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They Said It, We Believed It — Teens and Food Addiction

December 3, 2010

The Awakening's Giant Hand

One of the features of the Weigh2Rock website is the Comfort Eating Board, which is typical of the several different discussion groups that are available so kids can talk about and seek help for their obesity problems. It even has a search function. Just for grins, we plugged the word “addict” into the search box, and guess what? These teenagers have poured their hearts out, in an astonishing display of honesty.

The complete entries are on the page, with the age and weight of all these different young people. But just for the sheer intense impact of it, we’ve isolated the parts where they self-identify as food addicts, and make the connection between this addiction and their obesity. When these excerpts are all strung together, they read like one huge, doleful lament.

The kids say:

I’m addicted to food.
It’s like I’m addicted, and I really don’t want to be.
I’m so addicted to food, I don’t know what to do.
It feels like I’m addicted to food. I have to eat until I’m full. And then I eat again, perhaps an hour later.
I feel like I have an addiction to over eating I pick up something and I’ll want it again again.
I just feel so bad I’m addicted to food!
I’m so frustrated with my weight. I’m addicted to food, seriously.
I am addicted to food.
I am like addicted to food, I eat it because it’s there, not because I’m hungry.
I want to be thin and cute again, but I seem to be addicted to food.
Once I start eating I just want more and more! Food is a total addiction to me, how do I stop it???
I try to lose weight but it’s just impossible, I’m addicted to food.
I am addicted to junk food and eat it all the time.
I am addicted to food, when I get home from school I always eat tons of stuff and then later I eat a normal supper.
My emotional addiction to food makes me go off my diet pretty quickly, which in turn blows my whole exercise program.
I am sick of being overweight and I don’t know how to handle being overweight and how to handle my emotions and also my addiction to food.
I need to lose like 150 lbs. I have a food addiction, I’m a binge compulsive eater.
I have no friends, because people don’t want to know anyone who is fat. People laugh and stare at me when I go out. I am addicted to food.
The problem is I have a huge addiction to food!
I’m 70 pounds over weight… it’s like I’m addicted to food.
I’ve tried like just eating a little bit of something but for me food is addictive so I just keep eating more of it.
I love to eat and I have an emotion addiction to food.
I’m the fattest girl in my class, maybe the ugliest, loneliest and the most miserable one… I think I’m addicted to food.
I’m so addicted to food.

And, of course, there are longer anecdotes of individual misery. A teen girl says,

My mum is such a b*tch!!!! I asked her, ‘Can you please stop buying junk food, I really think it would make us healthier and we might lose a little weight.’ You know what she said?? ‘No, I need it.’ I said she sounded like a drug addict and she agreed!!!!

Some people say, “Oh well, you know teenagers, they always talk crazy and magnify everything. They don’t really mean they are addicted, it’s just a figure of speech.”

How patronizing! How condescending! And how rude, too, and anti-therapeutic. Imagine a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. A member stands up and says, “I’m Trudy, and I’m an alcoholic.” Some heckler jumps up and scolds, “Oh, don’t be such a drama queen.”

Wouldn’t that be just about unthinkable? When somebody is courageous enough to admit to their addiction, you just don’t treat them like that. Is it any wonder that Dr. Pretlow writes, in his article titled “Food Addiction in Children” (PDF),

This compelling evidence points to an actual addictive dependence on highly pleasurable foods as a substantial component of the childhood (and adult) obesity epidemic, shockingly similar to tobacco, alcohol, and even drug dependence… Acknowledging highly pleasurable food as an addictive substance for a segment of the pediatric population is emerging as an important factor for control of the childhood obesity epidemic.

Dr. Pretlow quotes one of the communications sent to Weigh2Rock by a 16-year-old girl:

A teen who does drugs or smokes would get in trouble if their parents found out. But no one’s going to ground you for eating, which can be equally as damaging, and is equally as difficult to stop.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Food Addiction in Children” (PDF), Robert A. Pretlow, M.D.
Source: “Comfort Eating Board,”
Image by, used under its Creative Commons license.


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