Thursday, September 8, 2011

My (Extra) Ordinary Family on Primetime Nightline Discussion of Food Addiction

Have you ever finished the last cookies in a package or the last chips in the bag, the last scoop of ice cream, the last slice of cake - even when you were already full, perhaps even stuffed? Did you have it with the thought that it was too little to leave in the container? Have you ever had the thought that you might has well finish it, because after this session you were so stuffed that you were sure you would never EVER do this again?

I truly believe that there are certain foods that cause my brain and body to react in a way that is unlike that of normal people. These foods trigger me to want more, to keep eating, to equate deep pleasure and satisfaction from ingesting these foods. If it stopped there it would not be a bad thing. However, having more causes pounds to pile on. Having more causes me to fill up on empty calories and deprive my body of healthy nutrition. Having ANY causes my body to inflame, my brain to misfire and my soul to start its song of craving. I believe this is food addiction but medical science is still not sure. 

This morning on GMA there was a report on a study that included a scan showing how our brains react and when we consume sugar and why that physiological reaction makes it hard-to-impossible to want to stop or decrease our consumption. Tonight the full story was on ABC's Primetime Nightline at 10:00 PM EST. I just finished watching it and I applaud the way this subject was presented and reported.

The show started with a 17 year old young man, over 400 pounds getting his 'fix' of foods for the day and getting prepared for gastric bypass. His mother had her stomach stapled a few years ago and lost 110 pounds. She she is still morbidly obese. She does not eat vegetables and her kids get only canned veggies (and not a lot of them). This echoes the problems I wrote about in my post on the preponderance of Gastric Bypass and Lap Band Procedures and what I believe is a lack of effective education and counseling for the patients afterwards. 

The second part of this report was in whether or not it is possible to be addicted to food. It highlighted a treatment center in west Texas, Shades of Hope. Tennie McCarty where people with the ABCs of eating disorders: Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive overeating. Tennie testifies that she is a recovering good addict. Tennie McCarty absolutely believes in food addiction and offers therapy on that basis. Fitness and meals are just part of the story. The real work is going into the psychological aspects of food addiction. This was a powerful segment. I liked that the treatment emphasizes that there can only be recovery if you are done playing games; you are finished trying to hold on to the belief that you can keep having your drug of choice. It is the only way to have a fighting chance of getting well physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

I am glad one of the main subjects of this segment was a compulsive eater without the additional complication of bulimia, if only to share with more of the national TV audience the most prevalent of eating disorders: Compulsive eating. 

Not Tennie's Brain
The third segment was about research into food addiction. Not all foods have addictive qualities- just certain classes of foods: processed foods, sugars, fats. Tennie agreed to be a guinea pig for this study. She was given a milkshake before having an MRI. The parts of the brain that light up when a drug addict or alcoholic takes their substance lit up like fireworks in the sky on Tennie's MRI. This was her first time having sugar in 18 years and it gave her a very strong negative physical reaction and she was sick afterwards. Knowing how dangerous a first bite can be I was quite concerned that she allowed herself to be given her drug of choice. I felt it would make more sense for someone still into the substance to have the test rather than someone for whom the first bite in 18 years could bring a catastrophic relapse. I hope Tennie does a follow up story on her Shades of Hope page on anything she felt afterwards. 

At the end of the report the now recovering compulsive eating gentleman from Shades of Hope was asked how he is working through the changes in his life and he replied that he is taking life one step at a time. Cynthia McFadden's closing comment was my favorite line of the night. 
"One step at a time - maybe the only way any of us can ever change."
Thank you Cynthia, for a fair and informative report on the subject of food addiction. You will never know how many lives may have been positively affected by it. The hope continues. 

An admitted compulsive eater and food addict


Fatoutofskinny said...

I did not see this, hope it comes on again. Thanks for the post.

Jane Cartelli said...

You can see it on line. Either Primetime or Nightline websit.e Can't remember which. Full episodes are on line.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone question the tactics of using someone who hasn't had ANY SUGAR in 18 years, being given the brain scan, instead of someone who had sugar yesterday?? Sensationalism!!! I would be interested in seeing "an addict" given the test on their brain, who has has sugar recently and see what happens.

Amanda said...

I'll have to check it out online -- interesting stuff. Thanks for the heads up :)

Jane Cartelli said...

