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Addicted to food: observations about one obese man's love of food

Updated on September 23, 2015
This is Markus who is addicted to food. This photo was taken when he was 89 years old and had lost 330 pounds.
This is Markus who is addicted to food. This photo was taken when he was 89 years old and had lost 330 pounds.

Introducing you to Markus (not his real name). Markus is 93 years old.

Markus is addicted to food.

He’s an average American who has lived his life with no care about the amounts of food he eats or how often. Or perhaps he has given it thought, but has been so enslaved by it, that he has learned to accept the way he is. And what food means to him.

From the time I’ve known him, he has always lived a life that revolves around what he puts into his mouth.

What happens when a person is addicted to food

Obesity, illness and disease, lack of mobility, emotional damage are just a few examples of what happens when a person is addicted to food.

In addition, there are other difficulties to being obese:

  • Clothes cost more when you're obese because they have to be made according to a non-standard fit.
  • Markus' electricity costs are double the amount I use, because he cooks food all day long.
  • You may need to employ someone to clean your home because you can't do it yourself.
  • The way you live is restricted. Even moving through tables at a restaurant is awkward because of your size.

Source

Poor health

Markus suffers from:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Heart disease

In 2011 Markus had nine heart attacks in the course of 24 hours.

The last one stopped his heart. Without resuscitation, he would be dead today. It took three tries before his heart restarted but the heart did not work well enough due to the fat constriction in his veins so they did surgery and gave him a pacemaker.

Just after his repeated heart attacks, Markus lost 330 pounds but picked it all up again.

Markus used to walk every day (perhaps this is what has saved him). He can’t even eat properly without heavy breathing and wheezing, often stopping to catch his breath.

With all his health conditions, he’ll still tell you that life is too short to worry about what you eat.

His health deteriorates because he continues eating what and how much he wants. Quite frankly, I am surprised he is still alive at 93. I think he may be one of the very few people who is severely overweight, and has lived to a ripe old age.

This is not usually the case. USA Today reports that severely obese people’s lives are shortened by about 12 years.

Overeating

I have seen firsthand the amount of food he consumes in a day. Picture a soup pot full of food for breakfast. This is the kind of food Markus enjoys:

  • Cream
  • Milk: Markus drinks an average of 10 liters a day. It gets spiked with Nesquick...
  • A 2 liter Coke lasts him an hour
  • Meat (he eats a Texan steak, kebabs and a whole chicken in one meal)
  • Salad
  • Cookies
  • Chocolate
  • Cereal
  • Mealie pap
  • Chips
  • Breads
  • Cold meats
  • Cheese
  • And more.

Markus lives for food. He often says that his goal when he dies, is to say that he has eaten everything in the world.

Markus is not alone in his excessive eating habits. Hugh, another obese man who weighed around 400 pounds, would eat this in a matter of about 5 hours (he says this example is a little excessive because it's what he'd eat after deciding to start slimming down):

  • Ten inch chocolate chip cookies
  • Brownie and rice crispy treat
  • Hot chocolate drink with heavy cream
  • Two bowls of soup
  • Two baskets of bread sticks
  • Three plates of pasta
  • Three to four sodas
  • A few beers
  • One steak sandwich
  • Fries
  • More soda
  • McDonalds large shake
  • 20 Nuggets
  • More alcohol
  • More dessert

Lack of mobility

Markus enjoys traveling, but when he does, he needs to pay for two plane tickets because of his size.

His doctors have restricted his traveling as it’s a risk to his health.

Markus's food for the day

Breakfast for one. This is the amount of food Markus can eat in one sitting.
Breakfast for one. This is the amount of food Markus can eat in one sitting. | Source

Emotional damage

In Markus’ case, I am a mere spectator. I’ve seen what he eats. I’ve heard what he says about food. He keeps talk of food and eating very light hearted, but I wonder at the emotional consequences his serious addiction to food have brought him.

And how his food addiction began in the first place.

Food addiction can stem from emotional damage such as mental or psychical abuse, a deep hurt or trauma that causes you to overeat to deal with pain, even a loss of someone close to you, causing feelings such as rejection.

Not only do negative things cause people to become addicted to food but positive emotions can also.

Some people that associate certain feelings with certain foods can also spiral into food addiction so that they regain the feeling they associated with the food.

And sometimes, people simply enjoy food so much that they begin the self-destructive habit of becoming overly dependent on food.

Source

Food addiction likened to drug addiction

The idea that a person can be addicted to food has recently gotten more support from science.

Experiments in animals and humans show that, for some people, the same reward and pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered by addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin are also activated by food, especially highly palatable foods.

Chocolate, Cheese, Meat, and Sugar are Physically Addictive

Highly palatable foods are foods rich in:

  • Sugar
  • Fat
  • Salt

Like addictive drugs, highly palatable foods trigger feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine. Once people experience pleasure associated with increased dopamine transmission in the brain's reward pathway from eating certain foods, they quickly feel the need to eat again.

The reward signals from highly palatable foods may override other signals of fullness and satisfaction. As a result, people keep eating, even when they're not hungry.

Dealing with food addiction

Dealing with food addition can be just as hard as if you were dealing with a drug addiction.

Although we’ve only just started recognizing food addiction as a serious problem, if you’re addicted to food, finding help may be easier than you think.

Dealing with food addition can be just as hard as if you were dealing with a drug addiction.

Breaking The Food Seduction - by Dr. Neal Barnard

First, don’t think you need to diet. A diet mindset will only fail you.

If you’ve been addicted to food for years, and have been obese for as long as you can remember, you may need to summon up the motivation to start planning how you can achieve your health goals.

So start by thinking about how your weight limits you and what you would do if you had full mobility. How would life be different?

Once you have that picture in your mind, you can start working to fulfill your health goals. For inspiration, read up on the popular Stacey Halprin’s journey to health. Stacey Halprin weighed 550 pounds when she was first interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, and her health was at a dangerous point. She lost 360 pounds and regained her life.

Seek medical and/or psychological help with professionals who understand the seriousness of this condition. Be careful with this step, because not many do. Choose wisely.

Ask your loved ones to support you – not to diet, but to try live a healthier life.

Helpful book to help you understand what you’re doing to your body:

Make small changes every day.

Make small changes every day. Don’t decide to toss every food you love out the door in one sweeping gesture. That is a diet mindset. And you do not want to employ a diet mindset.

Read on how food impacts your body. Then decide to make small changes, like adding more raw food every day. Don’t take away anything, just keep adding more of the good.

Decide to move a little every day. 5 minutes this week, 10 minutes next week, etc. Maybe pay for a personal trainer who will hold you accountable. If you’re too embarrassed to join a gym, a personal trainer can come to your home. Or use a DVD for a home program.

Record your victories.

Don't take on a dieting mindset. It will fail you.

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My final word

Being addicted to food is devastating. I have had my own struggle. I know what it’s about.

It is not life. It is soul destroying and painful.

If you can find help, change your life. It will be worth it.

PS: if you're serious about change...

Here's a FREE resource: The 100 Days to Health program. It changed my life. It can change yours too.

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