Exercise and Food Addiction, Obesity, and Eating DisordersAs a personal trainer, my job as I see it is to help people lose weight and get in shape. This is, for the most part, what people come to me in order to achieve. Sounds easy, right? Well apparently it’s not. Simple, yes; easy, no.

Most personal trainers – if they’re being honest with you – will have to admit that most of their clients have little lasting success in losing weight and keeping it off. I personally have trained well over 100 clients in the time I have been doing what I do, and I am only aware of a handful of people who have lost weight with me and kept it off for more than 1 year. I have helped many more than that lose weight. Most of these, however, have either quit training and I’ve lost touch with them, or they were not able to stick to my food plan long-term and have gained some – or all – of the weight back.

Why the lack of success? Am I not a good trainer? On the contrary. Without boasting, I can honestly say I know more than most about how to eat for healthy weight loss. I am an excellent trainer, and take great pride in my work. I myself have lost over 80 lbs, having 8 years ago been classified as “severely obese”, with a BMI of over 36. I began learning about healthy eating because I needed to in order to live longer. I have made a serious study of the subject for the past 8+ years, mostly out of self-interest. Today I try to pass that knowledge along to others.

So no, the reason I don’t have much success with my clients is not because I’m not a good trainer. I believe it’s because there’s an epidemic today caused by the consumption of processed foods. Many people – to varying degrees – have become addicted to processed food products, and have as much trouble leaving them alone as an alcoholic would alcohol. Literally, they are food-addicted, and no food plan of mine is sufficient to help them to overcome the mental obsession they have with food. The foods they find troublesome seem to be those that contain processed flours and sugars, as well as high-fat foods in some cases. And for many of these people, their only hope is complete abstinence from these substances, much as the alcoholic must abstain entirely from alcohol in order to recover.

This throws me in to a seething cauldron of debate. Some people scoff at my theory of food addiction (which is not my theory at all, but an opinion formed out of the real-life experience of the many recovered food addicts with whom I am in contact today). My opponents argue that moderation is the key, and that the goal of my clients ought to be to re-learn how to eat all the old problem foods that got them overweight. All I can say is that, in my line of work, I don’t often see success with this approach. I do see it sometimes, to be fair, but not often. Moderation works for some, but what’s required for most is abstinence, or there is little-to-no long-lasting success.

by Mike MacKinnon
B. Comm., M. Div., CPTN-CPT