Weight Gain and Addiction

There is a quite a close link between weight gain and addiction. Often people self report after putting down cigarettes or other addictions they take up eating sweets or wanting to eat more. It’s very natural and is quite a common experience. Some people I’ve met over the years have stated to me it’s also a reason – or excuse if you will – of why they will stay on drink or drugs. Some alcoholics use alcohol as a means of staying thin – despite causing massive damage to the body and death in some cases.

Many of the people I’ve worked with over the years have told me they’ve struggled with food at some point of their life also – either being underweight, worried about weight or had significant issues regarding eating.

We all know the usual tag line of “calories in calories out” for weight loss – which holds some truth. However, if you only drink alcohol and eat nothing you can lose weight. Alcohol in all it forms hold very little else except sugar, no protein and no fat. Most people who gain weight from drinking also consume food in regular amounts too. If you are eating normal amounts of fat and protein that will stick to your body like glue if you’re a regular drinker and if you eat more than you should your weight could balloon.

I must state that some of the consequences of drinking to stay thin can be deadly or irreversible. Drinking without eating can cause permanent damage to your skin resorting in premature aging and cause life-long problems to health.

Recent studies have shown that children who have abnormalities within the function of dopamine in their brain are much more prone to pathological overeating and obesity . This abnormality in dopamine function within the brain is very similar to ADHD +ADD, which is another disorder closely associated with lower levels of dopamine. See here for more details .

ADD and ADHD overlaps with addictive disorders, they share a lot of characteristics with each other and many addicts in their adulthood reflect that they may have had un-diagnosed ADHD or ADD. It’s hard to diagnose once you’ve taken a lot of drugs or have just recently given up drugs or alcohol as an adult.

Treatment for ADD or ADHD is usually medication, however there are side-effects from these medicines and you should only get these medications from a doctor. There is a cause for concern regarding some of the medications, especially in addiction. Never abuse your medication or else your relationship with that drug will be forever complicated. I’ve seen within my own client group people who’ve abused their medication never really finding the right solution in medication ever again and have to work on alternative means of coping a lot more. Please discuss with your doctor about medication and only take as prescribed.

Some people debate that some of the medications are very similar to amphetamines or methamphetamine, this is partially true, but consider this H2O is water, H2O2 is Hydrogen peroxide. Water = lovely life giver, Hydrogen Peroxide = dangerous, corrosive, bleach.

Being Overweight is a life-long problem

If you’ve ever been significantly over-weight or obese, you’re likely to develop a life-long problem with weight-gain. A lot of traditional diets and advice have absolutely awful results. On average most diets fail 98% of the participants over the course of a year – even with pharmacological help like Orlistat.

There are programs of self-help groups such as Over-eaters Anonymous and Compulsive Over-Eaters Anonymous that treat eating-styles or weight gain as a disease and the life long treatment of it is a spiritual discipline towards attendance of groups. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea though, some people don’t want to go to meetings and mix with people of the same disorder nor can they relate to the idea of there being any spirituality in their life. Members often tasked with how to pray for help, finding out who or what is a god for them – it can be really confusing for some people. There’s also no strong evidence to support that their approach works over other approaches either.

How to Build up Dopamine Naturally?

12 Step groups have been woven into some more modern comprehensions of addiction and compulsive behaviour. Some therapists particularly biased towards 12 Step meetings state that they give people who have a low level of dopamine a slight manageable hit of dopamine by meeting people and fostering a sense of connection. This is true, that through fostering a sense of community and support that people will get a release of rewarding chemicals in the brain. As these chemicals or rather neurotransmitters are activated by low-level stable interactions they are more stable and thus help recondition the brain’s responses to simulation.

You might be thinking, well, if it’s just the community and support can’t I get that from anywhere? Well that is true, but you might lack the guidance you will get from being around others who’ve experienced it. Often the wildcard that’s thrown down to thwart any alternatives is “spirituality”, that it’s a spiritual program for a spiritual disease. I’m personally not sure, that’s more in the field of parapsychology.

