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Especially on the level of individuals, perhaps the biggest stumbling block to food addiction’s acceptance as a legitimate problem with specific remedies is that most folks don’t want to think they’re that bad off.

”Sure, I’ve developed a bit of a paunch, maybe, but I just have to be a bit more careful. But an addict? No way.” Certainly that sentiment is true for many people, but in a nation where two out of every three adults are overweight or obese, it may not be true for as many people who would say it.

But who want to think of themselves as addicts? I sure didn’t, even after I’d been attending support groups for many months and then even checked in to the eating disorders unit of a rehab hospital. I can’t imagine anyone who, upon hearing for the first time that he or she might be an addict, thinks, “oh, OK, that might explain some things.”

I recall being in that institution — South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, N.Y. — and hearing some of the stories told by younger fellow patients, many of them teenaged women who were anorexic. Several told very harrowing stories, not only about the lengths they’d go to avoid food, but about abuse they experienced at the hands of “loved ones” who sometimes didn’t act at all lovingly.

I’d had a fairly typical, abuse-free, comfortable, middle-class upbringing and the contrast was so stark that I wondered if I even deserved to be in the same place they were. I hadn’t had it so bad, I thought.

But when I queried the counselors on this point, they were ready with an answer, and it has stuck with me: Comparing my story to someone else’s is pointless. My history and experience was enough to get me there, just like every other patient’s, and that’s all that matters.


And I’d certainly had that. Run-of-the-mill fortunate upbringing or not, I’d still reached my mid-30s weighing north of 350, with a bursting backpack of emotional burdens weighting me down even further.

I share that standard, “enough,” often. If you’ve dieted enough times without the lasting results you want, if you’re enough overweight that it degrades the quality of life you want, then maybe, you too have enough “enough” to look at your situation anew and begin seeking a different way out.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
make investments in employee wellbeing that pay off in corporate success.
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