Anonymous has a valid question although I must short of accepting this use of the sugar/MRI on someone with 18 years sobriety from sugar is sensationalism, at least until I find out if there is any difference between the tests on not only a food addict but also the tests they have done on Alcoholics and drug addicts. I am SURE they have not taken 18 year sober clean drug addicts and put them on crack for a test. I believe in those cases they have tested non addicts on drugs and confirmed addicts on drugs - NOT recovering addicts on drugs. I do not know why with Sugar they tested someone who had been clean so long. I have written to Tennie at Shades of Hope to ask about that and to ask what affects she felt a week, a month, and several months out from the test.


Julie said...

Sadly I don't think sugar is perceived as the drug it really is for some. In the same way some people will not accept food addiction is real. Mind you, there are still some people who think alcoholics and drug addicts should just pull themselves together and stop! I haven't seen this progamme and possbily won't (am in Australia) but is sounds fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane,

This sounds like a great program, I missed seeing it on TV, but I'll check it out on the WEB.

I am so happy to hear that a story was done on the subject of food addiction on a national network. The more exposure, the better.

I really don't think a lot of people understand how addictions work in regards to how the chemical changes/reactions take place in the brain. Whether it be food, alcohol, drugs etc.

It's my hope that those who are suffering from (and don't understand what is wrong with them), those who are skeptics, and those who are uneducated but want to learn more about food addiction can do so with programs like this.

And of course, these programs offer some reinforcement to those of us who DO know what is wrong, to continue with the path we are on for better health.

My theory about why they had a person 18 years abstinent from sugar... I think (and I haven't seen the program yet) they were wanting to verify a suspicion that the brain/body was STILL addicted to the substance even many years out from stopping said substance. This really shows how the brain/body remembers these addictive things and it's reaction to them, by 'lighting up' those receptors. Hence, your (and my) fear that this could send Tennie on a bad path....

Please update us if you do hear back from her and how she is!!

Take care,

Heather ~~~~ :O)

Anonymous said...

My mom used to say to me - if only you could throw it up.

There are some things I cannot have in my house because they plague my mind and disrupt my life until I make them all gone. I won't say I will never have them again because I am not sure that is good for my mental health. It may make me want them more. But I will say they won't be purchased or brought into my home by anyone living here.

My problem is that all carbs varying in intensity I have to make all gone. I have to be very careful not to make leftover potatoes or stir fry. I will eat it before my head hits the pillow OR I will be miserable thinking about them.

Absolute crazy obsession.

Anonymous said...

Also, Julie reminds me of something. I know alcoholics who after quitting drinking become sugar addicts and get very fat. Alcohol is a CARB which coverts very quickly into sugar. Carbs - even the slow converting ones - sugar.

Julie said...

Munchberry - you are so right about alcoholics and sugar. I have often been amazed at the amount many can pack away and how food focussed some are. Of course I loved THOSE social situations when I was obese! I used to joke to friends they were creating their own alcohol internally given the quantity of sugar they were ingesting, especially in drinks (such as three sugars per, very frequent, cups of coffee and full sugar soft drinks). Maybe I was on to something, they were getting a 'hit' from all the sugar? I guess the only relevance to me for that train of thought is to understand addictive/compulsive behaviour patterns and see them in myself. For me 'how' and why I eat are as critical as what. For example if I am eating from boredom, anxiety, tiredness etc then it doesn't matter to me WHAT I eat the problem is that I use food inappropriately.

RedPanda said...

Munchie - if it makes you feel any better (and I guess many of us have a "trigger foods") I am the same way about water crackers. If I eat one, I want the entire packet. The worst part is that, at my workplace, people often leave opened packets (left over from Friday night drinks) lying around in the kitchen. Urgh!

And I don't attend Friday night drinks either - water crackers, cheese, wine and me - it's a bad combination.

As for certain foods being addictive for some people, I wouldn't be surprised. People on a weight loss forum I used to post on often referred to certain foods as "crack". Hmm...

Anonymous said...

Food Addicts In Recovery Annonymous and Food Addicts Annonymous are two groups that can be found online, phone meetings, face to face meetings. Very much like the program featured by Tennie in Texas but as a 12 step program. Flour and Sugar and Quantity addiction for under and over eaters. Support to stick to the plan. The cravings ease, they go away when you are not having it. Unlike diets, where you alwasy get a little bit and the cravings never stop. It gets better. I lost 100 lbs.

Anonymous said...

Food Addicts Annonymous website and quiz:

Food Addicts in Recovery website and quiz: