Last year when I visited my local doctor for an annual physical, I could not help but notice that not only was he fairly fat, his young female receptionist likely exceeded 400 pounds. Though working in an office ostensibly devoted to the promotion of good health, she was so sick and disabled she could barely move from her chair. When I quietly suggested to the doctor that he perhaps help his employee find treatment for a probable sugar or refined food addiction underlying the morbid obesity, he looked at me like I had three heads. He had never heard of such a thing.
My doctor had of course been schooled in the idea that obesity results from eating too many calories and moving too little, that obesity is rooted in failings of willpower and character, and that real addictions were reserved for nasty foreign substances like methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine. A solidly mainstream doctor, he sees no distinction between the physiological impacts of highly refined edible substances like sugar and white flour, and whole foods, like vegetables, eggs and meat.
So it was with tremendous pleasure and relief that I watched the DVD, “Dangerous Liaisons: Comfort and Food,” featuring a lecture by the noted addiction specialist Vera Tarman, MD, who has a long history treating people suffering addictions to a wide array of substances. Based in Toronto Canada, it was through her work with drug addicts and alcoholics that Dr. Tarman became interested in the subject of food and sugar addictions, which she couldn’t help but notice followed the same patterns as more classic drug addictions.
The DVD lecture perfectly summarizes why refined food addiction is very real, and explains in layman’s terms how concentrated carbs — which are human creations not found in the natural world — can hijack the reward pathways in the brain just like drugs, creating an ongoing cycle of consumption and craving. She also explains why the addiction recovery paradigm — including a focus on supported abstinence — is an absolutely necessary tool for any practitioner treating obesity, eating disorders, or other chronic conditions related to over- or under-consumption of food.
The DVD is available for $20 and is available at the Addictions Unplugged website, here: http://addictionsunplugged.com/store/. The lecture bears repeated viewing, it is densely packed with information tremendously useful to recovering addicts, physicians and other practitioners. Highly recommended — if all doctors added addiction recovery to their weight-loss and diabetes toolbox, we’d have a whole lot fewer people suffering from chronic disease.