Tennie McCarty has helped thousands unchain from compulsive overeating and eating disorders of various shapes and sizes. My friend and recent guest of The Dr. Oz Show is a pioneer in the world of eating disorder recovery, and the founder of Shades of Hope Treatment Center in Buffalo Gap, TX. The work she does to help folks change is powerful and unique. We sat down to fill you in on how she makes hope, in all its shades, happen.
Why is rehab necessary for food addiction?
Tennie: Twenty-six years ago, I had never even heard about treatment for what I had. I was clueless. There were one or two treatment centers for what ailed me. After I went through treatment and healed, I worked to help others. I started Shades of Hope and the public is more aware now, and that’s what my drive to educate is all about.
Rehab for food addiction is where alcoholism treatment was decades ago. Men went to rehab for booze first and then it started to change. The media has begun to tell our stories and people are more receptive.
Of the 72 million obese Americans, how many are addicted to food?
Tennie: It’s hard to put a number on who is addicted to food. Obese folks can be compulsive overeaters. Some people get addicted to the volume. But the majority of the obese are addicted to sugar, high carbs and starches. People will deny they have a food addiction until they begin to take inventory and look at the withdrawal they’re coming off of. They come off the sugar and flour, and we see the withdrawal symptoms and that helps inform us.
We’re just scratching the surface to help folks heal and recover.
Do you see more women in treatment or men?
Tennie: We treat more women than men, and you know, ED (eating disorder) has been called a woman’s disease. Women are surely more open to talk about it. There’s such shame about food addiction that men stay silent. The male bulimic goes so long without getting help that it’s coming out of that food addiction closet too. It’s not a manly thing.
I’ve heard you say that food addiction is a symptom of shame.
Tennie: I believe food addiction is surrounded by shame, about your body and failures at being healthy. I lost 150 pounds. Even so, after losing the weight and keeping it off, I still hearing my mind whisper the words of "fatso" and "pig," long after the weight came off.
I’ve let go of that stuff. I was obese from the age of 6 until 1972. Now, I help others get free too, and it’s the greatest work I can imagine!
Do people recover from food addiction?
Tennie: They can and do recover. Food addiction is chronic, progressive and fatal unless remedied. Recovery becomes a way of life like the disease was a way of life. It takes a long time though. A long time. Today, I can eat just about anything I want, but my “want” is so much different than it ever was when I was addicted. Food has taken its proper place in my life.