Obsessed: My Addiction to Food and My Journey to Health | Diane Smith | TEDxSpringfield

you are fat three little words with the power to change two lives at the time that those words were hurled at me it was a beautiful summer day and I weighed 256 pounds and those words came out of the mouths of one of my very best friends Mika Brzezinski some of you know her because she's the co-host of Morning Joe on MSNBC those words were among the most painful I have ever had to hear in my life but that harsh sounding message eventually led me to the dawn of my new day when I realized that being overweight was not just a personal failure not even a personal failing and not just my own problem I realized that I was part of a trend that has been building in this country a trend that has threatened to rob us of our health and our wealth I'm not going to lie those words were like a slap in the face and Mika and I were so close we've been like sisters we were both news anchors in Connecticut and we had supported each other through all the ups and downs of our careers we'd shared just about everything two friends could share except for one neither one of us had ever felt that we could talk about our struggles and our battles with food we'd been best friends for 15 years and in those 15 years while we were both on TV I had gained 100 pounds Mika said that she wanted to talk to me about it but that talking about my weight had always felt taboo to her a bridge too far until that day in the middle of a family outing of a small boat on Long Island Sound I given her the opening when I said to her you know Mika when you come over it's so hard to know what to cook for you and your family because every morning I watch you on TV and you talk about the obesity crisis in America which at the time I didn't really believe even existed and I said you're always telling people what to eat what not to eat you're picking on all the guys on the set I said you become the food police so when you're coming over I'm paralyzed I don't know what I'm gonna cook what you be accepting to eat and then I said to her I said you know what I said what do you know about being overweight you talk about it all the time I said you don't get it I said being thin is so easy for you look at than you are and that's when she jumped on me and she said Diane she said you think it's easy for me to stay thin like this because if you do you know nothing about the hell that I go through every single day she said I am tortured by food in fact I'm obsessed by food well I couldn't believe what I was hearing I really couldn't believe it I'd known this woman for 15 years she had always seemed the perfect model of fitness and health to me so I was stunned but then it was even more stunned when she turned to me and she said and by the way Diane I said you're fat you're not just fat you're obese well that really hit me at that point I was thinking I'm just gonna toss her over the side of the boat she's a skinny she's skinny I can probably do it with one hand but then she said to me as I was really feeling like this she said your weight is going to kill you and I can't sit by and watch that happen we have to do something about that and then she started talking about her own issue with food which I had never known in all these years that we've been so close she talked about how she felt addicted to food to processed food food that's laced with sugar and salt and fat by the way the food that has helped make our country the fattest on earth she talked about a lifetime of binging and purging and compulsive eating and compulsive exercising to try to lose the calories that she just taken in she talked about eating an entire pizza and then living on lettuce and water for the rest of the week and I could relate I had binge I had over eaten and then I had dieted drastically trying to conform my body to the image expected of a woman on television and believe me I have tried every diet in the book and some that aren't in the books I've been on Weight Watchers I've done Jenny Craig I've done Nutrisystem I've gone off the fast I've done the Scarsdale Diet I've done the South Beach Diet I've done the cabbage soup diet the candy diet the grapefruit diet trust me I could go on there were more but I won't I was such a great dieter that I had dieted my way all the way up to 256 pounds good job meanwhile her disorder had her weighing a super-skinny 116 and the two of us are the same height so here she was at 116 and here I was at 256 and neither of us were healthy so later on in the afternoon I said to her Mika you know you ought to write a book because I was thinking if people knew the truth about her struggles with food then those on ER discussions that she had all the time about what to eat and what not to eat might not sound so much like preaching from some skinny know-it-all so she thought about that about a week later she calls me and she said umm I got us a book deal I said us I said I didn't say you should get us a book project I said you should write a book so she said to me hey she said I'm not going to go out there and bare my soul about all this crazy stuff that I do unless you get in it with me and then she made me a deal she said in the several months that we would have to work on the book together I had to promise to lose at least 50 pounds and she said and you're going to use your portion of the book advance money to do that whatever it takes nutritionists bariatric surgery personal trainer whatever it would take that's how I want you to spend the money so that at the end of this you're healthy well I have to tell you every fiber in my body resisted the idea I did not want to share my battle with my weight to me that must be how people who are alcoholics feel about talking about their alcoholism but then I thought how can I turn her down I mean come on haven't you watched those commercials and seeing somebody who's being paid by Jenny Craig and said oh yeah well if they paid me I could lose weight right so here's the one who essentially was saying on them pay you so I thought she's throwing me a lifeline she is giving me a chance to take back what fat has taken away from my life so I decided to take a leap and I said yes and then I said to her you have to agree to gain some weight it's going to take professional counseling but we have to work on your eating disorders and she agreed so over the course of writing the book we got experts to work with the two of us and her behavior changed and she was able to gain 10 pounds as for me I lost 65 pounds and I decided after doing some research thank you that I wanted to do it but I would call the old-fashioned way through diet and exercise but not a diet not another one of those diets but a whole new way of thinking about food a whole new way of eating and a whole new way of approaching my life and I decided in the very beginning I needed a complete break because after all those diets and after all the reports you read every day in the news about what's healthy what's not healthy I didn't know what to eat at that point so I decided to join a medical weight loss program at a hospital and it started out a 12-week program and you had a visit with a doctor every week and a visit