The problem I can see is that with hanging around with people who haven’t been affected directly by addictive disorders is that they might not recognise the issues you’re going through – a good 90% of adults in most English speaking countries drink alcohol on a regular basis too, which means you might get misled. If you’re grappling with addiction for the first time there are certain unique stressors that you’ll be exposed to that other people won’t.

Dopamine Diet?

You may have heard that certain foods can give you dopamine hits, certain foods do indeed work on the brain in multiple ways. There is opioid peptides found in dairy milk, cheese and bread – might explain why pizza is so universally loved. These chemicals in food produce hits of feel good chemistry that some of us may be unwittingly robotised towards picking up again.

The term Dopamine Diet refers to a diet that is dopamine stable – so sugar and ice cream is out. A dopamine diet is very similar to low-carb diet, but rather than the absence of of carbs they use much stable carbs such as brown rice, brown bread and potatoes. Potatoes, that are not chips or crisps, can be quite good for your brain. Some research suggests that potato starch may be beneficial for your brain and help lead to killing off cravings for other foods.

A man in Australia, Andrew Taylor, ate nothing but potatoes for a year to cure himself of his “food addiction” , he achieved this in 2016 and has kept the weight off since:


I’m no expert of dieting or nutrition, there is a lot of polarised view points on eating and dieting with hugely conflicting advice. It might require a lot of personal experimentation to find out what works for you well over time. Having said that, I’m sure no diet includes eating pizza, chocolate and drinking large amounts of alcohol.

Good News – Giving Up Alcohol Makes You Lose Weight

The good news is that giving up alcohol, or cutting down to minimal drinking, makes most people lose weight. One of the first visible signs someone has made changes in their life regarding drinking is that they lose weight. It’s all a part of being healthier.

Being in the midst of an addictive disorder can be incredibly life threatening, you can die very quickly and suddenly in addiction, you are much better off trying to control weight gain than taking drugs or drinking. If you’ve never developed a eating disorder before chances are you’ll only be dealing with small changes in weight and behaviour. If you’ve ever had a previous eating disorder you might struggle a bit more.

Most important thing to do is get help and share your experiences with professional people who understand.

Published by Dylan Kerr BA ACAT FDAP DipHE MBABCP

Mr Dylan Kerr Addictions Counselor Bachelors in Clinical Counseling (Hons) Advanced Certified Addictions Therapist Member of the British Association for Behaviour and Cognitive Psychotherapist Member of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Practitioners HeDip Health-care HeDip Psychology of Addiction Dip Counselling Diploma in Arts Therapy Diploma in Transactional Analysis CSAT III Dylan Kerr is a Certified Substance Abuse Therapist who is qualified in Counseling, Psychology of addiction from Leeds University and Healthcare from Birmingham City University. Dylan Kerr has been a senior Therapist at the River Rehab, Lead Therapist at Lanna Rehab in Chiang Mai and Head Counselor of Hope Rehab in Siracha. As well as working in Thailand for 7 years, Dylan has also been the on-tour counsellor for the the Rock band ‘The Libertines’. Dylan is now resident counsellor at an Asian rehab. Dylan has experience of working within the music industry supporting acts in therapeutic needs. As well as working around the world Dylan has over 13 years experience delivering substance use disorder treatment at various agencies around the UK. He is skilled in motivational interviewing, CBT, RET and guidance around 12 step philosophies. Dylan has worked with a broad client base and establish the rapport needed to effect change and sustainable progression. Dylan wishes to start this blog to help educate people on his observations within this field and debate the nature of work in the addictions field.

2 thoughts on “Weight Gain and Addiction

    1. Often eating habits aren’t viewed as addictive disorders, unless a person specifically identifies it to be so. There’s a real question to ask about it though, are people who struggle with weight really struggling with a form of addiction? If so, the treatment of such could be adapted a lot more to suit this approach – other than just changing eating habits. For example a heroin addict can’t just change their heroin style of using, they need to abstain and replace it with something else.

      Liked by 1 person

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