Food addiction in our culture


Assuming, of course, that you are overweight to begin with, weight loss is a fine achievement. It’s useful to see road signs that confirm you’re going in the direction you want to go in. What I’ve seen though, over and over again, in both my own relationship with food and that of my clients, is that it makes the crucial difference to keep your eyes on the road, and to grasp that the signs are not the purpose of your journey.

A step in that direction is noticing the blueness of our blue culture with regard to food. In other words, where we are (still) getting it so very wrong.

For example, I saw little bags of ‘chocolate buttons’ being sold to raise money for the Kidney Research Foundation. The list of ingredients did not include chocolate, but sugar, glucose syrup, vegetable fat, and four different E-numbers. Is it remotely possible that this sort of stuff could impair kidney function?

I wasn’t able to find one word about prevention on the Foundation’s web site; just that the funding was for research to develop pharmaceuticals. They recognise high blood pressure and diabetes as contributions to kidney problems, but nothing about how food could be involved in any of that.

Dr Tom O’Bryan tells his own story starting with a sick dog. The first question his vet asked was, “what are you feeding him?” That was the catalyst for his own paradigm shift, eventually leading to his book, The Autoimmune Fix.

Part of the problem, as neurologist Dr David Perlmutter has pointed out in his book Brain Maker, is that human medicine has long been divided up into separate systems. You don’t call your cardiologist if you have a stomachache. And yet he has done perhaps more than any other in describing the connection between the food we eat, our gut health and the health of the brain.

Does this open an unmanageable can of worms? Isn’t it easier to step on a scale or wrap a tape measure around your waist? Maybe, but it’s not as if you’re forced to choose between either health or appearance.

You can have them both in abundance, and from what I’ve seen, barking up the right tree is really all that is going to work long term. And that, at least for many people, will depend on being able to see and manage other aspects of how this addiction has woven itself into our lives.


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  1. Gillian K

    I so agree with everything you say. Seeing excess weight as a symptom not as the problem has been so important for me. But the wider issues of trying to make helpful choices every day in a society obsessed by and deluged with cheap nasty “frankenfoods” is dispiriting and exhausting. Leaving home without a good packed lunch is a nightmare. I’ve been travelling for six weeks this summer and have struggled to make the best choices since I got home simply because of the unremitting onslaught of less good food options everywhere. The worst places of all are hospitals. I had to go to one recently where the cafe sold sausage rolls, pasties, crisps and confectionary. That was it. A complete joke, except it’s not funny.

    • I feel your pain! I’ve been frustrated recently with a lack of real food similar to your hospital scenario.

      BUT – I wouldn’t want anyone to miss that second sentence of yours. Such a radical step for so many, and it’s important to see ‘social proof’ confirmation that it is in fact a step in the right direction.

  2. Cassandra

    I LOVE what you have to say. I’ve recently been able to lose 55 lbs, and would like to lose another ten. The real payoffs have been for my health and sense of well being, which have soared. The overeating-restriction cycle though is still a problem for me. So I know my relationship with, or how I think about food still needs some healing.

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