with a nutritionist and it was considered their alternative to bariatric surgery and you're in a class for those 12 weeks so here I was a 256 pounds in a class with 30 people and I was the smallest person in the room and I was also one of three people out of thirty who when we had the trainer about diabetes come in and talk to the class one week she said who's pre-diabetic or diabetic and everyone except the three of us raised their hands and I thought to myself that's my future if I don't change this and make a dramatic change in my life I realized at that point this was no longer about my looks or the size dress I wanted to fit into this was about my life and how I would go forward living it I had been suffering from a bad hip it had led me to a lifestyle that was more and more sedentary and believe me it showed I was so out of shape and so ashamed of my body and my condition I was ashamed so I found a personal trainer now we couldn't have looked more different Here I am middle-aged white lady from the suburbs and here he is an African who escaped his native Ghana because at the age of six he was forced into becoming a child soldier and he had the bravery to get away so here we are I'm talking to him about all my issues and he looks at me he says put your burden down he said that's my burden to carry now all you have to do is show up and we'll get you there and we did I showed up and it worked I lost 65 pounds now it's been 3 years I've gained a little other way back but I realized now that that's a story that's familiar – a lot of you I also realize that my struggle to maintain a healthy weight is ongoing and I also know that being overweight is not the result of a character flaw which is what I always used to think about you know we're learning so much about obesity and biology these days there's new research coming out all the time and so the book that Myka and I ultimately wrote which we called obsessed America's food addiction and my own is really much more than the story of two friends it's really about our nation and that's why I wanted to talk to you about this today because it's way more than our story it's really a call for us to have a real dialogue about food and about weight about disordered eating and the threats they pose to this country and we have to and here's why the Centers for Disease Control tells us two out of every three Americans right now is either overweight or obese more than 12 million children are obese that's three times as many as just in the 1980s if we don't change course half of all Americans are going to be obese in 15 years and in fact a report that just came out in September showed that the obesity rate for African American adults is already 48 percent that's almost one out of two people and on the topic of disordered eating half of high school girls and 1/3 of boys report trying to lose weight using diet pills vomiting laxatives or fasting and then binge eating we already know about the health conditions we know that our thright is hypertension heart disease they are among many of the chronic conditions that are exacerbated by obesity in my lifetime the percentage of Americans with diabetes has increased Sevenfold and we now know that obesity means an increased risk of cancer and there's other consequences for people who are obese including discrimination the effect on the pocketbook alone is worth watching obese people earn less on the job yukon Rudd Center survey for Glamour magazine popular women's magazine as two thousand women to envision a stranger who was overweight and then choose a few words to describe her and here were the words they chose slow undisciplined sloppy and lazy and here's the kicker even the overweight women use those words about other overweight women it's no way to live so what do we do about a city and food obsession in this country well first thing we need to do is recognize and talk about it that's our start and then it's time to stop blaming and shaming ourselves and yes we're each responsible for what we eat for our own behaviors our own decisions but we don't make those decisions in a vacuum we live in a nation that makes eating hard to control we live in a food carnival so this is not just about willpower it's not just about discipline it's not just about push yourself back from the table something larger is going on in our society some of it is the kind of food we consume some of it is the media bombarding us with food advertising 24/7 in addition everything about our modern society that makes it modern also makes it a B so genic right convenient abundant inexpensive food work that requires no physical labor communities where we drive and we don't walk so what we have going on is a crisis of many dimensions it's a health crisis the next generation they tell us may not live as long as their parents if this continues it's an economic crisis the cost of treating conditions related to obesity now cost this nation half a billion dollars every single day that alone can bankrupt us and it's an employer's crisis because it affects worker productivity and absenteeism and it's even a national security crisis according to a group of top military leaders who have united to try to fight childhood obesity they say one out of every four young Americans is what they call too fat to fight so they can't even get into the military so whose fault is it that America is getting fatter by the year is it all about personal responsibility because that's what the food industry wants you to believe or has processed food been deliberately engineered to make us crave it think about the foods we the ones that I said are ultra-processed foods that are packed with sugar salt and fat the foods that we as a society have adjusted in massive amounts in the last 40 years which by the way happens to coincide with the rise in obesity in this country the ugly truth is that millions of Americans are hooked on foods that stimulate the body's internal pleasure system they give us that feeling of reward that calls us back for more it's a biological response and the food Maker's no this they actually have what they call the Bliss point they know just how much sugar salt and fat will set off the pleasure centers in your brain the same areas that light up in an MRI if they give you cocaine and a study that was just released this summer shows that food craving activates different parts of the brain in obese and normal way patients so some people are more prone to this than others when we wrote this book three years ago we were told there's no such thing as food addiction but every day there's more and more evidence coming out suggesting that there is so I say to you we need to take this on we need to talk freely and without judgment about these fierce and fearsome issues about food about fat and about body image we need to have a no-holds-barred conversation with our friends with our family in our schools in our kitchens with Congress and with the food industry to help us all find ways to tackle one of the biggest problems that's standing between us and a healthier America we need to push this subject out of the closet and put it on the table only then are we all going to see the dawn of a brand-new day thank you


