01/24/05 — Food addiction will be focus of WATCH health program

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Food addiction will be focus of WATCH health program

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 24, 2005 1:59 PM

Wayne Action Teams for Community Health (WATCH) and its Substance Abuse Task Force will launch a weight-and-exercise management program next week.

The program will target food addiction and breaking patterns of unhealthy behavior. The first meeting will be held on Monday, Jan. 31, from 4:30-6 p.m. in the new auditorium at Wayne Memorial Hospital.

D. J. Coles, a health educator with WATCH, said the program was formed for WATCH patients but has been expanded to include the public. Joyce Kelly, chairman of the Substance Abuse Task Force, will lead a discussion on food addiction during the first session.

"With a lot of our patients who are 300 pounds or more, for many of them, food addiction is probably a component that would be very valuable to start with," Coles said. "And this is a perfect beginning time."

Ms. Kelly said it's not so much that food is an addictive substance, but there is addictive behavior involved.

"Addiction is addiction and it's about something missing in their life," she said. "They don't have a balanced life for whatever reason, whether it plays out in addiction to food, drugs, alcohol or sex."

Every addiction has unique characteristics, she said, including food.

"When you have used food in an addictive way, you no longer recognize hunger, let alone be able to rate it," she said. "It's important to recognize whether you're eating because you're hungry or because it makes you feel good."

She said some foods, like sugar, chocolate, and carbohydrates, actually do something neurologically to the body, creating cravings.

"The answer, therefore, is to avoid the addicting substances and get back to recognizing hunger," she said.

Unlike substances like drugs and alcohol, the food addiction is one of the hardest to break because the body needs it to live, she said.

"Our culture supports this with food rituals and availability," she said. "From childhood, we are given sweets as a reward. Families gather at mealtimes. Most occasions are celebrated with food."

Ms. Kelly said she plans to produce a free handout for the public, which she will have available at the first meeting. The 10-point plan includes changes in thinking, lifestyle, and activity.

She said she has received many requests for seminars on the subject and said she is glad this program is being started for the public.

People who want more information on the weight-and-exercise management program, should call WATCH at 731-6933.