Relapse into smoking, relapse into food

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In April 2009, I attended an invitation-only conference on obesity in Bainbridge Island, Wash., and it was one of the best strokes of good fortune I’ve yet encountered, not only for the knowledge that was shared but for the relationships I got to form.

My appearance a couple of weeks ago at the Commonwealth Club was one of the fruits of that weekend. I met fellow panelists Eric Stice and Elissa Epel that weekend, as well as Ashley Gearhardt, who was in the original proposal for the forum but whose clinical responsibilities kept her in Michigan.

Author Connie Bennett, who wrote "Sugar Shock" and has a sequel coming out in June, was one of two Bainbridge Island attendees in the audience. Since the Commonwealth Club topic was food addiction, which contributes to the obesity epidemic, I suppose it’s not that notable that so many of us would be there.

Meanwhile, another good fellow I met that weekend, Jeffrey Grimm of the University of Western Washington, has been in touch with his latest study, which looks at the interplay of nicotine and sucrose.

The money line, for me, was in the conclusion: “Relapse to nicotine could serve as a strong reminder of previous associations to foods consumed in the context of smoking.” So if you slide back into smoking, you’re likely to also slide back into the foods you ate when you smoked.

This is certainly my history: When I relapse with a substance, I’m probably headed back to more than just that substance. It’s a prime reason why I’m much safer, much healthier, much happier, when I’m abstaining, rather than dabbling.

(Obligatory disclaimer: Jeff and his colleagues are scientists who went to a lot of trouble to learn something very specific. Any comment I make is my own, not theirs. I love scientists and the work they do, and don't want to unfairly imply that my opinions have anything to do with what they did.)

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