The epidemic of obesity
Norris Chumley: From obesity to joy
in the developed world threatens to lower life expectancy
and add yet more burdens
to already strained health care systems around the world. Like many others who don't suffer from weight problems or food issues, I find it hard not to think that people who eat too much and exercise too little have only themselves to blame, even though it's clear that obesity is, like alcoholism
, an addiction, requiring a holistic, multilayered therapeutic response
rather than moralizing or finger-wagging.
The pressures and difficulties of food addiction have been brought home to me not only by Norris Chumley's The Joy of Weight Loss
, which Lantern published and which has sold more copies this month than in any other month during its five-year lifetime, but by a new book, from a small press, called Eating the Shadow
Eating the Shadow
tells the story of author CL Watson's brother, Carter, who turned from being a chubby kid into being a 400-pound invalid, and how his mother, siblings (raised with an alcoholic father), and friends tried to help this man who found it hard to accept his condition or the advice of others.
Ultimately, tragically, they fail, and Carter dies from complications stemming from obesity. In the meantime, however, we get startling, funny, moving and heartfelt insights into a family struggling with the patterns of addiction and denial, and of the power of food and sugar to smother every raw and necessarily painful emotion. Meanwhile, the extended family is forced to deal with the schizophrenia of one of Carter's nieces, another nephew's night terrors, and financial difficulties that bring home the sheer cost (both emotional and financial) that weigh upon a family when there is dysfunction and illness at its heart.
The moral of Eating the Shadow
is that it is possible to intervene in the addictive process (whatever that addiction might be) and stop your loved one from dying, but that it has to be done early, and massively, and with total family support. It remains true of this, as everything else, that while the addict must first recognize that they have a problem, their road to recovery cannot be walked in isolation and that, ultimately, it is about us and our relationships with each other rather than our relationship with food.