Americas Secret Addiction

America is a nation of self-disclosers, amiably acceptant of our weaknesses. Celebrities, family members, coworkers and friends think nothing of admitting their compulsions and dependencies on alcohol, street drugs, prescription medications. We enter rehab programs, clean up, dry out, and go on with our lives: beating our problem or entering a long series of relapses and treatment episodes. Except, perhaps, for politicians or ministers, there is little social stigma attached to such mistakes unless there are criminal overtones that may lead to incarceration.

Television and films have educated us on the dangers and side effects of dependence upon alcohol, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, designer drugs, steroids, pain pills, cannabis and opium. We had to coin the term chemical dependency (CD) to completely cover the broad and ever-growing field. We approach individuals ensnared in their abuse as victims of a disease, to be educated and helped as long as they have a willingness to change and are prepared for the painful journey that owning responsibility for one's own self-destructive behavior demands.

But the most widespread, self-destructive, dangerous addiction afflicting America is never discussed: FOOD.

The treatment of overeating is extensive: diet clinics, fitness programs, fat farms, plastic surgery. We collectively spend billions of dollars on weight loss aids and fitness equipment. We decry the epidemic of obesity that is overtaking our population to an enormous (literally) degree. We investigate metabolism and hormonal effects. We debate the comparative merits and flaws of protein, fats, carbohydrates, and roughage. We develop new vitamin and mineral formulae. Diet books, support groups, internet clubs, and television shows trumpet tips, techniques, special aids and hundreds of weight control regimes that promise inevitable weight loss with the right combination of "tasty" and "delicious" foods, guaranteed to ensure that our comfort levels remain high and our self-discipline minimally challenged.

We fail to confront the irrefutable fact that obesity is caused by food addiction. Excuses and metabolic rationales aside (No, Virginia, no one ever walked out of a Nazi concentration camp or a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp fat -macabre but true) our out-of-control overweight is a direct result of our obsession with, and dependency on, too much food.

You may disagree. After all, the other CD addictions are for substances we can totally banish from our lives whereas we have to eat to live.

Consider the problem from a slightly different perspective. In the United States, an "all or nothing" society, the goal of the typical CD treatment program is total abstention. The alcoholic is taught that one sip of liquor is never acceptable and constitutes a full relapse from which recovery must start over. In Europe, and many other parts of the world, moderation is considered more realistic than abstention. The goal is to lower the level of usage to the point where it has no deleterious effects on the user's life and the problems - work, relationships, mood, productivity -are resolved.

Such a model can more easily be applied to food. Our bodies require a certain level of sustenance to thrive. It is when the intake becomes excessive that problems arise: appearance, the inability to be active, fatigue, depressed mood, and strains on the internal organs. If we can temper that level of intake, we can avert the consequences that follow overindulgence in anything.

Such is indeed the focus of many weight control programs. However, they are missing one vital ingredient: acceptance of personal responsibility. At a 12-Step meeting, members repetitively admit to the group: "My name is B and I'm an alcoholic." Imagine, if you will, the different atmosphere that would be engendered if a member were to state: "My name is B. I drink a lot because I inherited the genes from my drunken parents and I can't drink, like all my friends can, without overdoing it. It's so unfair that everyone else can enjoy a drink and I can't."

Such a statement sounds ridiculous coming from an admitted problem drinker yet that is exactly what we allow from our problem eaters. It is far more likely that we will tell a close friend: "M, I think you have a problem with alcohol and I want you to get help," than we will tell an equally close friend: "G, I think you have a problem with too much eating and I want you to get help."

We remain silent about overweight because we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. We use euphemisms like "heavy" and "queen-sized" to avoid the word "fat." When a very overweight friend asks plaintively, "Don't you think this dress makes me look slimmer?" we quietly agree, refusing to give the honest answer that nothing in the world will make her look slimmer except losing 60 pounds of avoirdupois!

One lesson learned over decades of CD research and treatment is that the problem must be acknowledged before it can be addressed and beaten. CD clients are notorious for making excuses, playing mind games with those around them, and shirking self-responsibility whenever they can. If we can bring ourselves to acknowledge that we are addicted to food, it allows for eventual movement into a process of change, bypassing the excuses and rationalizations at which overeaters excel -- to an extent that their CD counterparts would admire.

Confrontation of the problem requires that we drop the façade of politeness and euphemistic phrasing. As a society, we need to look at others and ourselves and call it as we see it. If I'm fat, I'm fat, and it's my responsibility to not only admit that honestly, but to also admit to myself and the world that it is my fault: I am the one who made myself fat. No one else forced food into my mouth. Like the recovering alcoholic at the bar, I can always say no or drink a plain club soda. Like the recovering cocaine addict who learns to stay away from certain street corners or drug houses, I can stay away from bakeries, fast food outlets, and pizza parlors.

