Top Nutrition Doctor Confesses: My Eating Was Out of Control

There’s a cer­tain amount of exper­tise you can gain from books.  But true mas­tery of a field can only come when you com­bine ivory tow­er learn­ing with grit­ty per­son­al expe­ri­ence.

I heard an inspir­ing sto­ry from a chi­ro­prac­tic col­league when we got togeth­er for an infor­mal 30-year chi­ro­prac­tic class reunion.

My friend has read tow­er­ing stacks of books and sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles on the sci­ence of food, nutri­tion, and the psy­chol­o­gy of eat­ing.   But the pow­er punch behind his knowl­edge comes from his per­son­al strug­gle to over­come 40 years of a com­pul­sive eat­ing dis­or­der.

His par­ents oper­at­ed a French pas­try shop.  The dis­plays of tempt­ing desserts were a child’s dream come true.  But, intro­duced at a ten­der age to the fam­i­ly busi­ness, his rela­tion­ship to food turned into a night­mare.

I spent most of my childhood eating

I spent most of my child­hood eat­ing, and in fact, most of my adult life com­pul­sive­ly eat­ing what­ev­er I want­ed, when­ev­er I want­ed.  And the only rea­son I wasn’t obese most of the time was because I played foot­ball and lift­ed weights.  By the time I was 38, though, and with­out the ath­let­ics I was well, well over 200 pounds.  I was out of con­trol.

I knew some­thing had to change…I couldn’t go on.  But I knew I couldn’t stay on any sort of diet.  So I start­ed read­ing every­thing about food:  our psy­cho­log­i­cal feel­ings about food, dietary approach­es, depres­sion, metab­o­lism …any­thing that came in sight.  I just read every­thing.  I want­ed to be able to live a life that wasn’t gov­erned by the next thing I got to shove in my mouth.

I knew I could nev­er do por­tion con­trol.  It’s still not some­thing I believe in.  I have a psy­cho­log­i­cal need to eat that’s sep­a­rate from hunger.

If what you’re look­ing for is pure­ly weight loss, but you’re hap­py with who you are, how you behave, your social life, your food choic­es, if you’re hap­py with all of that, your chances of chang­ing your life are min­i­mal.  If you’re not in a cri­sis sit­u­a­tion you’re just going to be going through somebody’s pro­gram in order to get a result – once you’ve failed, or even once you’ve been suc­cess­ful, you’re just going to back to doing what­ev­er you like to do.

I work with 11 doctors who eat garbage

I’m at odds with – pret­ty much 80% against — the accept­ed advice giv­en by our estab­lish­ment.  If you look at some­one we imme­di­ate­ly look at their appear­ance – if they’re thin we think they’re healthy. If they’re over­weight, then there’s some­thing wrong with them.  The deci­sion of what to eat has to do with whether it’s fat­ten­ing or not fat­ten­ing.

It’s an absurd way to look at food.  Most peo­ple can sur­vive on non-nutri­tious crap and look good in their body.

I work with eleven doc­tors who eat garbage.  For them it’s all about ‘Well I can eat a lit­tle bit of this (bagel and cream cheese with no nutri­tion­al con­tent) because I’m not too heavy’ – it’s all about per­son­al appear­ance and self-indul­gence.

We’ve been con­di­tioned not to think about any­thing oth­er than what we want.  If we don’t get what we want we have no tol­er­ance for frus­tra­tion.

Hierarchy of basic human needs

This doc­tor helps his patients under­stand their rela­tion­ship to food by out­lin­ing the hier­ar­chy of our basic human needs.

Our most basic human need is for shel­ter and pro­tec­tion from phys­i­cal harm.   For­tu­nate­ly, few peo­ple in this coun­try have to wor­ry about being attacked by packs of wolves.  So this rarely dri­ves our behav­ior.

Once our need for phys­i­cal safe­ty has been met, our next most fun­da­men­tal need is for food.  There are unfor­tu­nate excep­tions, but most of us have nev­er expe­ri­enced true hunger or the fear of not know­ing where our next meal is com­ing from.  Anx­i­ety about food avail­abil­i­ty isn’t a dri­ver of or behav­ior.

It’s the next area of human need that gets us into the most trou­ble – the need for human com­pan­ion­ship.

Inti­ma­cy and social con­nec­tion are innate needs that aren’t tak­en care of well in our soci­ety.  Our fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty struc­tures are weak­ened.  We don’t have an estab­lished social order any more that tells us our place in the world.  We don’t have guides for our behav­ior.

The way our soci­ety works today, the more aggres­sive you are, the fur­ther you can go in life.  Com­pan­ion­ship and social con­nec­tions aren’t as high­ly rat­ed.  With the weak­en­ing of fam­i­ly cohe­sive­ness, hav­ing a strong emo­tion­al base isn’t auto­mat­ic.

Food – always so read­i­ly avail­able to us — is the way we com­pen­sate for our social anx­i­eties, and the lack of basic human inter­ac­tion.

Don’t try to “lose weight”

Don’t try to “lose weight.”  For most peo­ple, that effort is doomed to fail­ure.  Instead, build a deep­er under­stand­ing of the rea­sons you use food to ful­fill human needs which are bet­ter ful­filled in oth­er ways.

That’s one of the key insights that makes his approach so pow­er­ful.

Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

I like cook­ies

New nutri­tion­al sup­port pro­gram grow­ing

Don­na Fish’s arti­cle on how you can pre­vent eat­ing dis­or­ders



About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods.

His website,, provides more information about his approach.

Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.

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