I recently heard from “Joan,” whom I’ve met through publication of “Fat Boy Thin Man.” Though she’s quite aware that whatever I can share is limited by my experience and not informed by scientific study, we often settle into mentor/newcomer roles. Here’s a deconstruction of excerpts from her most recent letter, because sometimes our underlying thinking reveals quite a lot that we might not otherwise recognize:
I didn't know Bart Hoebel well; anyone who did might be offended to hear that I think I knew him at all. But I did spend a weekend with him, and about 50 others, a few years ago, and he left an impression.
Hoebel, a psychologist at Princeton who led ground-breaking research on addiction to sugar, died last week at age 67.
This study finds that regular exposure to sugar-laden drinks dulls the drinker's sensitivity to sweetness, requiring more substance to get the same hit.
You wouldn't necessarily know this, but that's one of the seven official standards the American Psychiatric Association uses to diagnose addiction: Increasing tolerance.
"Food addiction — nah"
That's the dismissive headline atop another of the serially disappointing blogs of psychcentral.com, this time written by Pittsburgh therapist Pavel G. Somov, which says in part:
"If you have labeled yourself as a food addict, I suggest you retire this psychologically toxic concept from your mind. You are a seeker of wellbeing who is still mastering the learning curve of moderation."
OMG, sir, if you only knew. Which clearly you don't. (Though I'll acknowledge for the record that we're just two guys spoutin' on the Net, and that he's a Ph.D. and I'm not.)
It's a question any addict might ponder: If they told me that, beyond a medical certainty, I had just a few weeks or months to live, would I continue to abstain from the foods I've chosen to eschew?
This post feels like one of those "full disclosure" statements. I blog incessantly (but, of course, oh so interestingly!) about the attributes of processed sugar, especially lately. And the question could certainly be asked, "so what do you do for sweetness?"
It's more than an idle question: Science shows quite conclusively that we are hard-wired to seek out sweetness (**see below for my favorite "proof."), and I'm as hard-wired as the next guy.
Even though it was a great hour of radio, I've been lax in linking to the audio from my appearance Monday on "Where We Live," the hourlong show on WNPR-FM and Connecticut Public Radio. Though I've no reason to, it could be I'm getting blase about such appearances. Even though I have no reason to. I love doing them, and I'm grateful for each opportunity.
In my focused world, the release of Ashley Gearhardt's (et. al) study advancing the evidence for food addiction has been a welcome thunderbolt from several directions. Unreservedly.
But nothing is perfect, and I must quarrel with the report's closing words:
It is very easy to get caught up in the excitement of being seen, especially by an entity with the broad reach of a national television network, but it helps me to get back, as quickly as possible, to the real issue, which is food addiction.
The core of my message, in "Fat Boy Thin Man" and on this blog, is that food addiction is real and that both for individuals and for all of us collectively, important changes will necessarily follow once we understand.