The thought hit me that the way I’ve been treating food for my whole life is the way an alcoholic would treat the beer that’s in my hand now. And I thought, ‘Shit, I’m a food addict.’ Why can’t you just stop eating? And the answer is you know, if I could then I would have done it a long time ago. I would eat and there would be a bus coming, and I just wanted to walk in front of it. I wanted it to hit me while I was eating a bag of something. I believe I’ve always had a problematic relationship with food. I ate six pizzas at an all-you-can-eat Pizza Hut. Oh gee, I’ve eaten spoiled food that’s been sitting there for six days in the bottom of the fridge. Not only did I eat it but I binged on this spoiled food and I was tremendously sick. I suppose my first rock bottom moment was realising that in one week I’d spent $1,000 on fast food. That was the moment of realisation that I had a major problem and I had no control over the food anymore. Due to overeating not only am I in the highest category of morbidly obese, but I’m far beyond it. I am on the disability support pension and emotionally, bingeing on food and the despair that comes from constantly being caught into a cycle brought me to my knees and brought me on the brink of suicide many times. A chocolate pastry that would be a big thing for me. I would go on these day-long safaris and just sort of go from one shop to the next. On my way to work I would go to a bakery, and I would buy maybe a couple of pastries. And go to the next place where I’d buy a piece of cake or a cupcake. Then I might buy a pack of biscuits and just eat the whole pack, buy a bag of chocolates. Maybe buy an ice cream, only to then maybe to half an hour later go into the next shop I might go and buy like yeah, probably salty crackers. I got really mentally distressed because I thought it’s not only the weight gain that I’m seeing but it’s also the kind of mental despair of not being able to stop it and that’s when I realised this is not healthy and I cannot control it and that’s terrifying. Food addiction is having an unhealthy relationship with food and it’s not just talking about one episode of overeating which I’m sure many of us can relate to. It’s having multiple episodes of overeating that it impacts on their daily functioning, their social events. So what we see in mice is that we have foods that are high energy foods, so high in sugar or high in fat. And what we see is that we have changes in the brain that kind of are a similar phenotype to what we see in people using drugs. But when it comes to looking at research in humans it’s much earlier days. Not all individuals who are overweight and obese have a food addiction and similarly those people with a food addiction are not always overweight or obese. Food was a coping mechanism for me to protect myself from some childhood trauma. I search for a sense of ease and comfort from food. If I could try to cure a problem by eating that’s what I’d do. The first time I had an understanding of my addiction was when I walked into the rooms a fellowship of individuals that shared the exact same problem that I have. Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous is a fellowship of individuals who are recovering from food addiction. We welcome all who want to stop eating addictively. It’s very similar to the AA program. My name is Abby and I’m a food addict. We are like an alcoholic with food. FA defines abstinence as weighed and measured meals with nothing in between. No flour, no sugar, and the avoidance of any individual binge foods. I’m here because I have a serious, serious, serious problem with food. I knew what the right thing was to be doing at six or seven months pregnant in terms of what I was eating but I couldn’t do it. I was eating food out of garbage bins, stealing food from supermarkets eating food that people’d left over in parks. I’m like a heroin addict with food, but nobody I knew was talking about it because it wasn’t a drug. It’s socially acceptable, it’s easy to get, I’ve been getting it since I was five years old. I liked a lot of food and liked that feeling of feeling full. It’s good to be here because I probably wouldn’t be alive if I didn’t find the rooms of FA. The courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The treatments for food addiction are quite limited at the moment from a scientific perspective. It would be best suggested to see a health practitioner. But some self-help groups can start the process. So basically I have trouble controlling my food intake. And I think of myself as a bit of a food addict. Perhaps I could choose just one kind of food and stick with that. He’s dubbed ‘The Potato Man’. Andrew has eaten nothing but potatoes for an entire year! The 36 year old embarked on the self-devised diet as a personal quest to break his food addiction. I averaged about, close to four kilos a day, of potatoes, so yeah quite a bit. 95% of my meals were I’d say just plain boiled, baked or mashed potatoes. It was about trying to keep my food as boring as possible so that I would be forced to find other ways to get enjoyment, comfort and emotional support. I had to make my life interesting and get my dopamine hit that way, rather than getting it from food. I had noticed that he was in a really bad place in terms of depression. He was clinically diagnosed with that, and anxiety. And when you love someone and they’re in that position and they can actually think of a way to help themselves when they have any motivation to help themselves at all and have any kind of brainwave, you support that. I think my relationship with food is 180 degrees to what it was. Are you still eating potatoes? Yeah I eat potatoes every day. Most meals have potatoes in them, so. Still not sick of them? No, potatoes changed my life. I can’t get angry at potatoes! I’m not here to argue against moderation but just go find a busy road and walk down it and you’ll see a lot of overweight people and I guarantee you that every single one of them has tried moderation and it has not worked for them. If it is scientifically true then I think it has some substantial policy implications. It might have influential effects on marketing, if we look historically at other types of addiction like smoking addiction, it might follow a similar path. Since being in program I’ve had two relapses. I’d let life get on top of me and the simple stresses that most people get through life normally were enough to push me to the point of sobbing and eating pizza by myself in a car park. That was three weeks ago. I’m very hopeful for the future. Someday I hope to be able to eat like a normal person again.