As you know, my specific lens on the globesity pandemic is food addiction, which I specifically say is a significant contributor, but not “the” cause.
I do find that having a viewpoint sometimes causes me to put less weight on other outlooks, strictly as a reaction, before I get to consider their merits.
Some, like the Atkins Diet, say, remain in my scoffing column, even after consideration. (If you’ve read my book, you know that the doctor himself counseled me for a while during the ‘70s, and I did lose lots of weight following his ideas. But I regained every pound that ever came off by them, and in my mind, they are implicated in my becoming a binge eater. (Of the "right foods, one could eat as much as one wanted, and I assure you, I did.)
But many other approaches appear to offer help to people like me, and as long as they don’t supersede what we know as food addicts, they definitely can help.
I got onto this idea after a friend, new to the idea of addiction, went to a dietitian for guidance and was advised to engage in mindful eating. The example my friend was given was to place one potato chip in her mouth and leave it there for 20 minutes, which sounded like a really bad idea to her — what kind of dietitian advises food-addicted clients to eat chips?
Putting aside that specific question, I did tell her I thought mindful eating, especially within the context of a spiritual practice, is a great tool and could certainly help food addicts eat sensibly, with less angst than we might otherwise eat.
I feel the same way about most of the guidance the Cornell researcher Brian Wansink described in his book, “Mindless Eating,” in which he describes how corporations can manipulate us into eating more, and how we can twist some of those techniques to our own advantage.
Two examples: People eat more when served on larger plates, and drink more from short, fat glasses than they do from tall, thin glasses, so you can guess which ones are typically used by companies that want to sell more (which is to say, "companies." People who want to use every possible cue to avoid overeating can decide to buy small plates and tall, thin glasses. Doesn’t mean you won’t ever overeat again, of course, but why not use every nonverbal cue?
To be clear: Food addicts have a biochemical sensitivity to some foods, most usually processed foods containing sugar, flour, and other refined substances, and nibbling around the edges of overeating (so to speak) with smaller plates or eating with concentration will not remove that sensitivity. For us, biochemistry is king. But if complementary ideas can make the struggle easier, then I say, use ‘em when you got ‘em. Hey, we gotta eat too.