If you're a dieter who feels that you've been on every weight loss plan in the world without permanent success, "Fat Boy Thin Man" author Michael Prager has a message for you: Food may not be your only problem. In an exclusive interview, he told us about his own journey from obesity to a healthy weight.
Michael recalls struggling for years with food. Initially, he rejected the idea that he might be a food addict.
"I didn't understand what food addiction was," he recalls now.
"Unlike with drug addiction or alcoholism, there wasn't a culture-level acceptance or understanding of food addiction, and I didn't know any people who self-identified as food addicts."
Not everyone who struggles with weight is a food addict. Michael defines food addiction as "a biochemical sensitivity to a substance, just as alcoholism is a biochemical sensitivity to alcohol."
And although food can vary from apples to sugar-free cookies to fried Twinkies, "the basic similarity exists: Some people can ingest a substance without developing an unhealthy attachment, and some people can’t," points out Michael.
But although people may overeat for various reasons (cultural, emotional, bad habits), food addicts have this in common: They can't stop.
Michael emphasizes that no perfect diet exists. In his case, he links his tendency to binge-eat to a period of time when he follows the Atkins low carb diet.
That regimen allows one to eat all one wants of the “right” things, which include protein and fat, and none of the “wrong” things, which include fruits, vegetables, and grains. This changes the terms of deprivation common to diets from “you can only have so much” to “you can have all you want.”
Quite literally, I would make six-egg cheese omelets “smoothed out” with heavy cream. Or broil chickens I’d had split down the middle. Or do up apackage of Hebrew Nationals. Or, broil a pound of bacon and boil adozen eggs to be mixed with dollops of mayo. I might not finish it all, but I’d have my fill, and make more when I felt like it.
Although Michael lost weight on the ketogenic high fat diet plan, he eventually gained back all the weight. He calls it "sanctioned binging. It is the diet’s peculiar chemistry that allows weight loss under those conditions."
As part of his emphasis that diet only does not work to take off the weight for food addicts, Michael notes: "I tell people that I’m maintaining a 155-pound loss for 20 years without having gone on a diet and without having had surgery."
Although he did have to change how he ate and what he ate, Michael makes this statement because "my weight was the sum of more than my eating habits, so a solution was going to have to arise from more than eating changes"
Michael credits professionals as well as peers for guiding him to the recovery that he has now achieved. From his highest weight of 365 on the morning of Oct. 21, 1991, when I checked into an eating-disorders unit on Long Island, to his current maintenance weight of 205 and 210, Michael has learned to do what it takes to care for himself.
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