Though skeptics still abound, the scientific evidence that supports the existence of food addiction keeps stacking up. Sugar is toxic. Certain foods are addictive. Our fat, as a nation (and family by family) is more than a bummer – it’s knocking us off before our time.
In a report that will appear in the August 2011 print issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry, findings show that “persons with an addictive-like eating behavior appear to have greater neural activity in certain regions of the brain similar to substance dependence, including elevated activation in reward circuitry in response to food cues.”
I know food addiction inside and out. First and foremost, I was a food addict myself and know all too well the “feeling” of hunger – a craving triggered by emotions and the brain, not my stomach telling me I need food.
I also experienced the “brain bumps” – a kind of euphoria – from fatty, sugary foods. I was unable to stop myself from binging (and in my case, purging). I was obsessed with food and found myself thinking about food 24/7. And in classic addict form, I kept my eating secret and created elaborate lies to cover up my self-destructive behavior.
Some of you know what I say is true because you live with it, but for others, I want you to see for yourselves. Toward that end, I’m proud to talk about a new series I dreamed up and produced for OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, Addicted to Food.
The docu-series centers on Tennie McCarthy and her family and staff at the Shades of Hope treatment center in Texas. I saw the kind of magic Tennie was capable of in terms of dealing with food addiction when even less was known about it 5 years ago.
I shot some footage of her in Miracle Worker-mode in the summer of 2008, and that got the ball rolling for this series, which follows 8 people in treatment as they participate in Shades of Hope’s 42-day program.
This is not a reality show that creates drama, but rather, it revolves around real struggles and real emotions of amazing people working to break free from a disease that is killing them. This is also not a show with slick personal trainers and Hollywood nutritionists who whip people into shape – this process is about self-discovery and healing, not just weight loss.
Obesity, or “fat cancer” as Dr. Oz likes to call it, isn’t the only hallmark of food addiction. Some of the people on Addicted to Food are thin – dangerously so. It’s a disease that takes many forms and centers first and foremost around a feeling of control – losing and trying to regain it in a harrowing cycle of abuse of the body, soul and spirit. But food addiction can be cured, and this is something you can witness throughout the show.
The wait is over ... or rather, the weight is over. What’s really important to me is that you, at home or work or on your mobile phone, tune into Addicted to Food, and get help for yourself or for someone you love.