and the Obesity Epidemic
–Kelly Brownell, Co-founder and Director, Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
Food, weight, eating patterns, and body image have become intense preoccupations in many women's lives today. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 64.5% of Americans are overweight or obese. Currently one in four children is obese. Overweight is the most common and costly nutritional disorder of the 21st century, affecting 1.1 billion adults and a burgeoning number of children. The problem has been viewed as a function of an affluent society: overfed, over-stimulated by food, physically inactive, nutritionally unbalanced and stressed. Even more discouraging are the reports suggesting that 90 – 98% of those on successful weight-loss diets will regain the lost weight (or more) at 2 – 5 year follow-up. Frankly, the picture represents a major cultural denial of reality.
Even though we believe the population we work with needs the opportunity for a 'psychological work-out' to build the internal muscle to begin to live and cope with their lives without food, we are very aware this isn't just a personal psychological issue. Any country that has been westernized has a weight problem. Today, access to unhealthy food is nearly ubiquitous. Burgers, fries, pizza, soda, candy and chips are everywhere. And we have large portion sizes – bigger bagels, burgers, steaks, muffins, cookies, popcorn and sodas. We have the relentless marking of unhealthy foods.
As Kelly Brownell, professor in the Department of Psychology at Yale University, and co-founder and director of Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity says, "My prediction is that the issue of food and addiction will explode onto the scene relatively soon, because the science is building almost by the day and it's very compelling. I think it's important to put the focus on the food. That is where the public health problem resides."
We take this aspect of food addiction to heart. We help people give up the idea that 'dieting' will solve the problem. But in addition we pay attention to the foods they are choosing, paying particular attention to the addictive properties engineered into the foods they overeat and binge on. Without this awareness, along with the realities of Insulin Resistance Syndrome and how food and exercise heal the underlying physiological problem, possibility of recovery is diminished. It becomes an issue of choice, not compliance.
Our Working Definition of Chronic Overeating and Food Addiction
A chronic overeater/food addict is someone who eats food when not hungry, who eats until uncomfortably full, eats alone out of embarrassment, and/or feels disgusted, depressed or guilty after overeating. The profession is still struggling politically with understanding food addiction. Currently they have come up with a diagnosis they call Eating Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) 307.50
EATING DISORDER NOS 307.50
This is how it is defined:
- Recurrent episodes of binge eating. Characterized by
- Eating in a discrete time (2 hours) an amount of food larger than what most people would eat
- A sense of lack of control over eating during the episode – a feeling that one can't stop eating
- Associated with 3 (or more) of:
- Eating more rapidly than normal
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
- Eating large amounts when not physically hungry
- Eating alone because of embarrassment
- Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating
- Occurs on average, at least 2 days/week for 6 months
The psychological community has struggled with understanding and legitimizing food addiction. As of 2013 it will be called Binge Eating Disorder. This is progress. In the scientific community it is referred to as Food Addiction.