Archive for the ‘Addictions’ Category

Addictive Foods: Eat More, Want More….Eat Less, Enjoy More?

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Read this recent post on my “Thin From Within” blog at Psychology Today!


Sugar News, Sugar Blues

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

I reprint here my latest Thin From Within blog from Psychology Today:

Those of us concerned with diet, health, weight, eating disorders, and addiction follow what I call “Sugar News” with great interest.   Starting, perhaps, in 2011, with the New York Times story “Is Sugar Toxic?”, followed by a 60-Minutes segment with the same name, the public has had  increasing exposure to what Overeaters Anonymous has known for years:  some people just can’t stop.   We’ve learned that sugar lights up addicts’ brains as clearly as drugs do.  Further, we’ve learned that it may be sugar, and not fat, fueling diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and other diseases on the rise.

National Geographic now steps forward as the latest major magazine headlining Sugar News.   “Sugar Love:  A Not So Sweet Story”, by Rich Cohen, recounts our species’ historical love affair, and its significant struggles, with the substance that was once used sparingly, as a rare spice.  (We now consume, on average, 78 lbs. per person, per year—some spice!)    Cohen not only reviews sugar’s health tolls but provides deep perspective on why and how it spurs such rampant problems.

Other recent news, however, jars in contrast.   For the latest review of our nation’s eating trends, well summarized by the New York TimesJane Brody last week, shows little change in our sweet consumption.  That 78 lbs. per person remains stable, even if it is down somewhat from its all-time high.  It’s still way too high, about 22 teaspoons per day.    “….Cut back, many of the ill effects disappear…..”, one prominent medical researcher admonishes.  But it seems the increasingly frequent headlines—calling sugar a toxin, a poison, a drug—haven’t nudged our behavior all that much, at least not yet.

Realistically speaking, however, mass changes can take a long time.  It might take decades for these relatively recent findings to affect individual habits.  It might in fact require changes in public health policy (think here of tobacco research).   In the shorter run, though, Sugar News most certainly bolsters a group that sometimes does, and sometimes does not, overlap with the obesity stats:  the binge eaters, or self-identified food addicts.   Many in these groups benefit immediately from Sugar News.   Indeed, new and affirming paths for healing open as a result. (more…)


“Food is a Wonderful Place to Hide”

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

I reprint here the most recent post from my Psychology TodayThin From Within” blog:

In a true sign of our times, binge eaters have shown up significantly in the pages of several  novels I’ve read this year.  In one fine example, The Middlesteins, by Jami Attenberg, the powerful, overeating protagonist affects the lives of family and friends in far-reaching ways.    In the end, one character comprehends how “….food is a wonderful place to hide.”

For many, starting in childhood or beyond, food becomes a source of solace and a companion–not only in hard times, but at the end of even normally stressful days.   It’s something to look forward to, something that’s reliably there.  This powerful emotional bond may be fully conscious, or not.  When it exists, as it does for many who overeat, it’s no wonder that the diet of the moment won’t work, or that new regimes don’t last.  In the lists of which foods to eat and avoid, dealing with the loss of this sanctuary gets missed, and the cycle of dieting and overeating resumes. (more…)


Hot Off the Press: Sane Eating News

Friday, May 10th, 2013

 My recent post at Psychology Today looks at helpful new releases–books, articles, columns–for those aiming to eat more sanely.  If weight loss or food addiction concerns you, check these out:



Leaving the Kingdom of Sweets

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

My New Year’s blogpost at Psychology Today helps us consider how to Leave the Kingdom of Sweets behind, post-holidays.  It also proposes that we integrate some of this “leaving behind” into the New Year in whatever way works best for us.  Click here to read the entire post. 

Best wishes for a healthy happy New Year!


Who Can Eat Just One? More thoughts on sugar addiction

Friday, May 25th, 2012

  “Your Brain on Food” warns one caption.  “Can Some Foods Hijack the Brain?” asks another.  Now that science finds similar pathways lighting the brain whether it’s on sugar or cocaine, many overeaters feel validated.  They’ve known this “hijacking” for years.  Others, puzzled by all the fuss, wonder “Why not just have one?”

When it comes to binging, many of the prime suspects emerge as addictive agents:  sugar, sugar-fat combinations, and maybe certain flavor enhancers.    Many—overeaters included—resist calling themselves “addicts”, however.   They can’t imagine life with no sweets at all, and recoil at the ideas of “abstinence” or 12-step groups.

