I know that at times I have been judgmental towards smokers. “Why don’t they just quit?” I think to myself.
“Um, why don’t you just push yourself away from the table?” I’m sure some of them would have fired back.
“It’s not the same!”
But is that true?
There are differences, of course, mostly because nicotine is one of the most physically addicting substances out there that’s legal. Food is more complicated. Some foods do cause physical reactions in the body that are similar to those caused by consuming other substances we know are physically addicting. But scientists say these foods don't meet all the scientific criteria for a physical addiction.
I think of it as being like the difference between a food intolerance and a food sensitivity. Science distinguishes between them but, in both cases, you eat a certain food and you feel bad. Likewise, you treat them both by avoiding that food. At some point, the medical differences don't matter to most people.
And here's another way that beating addiction is like losing weight:
What's the success rate for quitting smoking? It's pretty good, right? I mean there are all those programs and drugs and I know a couple of people who have done it. Maybe your chances before Chantix sucked, but now they are probably over 70%!
Actually, according the American Cancer Society, your chances of quitting smoking from any one attempt are 7%. Drug programs have an average success rate of around 25% (so similar to other addiction cure rates) but combining drugs with therapy can increase that (thought they don't say by how much).
So with both addition and obesity, you have a problem that is very intractable to treatment that succeeds far, far less often than it fails but with the public thinking the success rate is significantly higher than it is or at least acting like they think that.
There are other aspects of having a weight problem that remind me of addiction. That's the part where sometimes to beat the problem, you have to be a little bit nuts.
If you are like me, the losing part is somewhat easy. You put your laser focus onto the goal and you head towards it like no tomorrow. Sure, sometimes you are so hungry you go to bed at 9:00 pm (or earlier) because you’ve used up all your calories for the day and you can’t take the stomach grumbling and starvation any more.
But for those with obsessive tendencies, the goal is what counts and every pound lost just reinforces the dieting behavior. In this way, you could say we’re “addicted” to losing weight. But more it’s likely that we’re nuts. (Lay person nuts, not clinically nuts.)
It’s the same impulses that causes us to do things like ride our bike in the rain and crash and miss the rest of the season. Because bike riding was on our training plan that day and we were bound and determined not to “wimp out." Sane people would stay home because the risks outweigh the rewards but we aren't sane. It's that sort of insanity that really helps you succeed at losing weight and when I lost that insanity (when it came to weight, not when it came to doing other dumb things), is when dieting stopped being effect for me to lose weight.
This is dieting’s dark side. The side that leads to anorexia and bulimia in some.