Monday, May 16, 2011


     My husband, daughter Alice, and I are planning to drive from New Hampshire to Boulder, CO in June to deliver a car and, get this, we're already fighting about whether we'll be stopping at McDonalds. Alice got furious when I said we'd bring a cooler full of healthy food so we wouldn't be captives of fast food on the highways.  She yelled, "WHAT? Are you nuts? That's half the fun of the trip!" Now I'm worried. I know what it's like to take a long car trip with someone who's always wanting to stop at the next bad food venue. My mom was like that.
     My family took lots of long car trips together in the late 60's and the 70's. I loved riding in the backseat with my sister, my book, my knitting. It was great. The only thing I hated was all the stopping. Sometimes it was for the bathroom, but lots of times it was for food. "Didn't we Just Eat?" I'd be asking. Next thing we'd be piling out for ice cream at Howard Johnsons. Two hours later we'd be stocking up on pecan candy at Stuckey's.
     My mother was a food addict. Sweets were her food of choice, but fatty salty foods also played their roles. Her problem affected the whole family. From my first memories on she suffered from migraines, kidney stones, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, and finally cancerthese are all linked to food addiction. She died at the age of  61.  I could only think of her yesterday as I listened to Dr. Mark Hyman describe the behavior of food addicts in his 23 minute lecture on  the Causes of Food Addictions.  It explains so much. In it Hyman goes over some of the indicators of a food addiction:

  • Substance is taken in larger amount and for longer period than desired
  • Persistent desire or repeated unsuccessful attempts to quit
  • Much time/activity is spent to obtain, use, or recover
  • Use continues despite knowledge of adverse consequences 
  • Tolerance (marked increase in amount; marked decrease in effect)—in other words you have to keep eating more and more just to feel “normal” or not experience withdrawal
  • Characteristic withdrawal symptoms; substance taken to relieve withdrawal
     Having Alice pitch a fit about not eating McDonald's on a trip that's six weeks away, makes me worry a little. Could she be on her way to becoming an industrial food addict? Certainly McDonald's has done what it can to encourage that sort of "loyalty", but what part did we, her parents, play? We hardly ever eat fast food, BUT when Alice was 3, 4, and 5 years old, we drove from New Hampshire to and from central Mexico. That's a five day trip in one direction and we stopped at McDonald's for many meals because they had Playlands where we could let Alice get some exercise. That came back to haunt us last night as we watched the part of Super Size Me  (0:27:43) where Professor John F. Banzhaf III, talks about Brand Imprinting for Later Actualization in Life. This was something the tobacco industry came up with. They thought kids who smoked candy cigarettes would associate those feelings of fun with smoking as adults and the brand of cigarettes on that box of candy would come back to them from the recesses of their minds. According to Banzhaf, Playlands and Happy Meals are like candy cigarettes: "Kids remember the warm feelings of playing, of getting the toy, of being with mom and dad, and it's going to carry through." OMG, was it carrying through to Alice yesterday when we were talking about the trip to Colorado? What a creepy thought.

In Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock starts to exhibit the signs of addiction after only two weeks of eating a diet solely of McDonald's food. (I wonder how long it would take for a 3-5 year old.) He feels lethargic and depressed between meals. Only immediately after eating does he briefly feel great. After three weeks, his liver, which was healthy when he started, begins to look like an alcoholic's on a mega-binge.  The point is, food addiction is real and real serious. So do I worry about Alice? Yes. Will we be stopping at McDonald's on the way west this summer? Not if I can help it.

If I can't help it, maybe I have some questions to ask about my own attractions to food. What about you?

Here's a section of the Yale Univ. Food Addiction Scale
They ask you to circle all the following foods you have problems with:

Ice cream 
White Bread 
French Fries 
Soda Pop 
None of 
the above 

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