The Disease Concept, Does it Apply to Food?

The disease concept originated by a doctor in the 1930's.  Dr. Silkworth wrote on the concept that Alcoholics had an illness in the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous when it was first published in 1939.  He came to the conclusion that their problem was not just weak will or lack of moral fiber.  Up until the 1930's, this idea had not even been conceived.  It wasn't until 1959 that the AMA declared that alcoholism was a disease.

If the words alcohol and alcoholism were replaced by food and food addiction, the idea fits many people with trouble controlling the amount of food they eat once they start eating certain problematic foods.  These same individuals also have a problem staying away from their trigger foods once they try swearing off them.

The disease of alcoholism has two components, just the way, many believe food addiction does.  The first part of the illness is in the body. The second part is in the mind.

The body of an alcoholic, Dr. Silkworth said, is different from the body of a normal drinker.  He defined the abnormal reaction their body has of craving more alcohol as happening only in the body of the alcoholic.  The normal drinker never craves more.  Webster defines allergy as an "abnormal reaction."

People with food addiction say this definition of having an allergy to food fits them perfectly.  It explains why they are unable to stop or moderate their intake of particular foods when they see others doing it without a struggle.

If the problem were just in the body, the solution would be complete abstinence.  Alcoholics and food addicts would just not drink alcohol or eat their trigger foods and all would be well.  Here is where the baffling part of addiction is.  The second part of the illness centers in the mind of an addict.  Once alcohol or food addicts stop consuming their chemical, they cannot stay stopped! It is reported time and time again that their mind convinces them it is alright to have it.  Because the addict believes what their mind is telling them, they pick up the deadly chemical again without hesitation or even a fight.  They literally believe a lie that this time it won't hurt them.  Therefore will power isn't even called upon as a defense to resist it.  A person does not need to resist something they believe will not be harmful to them.

The solution to addiction must be to find a defense against the insanity of seeing a lie as the truth when it shows up in the mind of an addict.  It is only when a defense is established, that a person will be able to remain abstinent from their chemical over any length of time.

A sick mind cannot heal a sick mind.  Einstein stated that, "we can't think our way out of a problem we thought our way into."  This means that in order to change this old pattern of destructive behavior, a person needs to acquire a new mind.  This was prescribed as a solution for an alcoholic by Dr. Carl Jung, one of the greatest psychiatric minds of all time.  He said a person needs to have a transformation to the extent of a "vital spiritual experience" (p.27 Alcoholics Anonymous) in order to overcome the problem of addiction.  He told his alcoholic patient to go and have a profound spiritual experience.  This patient followed Dr. Jung's instructions and was able to have a spiritual experience large enough to give him a defense against the first drink.    He in essence, had a new mind.   The 12 step process was developed from the very program that Dr. Jung's patient used to get well.  The 12th step states, having had a spiritual experience, as THE result of these steps…"

After having a spiritual experience or a spiritual awakening, the same person who seemed doomed… suddenly reacts normally." The desire to have it was removed.  He was suddenly able to see the truth from the false when the idea came into his mind that he would be able to have his chemical safely, he suddenly could recognize is idea as a lie.

This 12 step process also works as the solution to food addiction.  Food addiction is behind the times. The AMA hasn't yet recognized it as an addiction-yet.  It seems to be following a similar track as alcoholism did.  With the epidemic of obesity so widespread today, the time is right for food addiction to come of age and be recognized an illness. 

There are even food addiction programs that use the 12 step process of recovery for this disease that has not yet been recognized as one.

The most recent program for food addiction has opened in Minnesota.  It is the COR Retreat.  COR uses the 12 steps process, while the clients detox from their drug of choice, food.  After they leave, the successful clients continue to work the 12 steps by attending meetings, getting help from a sponsor and doing service for others.

This disease concept, when applied to food addiction "may mark a new epoch in the annals of" food addition. (p.XXVI Alcoholics Anonymous.)

COR Retreat Residential Program

  • The McIver Center, Wayzata, MN
  • The McIver Center, Wayzata, MN
  • The McIver Center, Wayzata, MN
  • The McIver Center, Wayzata, MN
  • The McIver Center, Wayzata, MN

COR Retreat participants spend five days and four nights together at the McIver Center for Spiritual Development at The Retreat in Wayzata, MN. The McIver Center is located just 15 minutes west of Minneapolis, MN.