On an Oprah show I heard Mrs. Obama discussing the obesity epidemic in America and how change needs to take place, especially getting children to incorporate more exercise and healthy foods as part of their daily lifestyle.
Great idea! But is it realistic?
I can’t count how many families have sought my help with their children’s obesity. When I suggest the entire family get off sugar, white flour and processed foods they get the deer-caught-in-the head-lights look. Or they stare at me like I sprouted horns right in front of their very eyes.
I go on gently to explain how attracted we are to processed foods because they are addictive and I discuss what food addiction looks like in children and adults. I share my food addiction story along with my recovery and often, in time, they begin to nod their heads as they hear their story in my story.
Early in childhood I was fixated on sugar—never getting enough and going to great extremes to obtain it: stealing, hiding and hoarding.
Although I didn’t have an awareness of food addiction, I knew something was wrong.
In hindsight, I realized I ate out of control and bargained with myself and God to stop—after this one last pastry. I felt shame if I got caught stealing food or money to buy food; yet, I didn’t have the mentality to understand I was compulsive eating until my adolescent years when weight began to pile on. And even then I didn’t know there was an actual eating disorder called, binge eating disorder—and that I had it.
What I did know was my friends ate when they were hungry and they instincually knew to stop eating when they were full, and they didn’t hide or sneak their foods, nor did they have shame every time they ate.
Food addicts have a severe and ongoing disturbance in the manner in which they handle food. The depiction of addiction to food resembles the hallmarks of any addiction. The food addict is caught in the grip of a compulsive, habitual behavior that can’t be controlled.
The binge eater begins eating when she didn’t plan to and can’t stop eating when she wants to. Addiction is the persistent and repetitive enactment of a behavioral pattern the person recurrently fails to resist and that consequently leads to significant physical, psychological, social, legal, or other major life problems.
Loss of control over eating and obesity produce changes in the brain, which is similar to those produced by drugs of abuse.
Food addiction is a loss of control over eating coupled with the physiological tolerance and psychological dependence that occurs when a specific stimulus (food) is ingested. Typically, this addiction can result in negative consequences for basic life functions and relationships with family; social situations; intimate relationships; the sufferers relationship with God and spiritual development; and/or in relation to the law, health, and work life.
Research indicates more than half of Americans are overweight and at least a quarter near obesity. Weight loss products and services cost consumers over 50 billion dollars annually and the numbers are climbing. More than 325,000 deaths are attributable to obesity-related causes each year.
My mother and grandmother were included in these statistics; their lives were shortened through a series of strokes and finally pneumonia as a result of their obesity.
So, yes I applaud Mrs. Obama for addressing children and family obesity and the wonderful suggestions she brings to the table. Unfortunately, I believe the problem goes deeper than exercise and healthy food choices. Food addiction is rampant and until their is a clear understanding about what it is and what the signs are all the diet and exercise suggestions will continue to go unheard.
Photo Taken by: Benjamin Crego
Speaker, writer, licensed clinical psychotherapist, PhD in addiction psychology, eating disorder professional, hypnotherapist changing the view about compulsive eating one addict at a time.