A Very Heterogeneous Group

The description of obese individuals as a very heterogeneous group is quoted from correspondence between Dr. Pretlow and another professional. That is Adrian Meule, Ph.D., who researches “eating behavior, eating disorders, obesity, and other topics in health and clinical psychology,” to the point where his published articles and book chapters number more than 200, in addition to two entire books.

Of course that is not all. His credits also include reviews, for scientific journals, of over 150 manuscripts. On the more active side of both mental health and obesity science, he is certified in the fields of nutritional counseling, personal training, and fitness instruction.

Dr. Meule has said a lot about the danger of making unwarranted assumptions, for instance, about certain eating disorders and their relation to classically-framed addiction. He has spoken with Dr. Pretlow about W8loss2go and opined that, although people who do not self-identify as addicted might disagree, the app would be a helpful intervention for many.

He pointed out, for instance, that bulimia nervosa patients and binge-eating disorder patients are also drawn to addictive drugs…

He also went on to note other interesting similarities between the two populations, stemming from the fact that “…eating patterns can show addictive qualities, with similarities to substance use disorders on behavioral and neurobiological levels.” Patients with anorexia nervosa, on the other hand, do not tend to be on board with addictive drugs.

Dr. Meule mentioned to Dr. Pretlow the tendency of obese people to manifest at least three symptoms identified with food addiction. But (among other reasons) because food is not an illegal substance, the abuse of it is often not so destructive to the quality of life. These patients do not meet the “significant impairment” requirement of the official description, and therefore are excluded from the ranks of bona fide addicts.

He also cited the “many obese who are not concerned about their eating behavior,” (and who, presumably, do not know or care if they are some variety of junkie.) He endorsed the Yale Food Addiction Scale (YFAS) “as a standardized measuring device,” but with some reservations:

When I administered the YFAS to obese individuals seeking bariatric surgery, I experienced that — although some 40% received a diagnosis — many persons told me that all those questions did not apply to them at all.

In 2020 Dr. Meule published The Psychology of Food Cravings: the Role of Food Deprivation, which concerns the science behind dieting and other things, and a main point here is that…

[…] experimental studies also show that food craving can be understood as a conditioned response that, therefore, can also be unlearned.

Can be unlearned! And what happens then? Intervention studies indicate that “long-term energy restriction results in a reduction of food cravings in overweight adults.” More recently, Dr. Meule was editor of the 2023 publication Assessment of Eating Behavior, described as…

[…] essential reading for researchers working in clinical and health psychology, consumer psychology, psychiatry, and nutrition science as well as practitioners, including psychotherapists, physicians, nutrition counsellors, who assess eating behavior and related aspects in their daily work.

The book’s contents include an exploration of such abstruse topics as intuitive and mindful eating, food neophobia, disgust sensitivity, and orthorexia nervosa. The descriptive paragraph uses quotation marks for food “addiction.”

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Psychology of Food Cravings: the Role of Food Deprivation,” NIH.gov, September 2020
Source: “Assessment of Eating Behavior,” BarnesAndNoble.com, 05/08/23
Image by Johan Söderqvist/CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED

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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.

Food & Health Resources