The Hunger Fix: Managing Your Addiction to Food

There’s a scene in an episode of “Sex and the City,” where Miranda Hobbes has shamelessly salvaged a cupcake from the trash and, half of the thing in her mouth, leaves a voicemail with Carrie admitting her weak moment in case her friend needs that evidence when she admits her into the Betty Ford clinic. Katie Couric played the clip before introducing her guest, Dr. Pam Peeke, internationally recognized expert, physician, and author in the fields of nutrition, stress, fitness, and public health, on the “Katie” show.

Peeke’s latest book, The Hunger Fix (a New York Times bestseller), lays out the science to prove that fatty, sugary, salty processed foods produce in a food addict’s brain the same chemical reaction as addictions to crack cocaine and alcoholism.

Peeke uses neuroscience to explain how, with repeated exposure coupled with life stresses, any food can become a “false fix” and ensnare you in a vicious cycle of food obsession, overeating, and addiction. The dopamine rushes in the body work the same way with food as with drugs like cocaine.

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3 Common Ways Eating Disorders Develop

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and overeating develop in people of all shapes and sizes, from all backgrounds and walks of life. Here are three common ways an eating disorder develops:

Low Self-Image or Self-Esteem

It may seem like common sense: Low self-confidence can lead to someone not caring for him- or herself. But the cause of a negative self-image can run much deeper than just body image. On the surface, an eating disorder seems to be all about weight, but the desire to reach a certain size may be a symptom of underlying self-loathing.

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How a Poor Self-Image & Shame Negatively Impacts Your Relationships

Is shame about your body affecting your relationship? Or do you have a child who has an eating disorder and it's affecting your family?

Shame plays a big role in the feelings related to food and it's important to understand the cause in order to treat it. Read on to learn about the feelings and actions that are often involved in the development of eating disorders and what you can do to help your relationships and family cope.

Why? Why does she think that losing weight is more important than anything else, even her health? Why doesn't she see herself as the bright, talented, athletic, attractive young woman that others see? These are among the questions most frequently asked by family members of a young woman with an eating disorder.

A large part of the answer to these questions can be found in understanding the emotion we call shame and its relation to self image.

More from YourTango: Bad Body Image? 15 Ways To Improve Your Self-Esteem

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Helping Your Child Reduce Self-Harming Behavior

Self-harm, or inflicting physical harm onto one’s body to ease emotional distress, is not uncommon in kids and teens.

In fact, according to clinical psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, in her book Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers, about 15 percent of kids and teens engage in self-harm.

There are many forms of self-harm, including cutting, scratching, hitting and burning. Many kids and teens who self-harm also struggle with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, physical abuse or other serious concerns or psychological disorders.

These kids “don’t know how to verbalize their feelings, and instead, act them out by self-injuring,” Serani writes. Kids might self-harm to soothe deep sadness or other overwhelming emotions. They might do it to express self-loathing or shame. They might do it to express negative thoughts they can’t articulate. They might do it because they feel helpless.

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Children and Teens

Is There a Right Way to Feed a Baby?

This morning I opened "The Four Month Visit" email sitting in my mailbox from my pediatrician’s practice. Under the topics for the approaching visit is “solid foods.”

The blurb reads “Solid food: Since Brandon looks hungrily at your food and tries to grab it, how about starting him on a little solid food? Don't waste your time with cereals, since they offer little added nutritional value. Read more about when, how and why to start your child on solid foods.”

Don’t waste my time with cereals? I spoke with some friends whose doctors told them to start with rice cereal. My mother claims my preemie brother was put on rice cereal at five weeks to gain weight. She says I was put on rice cereal when I was consuming 32 ounces of formula, which was probably around four months since I was quite the plump baby. Fast forward some 32 years later -- my nanny, a 50-something Trinidadian, asked when we would be starting rice cereal.

Confused by the contradicting information, I set out to learn the intricacies of the rice cereal debate.

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Community: The Kinship of Thinspiration

From beneath her beautifully tiny, A-cup breasts, her smooth ribs, covered only by a thin layer of white flesh, peeked out, taunting me, reminding me of what I could never be.

