Overeating: Is it lack of will power, or addiction? Is there a difference?

Starting tomorrow (because who ever starts anything, including a New Year’s Resolution, on New Year’s Day, right?), we will be reading and discussing The Whole Clove Diet, a novel about a woman named Rita Turner that I wrote in part to explore issues related to food addiction.

I’ve always had a strange relationship with food that I only began to understand when I confronted my addictions to alcohol and cigarettes. In order to be able to leave those two substances behind, I had not only to deal with the physical withdrawal, but also with the emotional and psychological effects of letting those drugs go.

I quit both within six months – alcohol in October of 1999, and cigarettes in June of the following year – and one of the many things I learned from that experience was that my relationship with food had many of the same hallmarks as did my addictions to alcohol and nicotine. For example, my inability to stop over-consuming unhealthy “foods” seemed to have nothing to do with willpower. In other areas I had lots of willpower: that didn’t seem to be my problem. It was something different: many different things, in fact.

So I invented Rita, the main character of my novel, The Whole Clove Diet, and I gave her the same kind of issues with food that I had, although the rest of her life was totally different from mine (starting with her age. She’s only 29 when the novel opens. I am… well, older). While I was telling her story over the course of the novel, I was also applying what I had learned about all kinds of other addictions, and trying to explain what I had learned about being addicted to food.

Since the book has been published, several people have told me that they feel the same way Rita does (and the same way I often do) about what they eat, and about themselves. They hate their inability to stick to a diet or a health regimen. They can’t figure out why they keep caving in to food, and they hate how weak it makes them feel when they do.

Well, I don’t think it’s weakness. I think the problem is that most of us aren’t dealing with the underlying issues that cause us to reach for food that isn’t good for us. I think we do it out of spite, or fear, or lots of other emotions, and not because we’re weak or hungry.

So. The reason for this blog series is to talk about what we have in common – and what we have in common with Rita Turner, the protagonist of my novel – when it comes to food.

Here are the guidelines for this “book club”:

1) We’ll read 100 pages of The Whole Clove Diet a week (or so) as a jumping off point for our discussions. You can ask me any questions you want to, and add your own thoughts about what you’ve read. I’ll talk about why I chose to tell Rita’s story the way I did

2) If there are spoilers re: the plot of the novel in later blog posts, I’ll warn you.

3) You don’t have to read the book to participate in this discussion — as long as you don’t stray too far off topic!

4) All comments are vetted by me before they are posted, so if you are trying to sell something, forget it. 🙂

5) This isn’t a diet support network. It doesn’t matter if you are or are not sticking to some food-related new year’s resolution. We’re only talking about unhealthy weight. We’re not trying to do anything about getting rid of it. (You may be on your own, but we’re not here. There are lots of other places to go to for support.)

6) You can read the first 65 or so pages here and then decide if you want to buy the book.

Tomorrow we’ll start reading. In the meantime, Happy New Year!



Filed under Addiction, Book Clubs, Dieting, health, Reading Group, The Whole Clove Diet: A Novel, Weight loss

4 responses to “Overeating: Is it lack of will power, or addiction? Is there a difference?

  1. This is just my opinion. I do at times think it’s a lack of will power most times. I wil be the first to admit, that I have continued to eat, even after I knew that I was full. (Lol) I am in an off and on abusive relationship with food, because it comforts me. Hello, my name is Author Denesha Sheree and I am addicted to food! seriously 🙂 Now I will admit, I have notice what triggers me toward the food, like depression, or when I’m working on a new novel(i tend to nibble), and the fact that everyone in my office brings sweets, does’nt help lol, its something I will have to work on. Thanks for the great post!

    • Welcome, Author Denesha Sheree! You are obviously a kindred spirit! Depression is a food trigger for me too, and so is starting a new writing project. I used to think I could never write anything without a cigarette. But I can. So anything is possible.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. ruth stevenson

    I appreciate having this site to write on and to read. I found Rita altogether too familiar when I read your book, Mary – she was behaving like I do. I agree with Denesha and you, Mary, that we have to find the reason we are overeating or what our triggers are. I often want to snack constantly when I am reading or watching TV, which is quite distressing because I really like reading and there are some really good shows on TV! If I am ‘doing’ something, like housework or cooking, I don’t feel like snacking. I’m wondering if my snacking is a result of needing an excuse other than relaxing to not ‘do’ anything. My dilemma is to figure out how to relax without eating!! I don’t really want to be ‘doing’ something all the time.

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