In Search of Addiction’s Roots, Part 6

As Dr. Pretlow has said, the destructive side of the displacement mechanism is found in people who allow drugs, alcohol, or food to take over their lives. How does that happen?

We speculate that those individuals may lack basic coping mechanisms and are unable to face, avoid, adapt to, or solve their underlying problems.

Granted, to take a fresh look at a situation requires a degree of maturity that arrives late to some people. Thinking in a new way takes practice, which is one of the benefits the BrainWeighve smartphone app provides. The Dread List is just what it sounds like, and suggestions from fellow travelers on this road can help to turn it into a List of the UnDread. Between the app itself and the fellow participants, there are plenty of concrete and actionable possibilities.

We have seen that displacement can go either way. Random, reactive displacement behaviors usually only make things worse, while conscious displacement can create a space for positive change. That same post includes reminders of some of the standard plans suggested by those who have successfully avoided obesity. Fellow BrainWeighve users might suggest positive displacement ideas like this one from a Childhood Obesity News reader:

My teenage favorite: Playing sad songs on my guitar in my room alone for hours and hours. I laugh about it today, but it did the trick!

Wall Street investment wizards mentor ambitious young people in the field by passing on success tips to them, and mentoring is one function of the app. To participate, hear what those experienced with the same situation say, and be able to help others in return, are all part of the healing process and the addiction prevention process.

Quaint but true

It used to be considered very rude and “common” to eat in outdoor public spaces. One reason for this might have been compassion for people in public areas who are hungry. Eating in front of them would cause them pain and distress. In the same way, the seemingly uptight opinion that public displays of affection should be avoided might have a basis in compassion.

In a park or on a bus, some couples just can’t keep their hands off each other. Even if the PDA is not shocking, but merely sweet and innocent, think of how the sight affects someone who hasn’t had a sweetheart in years. Imagine how it feels to someone going through a breakup, or someone who just lost a loved one to illness, accident, or violence. Why cause pain to strangers?

In the same way, eating in public can cause pain to people struggling to lower their body weight, who do not want to be reminded, every minute of the day, that other people are quite happily eating all the time. To see someone else enjoying food is a very blatant “cue,” a trigger that sends their mind immediately to thoughts of consumption and feelings of deprivation. They lack a basic coping mechanism to deal with the temptation.

One of the plans we might make for ourselves is to not eat in public, for the benefit of not only the hungry, but of others who are trying to control their intake of food for health purposes. (And, for the benefit, of course, of ourselves.)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Reconceptualization of eating addiction and obesity as displacement behavior and a possible treatment,”, June 2022
Image by Garry Knight/CC BY 2.0 DEED

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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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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