Yet, at the same time, they gave me a glimmer of empty hope that one day my ribs may protrude like hers. One day, my hip bones may sharpen and stick out, my collar bone may reveal itself to the public, my thighs may one day stop touching.

At 13, I found myself sitting in my living room, my eyes glued to the screen of my family’s clunky, black desktop as I fantasized what it would be like to be this 18-year-old goddess whose long, wavy dirty-blonde hair hung limp and dry from her scalp in that sexy, I-don’t-care fashion, framing her thin, pale, drawn-out face, made paler by her piercing, bright blue eyes encased by her dark bags and heavy black eyeshadow.

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Emotional Eating: Unstuffing Our Faces & Emotions

Food is a wonderful thing! There are so many tastes, so many varieties, and quite frankly, we can’t live without it. We typically eat to satisfy hunger, to provide the proper nutrition and sustenance needed to get through our day.

However, we sometimes eat to relieve stress or reward ourselves.

While this behavior is not necessarily problematic or harmful when done in moderation, we have to be careful not to cross the line. It’s perfectly acceptable to reward ourselves with a special treat, or to indulge in something savory after a hard day.

It’s when this type of eating becomes a coping mechanism that we find ourselves being emotional eaters.

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Brain and Behavior

Why Do We Overeat?

Is it what we eat? How we eat? How we learned to eat?

Many Americans are asking these questions and searching for the answers as they battle thickening waistlines and pounds that just don’t seem to come off.  And many watch in alarm as our children struggle with the same issues of obesity as American adults.

In recent posts, I have discussed how the media has focused attention heavily on what we eat.

And certainly the food that we put into our bodies plays a significant role in how much we weigh. 

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5 Signs Your Teen Needs Mental Health Treatment

Teens go through emotional ups and downs all the time. Hormones are changing, life can seem overwhelming, and without much life experience, a young adult can feel misguided. When parents are busy working, or a natural separation from family occurs, teens may turn to friends instead of parents.

Peer support can be helpful for certain issues. But when the symptoms of a mental illness are present, more than a good friend is needed.

The problem is, teens may not understand what the feelings they experience mean. As a parent, it's important to stay connected so that you notice any changes or any symptoms of a mental illness in your child.

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The Psychology of Eating Disorders

According to statistics provided by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), there are up to 24 million people in the United States who suffer from eating disorders. This includes people of all ages and both genders and can result in premature death or other serious health problems.

Although common perceptions regarding eating disorders involve a belief that the afflicted person has a desire to be thin, more often than not, there are other underlying causes behind an eating disorder.

Several factors can cause the onset of an eating disorder, or turn negative eating habits into a full-blown condition. These causes can include certain personality traits and psychological factors, high-stress events, abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and difficult family life.

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Eating Disorders

With Obesity, A New Disease is Born: Its Profound Implications for Psychiatry

A new disease was discovered the other day -- or rather, one was created.

There is no “lab test” for this disease, nor is there an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan that can detect it. It is diagnosed on the basis of a mathematical formula that many believe is simplistic and poorly-validated.

Sometimes this “disease” results in metabolic abnormalities, sometimes not.

Many clinicians view the decision to recognize this disease as another example of “medicalizing” a problem stemming from the person’s “life-style” -- not from a specific pathological process. In fact, the declaration that this condition is a “disease” was the result of a vote among a group of doctors at a medical meeting in Chicago.

In effect, this condition became a disease through a show of hands.

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Can We Stamp Out Thinspiration on Twitter? Torri Singer Thinks We Can

Pro-anorexia (or "pro-ana") groups have been around online for over a decade, and we first discussed them here five years ago. More recently, with the rise of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, these groups have found a new life. Often associated with the label "thinspiration," these groups elevate the idea of being thin to a virtual religion.

People who are all about thinspiration engage in disordered eating in order to be as thin as possible -- a common symptom of anorexia. But they don't see it as a disorder or a problem, making this an insidious problem.

Nonetheless, such eating and self-image problems can result in health problems, even putting the individual's life at risk.

Some people have sought to get common words or terms that people engaged in thinspiration use banned from social networking websites. One such woman is Torri Singer, a broadcast journalism major who has recently begun a petition to get such terms banned from Twitter.

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