I am grateful to Evelyn Kocur of the Carb-Sane Asylum for sending me a copy of her forthcoming e-book, Restriction Addiction. According to Evelyn, the book is:
about how food addiction is really eating disordered behavior brought on by restricting food, not by foods causing physical dependence like alcohol and some drugs.
I’m pretty excited about this! I think that Evelyn and I have meaningful differences about our understanding of addiction in general and food addiction in particular, but I think the link between diet restriction and disordered eating (and obesity) deserves a lot more attention than it has received. I’ve written before about what I call the dark side of dieting … it’s what led my weight gain to look an awful lot like the graph on the right:
Re our differences, I’ll be sharing more in the future after I finish reading Evelyn’s book, but I believe the following from Marc Lewis is fundamental to the issue. Lewis is a former drug addict and now neuroscientist who blogs at Memoirs of an Addicted Brain. He recently participated in a conference organized by the Dalai Lama on Craving, Desire and Addiction and he writes regularly against the disease model of addiction.
Just before the holidays, Lewis announced that he’s planning to write a book about a new model of addiction. His premise:
This book makes the case that addiction results from accelerated learning — the acquisition of thought patterns that rapidly self-perpetuate because of the brain’s tendency to become sensitized to highly attractive rewards. I see this as a developmental process, accelerated by a neurochemical feedback loop that’s particular to strong attractions. Like other developmental outcomes, addiction isn’t easy to reverse, because it’s based on synaptic restructuring. Like other developmental outcomes, it arises from neural plasticity and uses it up at the same time. Addiction is definitely bad news for the addict and all those within range. But the severe consequences of addiction don’t make it a disease, any more than the consequences of violence make violence a disease, or the consequences of racism make racism a disease, or the folly of loving thy neighbour’s wife make infidelity a disease. What they make it is a very bad habit.
I am completely with Evelyn that the recent tendency to attribute overeating to addiction is very problematic. But unless your definition of addiction requires severe withdrawal to a physical substance (mine doesn’t), then I think there is something meaningful to be teased out. Stay tuned!