-term relief suggestions include taking deep breaths, squeezing fists, walking or jogging, playing with a pet, fiddling with a fidget toy, listening to calming music or white noise, digging in a garden, carving wood, manipulating clay, stretching, and calling a friend. Other participants who use the BrainWeighve app also add ideas for short-term habit avoidance, and of course you too can offer helpful suggestions to others.

People are a lot like the Rat Park experimental subjects. As it turns out, if rodents have some agreeable activity on hand, other than consuming drugs, they quite often will do that other thing instead.

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 U.S. Army DEVCOM/CC BY 2.0

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The Book

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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