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Overeating as a Second Addiction

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Overeating as a Second Addiction

Healthy eating has a role in recovery

I saw an ABC morning news segment that made me think of Malibu Beach Recovery Center’s emphasis on healthy eating. The title was “Recovering Addicts Often Use Food to Satisfy Cravings,” which says it all. When some addicts enter recovery, they often replace one drug of choice with another—food.Fresh veggies on table

The segment featured a woman who grew up with alcoholic parents and started drinking at an early age. When she got sober, she ballooned to 214 pounds.  Dr. Larissa Mooney, Assistant Clinical Professor of psychiatry, UCLA, said that “Food and drugs activate the same pleasure and reward centers in the brain,” so it stands to reason that people new to recovery would turn to food for comfort, especially carbs, sugar, and fat.”

The host of the segment mentioned that Oreo cookies can be as addictive as cocaine, which I posted about here in 2013. Food addiction is one of Dr. Mark Gold’s specialties, and if you read my earlier post on obesity, you remember what he said about that study:

“Surely, hyperbole is useful on occasion, but how many people have died overdosing on Oreos, lost their jobs, loved ones, wives and families because of Oreos, and have given up other pleasurable activities because they just couldn’t control their attachment to Oreos? We need treatment for overeating highly palatable foods and for reducing brain reinforcement caused by fat and sugar rich foods.”  But, he reminds us, while all drugs, food, sex, gambling, gaming, and so forth increase dopamine, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin are in a league of their own. Take a look at this post on the Oxford University Press’s blog, which mentions Dr. Gold’s book on Food Addiction.

But there are ways to get help, ABC says. At places like The NY Center for Living, people in recovery are given healthy food and exposed to mindful eating, getting people to slow down and taste their food. The TV segment was based on a NYT blog post for which MBRC experts were interviewed, although those comments didn’t make it into the article. (If only they had. So many people have spoken so highly about the center’s healthy eating program.)

In the NYT post, a New York Center for Living doctor even said that some people relapse because of the weight they’ve gained in recovery. They’re disgusted with themselves, the woman said.

Many treatment centers put addicts on a path to more healthy eating, but surprisingly, Dr. Willenbring, the former director of the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said he doesn’t believe that healthy eating helps people stay sober. Former addict and alcoholic Christopher Kennedy Lawford disagreed with him, however, saying that you need to treat the patient holistically. And healthy eating is a big part of that.

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