Weight control can be simple - eat only what you need to survive - but never easy. The fallacy of many diets is that we can lose weight without suffering. Stopping or minimizing CD abuse is always painful and a craving for chocolate, ice cream, or the urge for sugar (no one seems to crave vegetables) can be as overwhelming to the dieter as the addict's emotional need for his drug of choice.

Naming our national weight problem for what it really is, a plain old addiction to food, releases us to start the process of rehab and recovery that has been so completely developed in the CD field. Honesty, and the willingness to work through pain to reach our goal, allows us to not only accept our responsibility for our problem but also to relish the triumph of our eventual success.

Virginia Bola is a licensed psychologist and an admitted diet fanatic. She specializes in therapeutic reframing and the effects of attitudes and motivation on individual goals. The author of The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a free ezine, The Worker's Edge, she recently completed a psychologically-based weight control book: Diet with an Attitude:A Weight Loss Workbook. She can be reached at http://www.DietWithAnAttitude.com

In The News:


pen paper and inkwell


cat break through


Burning Fat vs. Burning Calories

To lose weight and get in shape you must have... Read More

Weight Loss, Exercise, and Bodybuilding Tips ? Keeping Your Body-Fat Low: Part 7 of 10

People usually quit weightloss and exercise programs for one of... Read More

Winter Weight Loss

As our bodies move from Winter into Spring we can... Read More

Gastric Bypass Patients at Risk for Stomach Blockage: How to Avoid This

In a gastric bypass the connection between he stomach pouch... Read More

Lose Weight, Get Fit, and Live Longer

If all we have to do is exercise to live... Read More

7 Part Plan To Beating Childhood Obesity

Everyone from politicians to parents is talking about fighting the... Read More

Does Calorie Restriction Lead to Weight Loss?

Yes and no. Moderate calorie restriction helps in controlling and... Read More

Hoodia- Modern Zeal of Ancient San

The long marginalized San tribe of South Africa has suddenly... Read More

Obesity - The Number 1 Health Issue in the US

Obesity is quickly becoming the number one health issue confronting... Read More

Your Eight Hormones and Weight Loss

If you find this article helpful, please forward it to... Read More

Easy Weight Loss

A really easy, fast way to weight loss is walking... Read More

Is Body Mass Index or BMI a Real Measure of Obesity or is It Flawed?

Body Mass Index (bmi) A Misleading measure of ObesityMany professionals... Read More

Top 10 Diet Tips From Diet Winners

Use these tips to turbo charge your weight loss program.Take... Read More

When Dieting Should You Weigh Yourself Every Day?

How to Break the Weighing HabitFace it, if you weigh... Read More

Hypnotize the Pounds Away: Weight Loss Motivation Through Hypnosis

Many individuals these days, male or female, young or old,... Read More

Ultimate Weight Loss: Fight Fat and Win

As if you needed another reason to hit the snooze... Read More

Approaches to the Treatment of Obesity and A Free Weight Loss Formula

The general approach for treatment of obesity is to suggest... Read More

Emotional Eating

Yesterday, out of the blue, without any foreboding gossip or... Read More

Setting Objectives For Weight Loss

I am sure that when I mention setting objectives for... Read More

After WLS: How To Avoid Mourning The Loss of Food

A frequent question brand-new gastric bypass patients ask is "How... Read More

Planning Your Diet

We have plans for everything these days. That is how... Read More

What Cows Know About Weight Loss That We Have Forgotten

I want to talk to you about cows and what... Read More

Lose Body Fat by Choosing the Right Diet Plan For You

If you are overweight and searching for the diet program... Read More

The #1 Key to Weight Loss ? What You DON?T Want to Know and Most Won?t Tell You!

You may not like what I have to say, even... Read More

Weight Loss Doesnt Work

Your brain has this really interesting system that is kind... Read More

Weight Loss: Secrets To Losing Weight Without Much Efforts

Are you overweight?Most people are afraid to admit they are.It... Read More

Was The Ephedra Ban Really a Success?

Ephedra and Ephedrine consumers are still under the assumption that... Read More

Diets May Have Long Term Side Effects...Do You Know What They Are?

To see the "low carb" diets on the way out... Read More

Catching Yourself In A Binge or Compulsive Eating: Stopping Behaviors

Oh, no . . . You suddenly realize that you... Read More

Why Did Your Diet Fail You? Or Did You Fail Your Diet?

Are you someone who has, in the past, been on... Read More

Are You Confused By All The Different Diets? Heres A Quick Diet Comparison

It would not be surprising to hear your answer is... Read More

The Neuro-Science Of Losing The Weight You Hate

Are you one of the 90 million Americans who are... Read More

A Weight Loss Secret ? The Art of Detachment!

Have you ever worried about something so much it paralyzed... Read More