The addiction lens helps many indeed to find freedom and health.  However, there’s truth in what holds others from embracing that approach:  it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid sugar in our world.  And problems can and do arise in making a whole range of foods taboo.  Loss of control and binging itself among them. (more…)



Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

by Terese Weinstein Katz, Ph.D.

As the bad news on sugar grows ever more grim, we may find ourselves overwhelmed—worried, yes, but not sure just what to do.   Solid science now labels sugar a toxin, an addictive agent, and the key culprit in metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar), obesity and related disease.  So, what to do with this worrisome news?  Are we really to stop eating sugar completely?

The reports may well scare you into trying to do so.  It almost goes without saying, though, that this is easier said than done.   Sugar flavor-boosts many grocery and take-out items, even those that don’t taste sweet.  Also, there’s that “addictive agent” part—and this prevents many people from stopping, despite their best efforts.  The flavor-boosters work to make us crave more and more, and some among us are particularly susceptible.  Few foods challenge us more than sweets when it comes to choosing and shopping well.  And few foods challenge us more when it comes to “eating just one”. (more…)


SUGAR: Eating Sanely with a Sweet Tooth (Reprint)

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

 I reprint here a blog from 7/8/10, as a companion to the above entry on how to deal with the new findings on sugar….this was originally posted  as SUGAR:  Eating with a Sweet Tooth (Part 2).

Sweets top the food pyramid—they sit on that tiny “eat sparingly” point.  We know “eat sparingly” is easier said than done.  Sugary foods fill way too much of the average person’s diet these days.  It’s hidden in foods we buy, we love it, and it’s hard to stop after any amount that could be called “sparing”.

As promised in June 25’s [2010] blog, I continue here the discussion of how to stick to those small amounts.  I started with a few ideas about buying less, switching to items containing less, and eliminating sugared beverages.  Now we turn to the sweets we eat because we want to—whether that’s candy, cookies, pie, or cake.  How do you start to say “No, thanks, I’ve had enough” after one piece? (more…)


Cutting Calories, Skipping Meals.… and the Binge Eater

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

I’m reprinting here a verion of “Must Calorie-Cutting Lead to Binging”, from my Psychology Today blog (    You can find several previous blogs dealing with binging under “addictions”, “Thin From Within”, and “emotional eating” (see categories at left).  Also, Eat Sanely:  Get off the diet roller coaster for good offers a workbook supplement to reinforce supports for the binger.  Relief from binging is a prime goal of sane eating, after all.

We’ve known for a long time that calorie-cutting can spur binging.   A strong diet-binge link first caught national attention in 1985, when psychologists Polivy and Herman demonstrated the connection in their laboratory.  Further studies consistently confirmed that “dietary abandon follows dietary restraint”–so reliably, in fact, that eating disorder experts usually consider the link a given.   Recent headlines, though, highlight research supporting deep calorie cuts, and even breakfast skipping, as potentially effective weight loss aids.  In other words, in these studies eaters did not necessarily “rebound” eat after restriction, and thus weight loss continued.  All this will surely confuse the binge-prone overeater, who may have worked hard to not skip meals or cut calories too deeply.   What’s there to learn here?

One study at Cornell, for instance, found that subjects indeed did not “rebound” eat when they followed extremely low calorie (500 cal) regimes two days per week for six months.  Their weight loss, in fact, matched that of a comparison group who reduced on a more traditional regime.  The New York Times summarized the study as “A Low Calorie Meal is Shown to Pay Off”.   The study’s lead author, David Levitsky, found “no evidence of any compensation” in the dieters. (more…)



Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

(recently posted at Psychology Today blogs,  
Can we get addicted to food?  Lately, the question has absorbed researchers in fields from psychiatry to diabetes medicine.  We see headlines like “Addictive Tendencies Tied to Obesity” and “Cravings for Junk Food Mirror Drug Addiction.”   We still may not fully understand how food does and doesn’t work like other addictive substances in the brain.  However, it’s clear that some parallels exist, and that these are worth understanding.  If you’re an overeater, though, how does this information affect you?   In other words, do you need to know if you’re addicted to get control of your eating?  And if you are, what then?

To recap the emerging science:  brain scans show similar activity patterns in the brains of those seeking drugs and those seeking foods they tend to overeat.  Also, researchers note correlations between obesity and family addiction history.   Processed foods, with their sugar- and sodium-dense flavor enhancers, have been shown to increase the appetite for more of the same.  Indeed, they are “engineered” to do so.   In decades past, food was not thought to be addictive, and not all current research confirms the addiction hypotheses.  Still, it’s pretty clear that science can confirm what overeaters have long declared:  some foods are hard to stop eating. (more…)