Health Team

Author: Addiction fuels obesity

Posted September 15, 2010
Updated September 25, 2010

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— Health care leaders often try to fight the obesity epidemic with nutrition and exercise, but a local author says they need to look at another cause: addiction.

Jennifer Joyner, an assignment editor at WRAL News, chronicled her lifelong struggle with obesity in a book released this month called "Designated Fat Girl." The memoir recently made the top 10 list of book recommendations in a recent issue of Oprah Winfrey's "O" magazine.

Joyner says she was driven to write by a realization: "I didn't just simply have a weight problem. I had a food addiction."

She tried many diet and exercise plans, but Joyner says problems went much deeper than learning self-discipline.

"You're not 336 pounds because you like pizza too much. There's something else going on," she said.

When Joyner had her second child, her weight problems became a serious threat to not only her life but her son's life too.

"I had Type 2 diabetes. I had given birth to a 12-pound baby, because I couldn't get my gestational diabetes under control," she said.

At 34 years old, Joyner was faced with a lot of health problems because of her weight.

WRAL editor discusses fighting obesity WRAL editor discusses fighting obesity

"Doctors were going to put me on daily insulin shots, so I was looking at a lifetime of being treated for diabetes and hypertension," she said.

Joyner turned to gastric bypass surgery to force herself to stop over-eating. She says she found that although the surgery physically prevented her from eating too much, she still had the urge "to abuse food."

"I realized, 'Wow, there's something really serious going on here,'" Joyner said. "This isn't about calories and fat grams. This is about trying to hurt myself. This is about trying to self-sabotage, and I had to find a way to stop that."

She has to keep an eye on herself to keep the self-destructive part of the addiction from manifesting itself in other areas of her life, she says.

She has lost 153 pounds since the surgery, and her diabetes and hypertension are gone.

Writing the book was therapeutic, Joyner says, as well as an effort to help others – the morbidly obese, those who judge them too harshly and doctors who need to realize that addiction is part of obesity.

"I've had people tell me, 'I will never look at an overweight person the same again now that I've read this,'" she said. "And that is the highest compliment that can be paid."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • john283594 Sep 22, 2010

    Even with the surgery, she still looks very heavy. I'm thinking an exercise regiment along with a high protein/low carb diet would have helped her more...

  • knowitall Sep 22, 2010

    It is all about self control. You choose to eat and choose to be fat. I live one day at a time going through this battle over and over. Sometimes I win, but often times I lose. It takes exercising at least 5 days a week and a very strict diet of fresh fruits and veggies to lose weight. Very few people want to live this way. It is just easier to let it all go.

  • Stormy13 Sep 22, 2010

    An addiction is an addiction, whether it be to drugs, cigs, alcohol or food, etc. You have to really want to quit any of them to be succesful. I quit cigs over 11 yrs. ago, now I am going to the gym at least three times a week, out walking when not at the gym and controlling portion sizes of all that I eat. I have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetic and high cholestrol (sp?). With my determination and the help from the Lord above, I WILL BE SUCCESSFUL!

  • imp1988 Sep 22, 2010

    WOW, I didn't realize there were so many Gods on earth. Nice judgements people.

  • donnaferguson Sep 22, 2010

    I had gastric bypass at 46 years old after many years of struggling with diets that just did not work. I honestly feel it was a combination of bad habits, no exercise AND genetics. My father had Aunts who were morbidly obese. After losing 270 lbs my quality of life has improved dramatically. See my transformation at

  • HowManyOunces Sep 20, 2010

    "You might think that people are large or obese b/c they have no self control but that is not always the case. Some people work out religiously, follow a strict diet by a nutritionist and still are unable to lose weight."

    Sorry, but very few people have this problem. If they are truly limiting their calorie intake and are increasing calorie consumption then they WILL lose weight. Most that are doing what you are stating and not losing weight are cheating their diet and themselves.

  • monkeyboy Sep 17, 2010

    "The people commenting here exemplify the problem of ignorance/lack of education along with an inability to put yourself in another's shoes. You people think the way YOU experience things-in this case eating/dieting-is the way it is for everyone. You're the standard for everyone on the planet? Despite vast anecdotal/scientific evidence to the contrary, you want to believe it's all about "self-discipline."

    You don't have to know what it's like for someone else, you just have to fathom/accept that people, our physiologies, and our realities can differ widely. What's true for you about ANYTHING isn't true for other people. That's why making judgments of any kind shows not just a lack of compassion but ignorance and a closed mind.

    Eating and weight is physiological, emotional, and cultural. It cannot be simplified to "self-control." If you were able to lose weight with simple measures, good for you. Now find some compassion for the struggles that people face in life-no one chooses them."

  • monkeyboy Sep 17, 2010

    "Author: Addiction fuels obesity"

    MY GOD!!! what insight!!! nobel prizes all around, please! no one in the history of mankind has ever realized this before!!

    wow. what pap. and the shame is that somehow this woman is gonna make money off of this...

  • mad_dash Sep 17, 2010

    Fisherphil - who cares if you have a few typo's.. It must be nice to be as perfect as "HillBilly" is!

  • CestLaVie Sep 17, 2010

    Yes, just about all processed foods are addictive. The food industry is purposely sabotaging your health, all in the name of THEIR profits. This includes that twinkie right on up to a Big Mac. Sugar & fat & carbs are tinkered with in processed foods. Why do you think there's such a long list of ingredients on labels, a majority of which you don't understand or can even pronounce?! Neither the food nor medical industries want you to know any of this, so you'll keep buying into ONLY what THEY want you to know.

    You do have a brain, don't you? Use it. Don't swallow all the advice coming down the pike. You'll find there's a lot of information out there to show you a more natural way of eating, which will benefit your health in the long run. Check it out. Your doc or ins co. or Big Gov or friendly grocery store or the line at fast food places are the LAST place to look for answers.