  1. Thank you Diane. I shared this with my whole family.

  2. If she stops eating after 3pm, she will lose weight.

  3. This is all wonderful to know, but I still don't know what to And not to eat.

  4. overeating is bad for environment. because of growing too many food. its bad for animals. more of them are grown and faster and if faster and more, their welfare can not be monitored so efectively. also how mouch countries money goes to medcine for overweight people. but, its business. its business to sell as much food as possible and as much medicine as possible? so sad. we must use our heads and demand the change. people need be educated, educated how to make healthy choices. its hard to learn by oneself. it should be in schoold and kindergarden. extensive programs

  5. she has still a lot of work to do. her owerweight is still bad for her health. im strugling every day with my food addiction, so i know, but there is long way to go stil. also for her obviously. but every day we must make decisions for the better. every single day. then the results come

  6. The most awesome and reaching Ted Talk. Thank you

  7. And moderation is not working, as you can probably attest to as you said you gained some weight back, abstinence works and ditching the dairy and animal foods loaded With GMO corn and soy and antibiotics, eating more WFPB plant based can really help with disordered eating

  8. Thank you Dianne for this excellent talk! It is my experience tho that there is such a thing as Food Addiction as I am one but have successfully kept my goal weight for the last 11 years through a 12 Step Program. I have found the solution for me and wanted to pass it on. I love your passion for helping wake our world up about this crisis as it is a HUGE one! Thanks for your work in this world!!

  9. Wow, this was awesome! I'm encouraged and challenged. This has opened my eyes to think twice AND to also be kinder to myself. Eat healthier and take better care of myself! I needed to hear this!!

  10. I think that food addiction is a pile of manure. People believe they have every right to over eat, eat often, eat what they want, and blame the world for their fatness. Blame the world, not what you eat. C'mon, give us all a break.

  11. menopause and hypothyroidism does not allow me to lose but I keep struggling to not gain. They should teach ppl proper portions and proper caloric intake but no one talks about that. I never eat fake food, I never eat any desserts, I avoid sugar like the plague, I havn't eaten pasta, potatoes or bread for years and I am still overweight. I get so angry when i hear people telling me what to avoid. I avoid them already. Now tell me why I am still not losing.

  12. This is so close to the mark. The only thing that bothers me is the presumption of skinny = healthy built into most of this.


  14. I felt this in my spirit.

  15. Excellent presentation. My first response was to dismiss the presenter. I thought she was name dropping. Boy, am I glad I listened to the end. Good message.

  16. This talk is refreshingly open, informative and inspiring! Thank you for sharing.

  17. Diane the truth is a kilo a month

  18. People when you understand ..every kilo overweight reduces your liver capacity by 1.25% …please google

  19. whole foods, plant based, vegan diet- the healthiest way to eat.

  20. You haven’t figured it out yet….plant based doctors….you are still unhealthy at your weight…

  21. Dr. Doug Lisle explains it all…the Pleasure Trap

  22. I don't know how many people this speaker thinks she is going to affect with her advice when she is noticeably still overweight…


  24. Don't waste your time on this. It's just a plug for a book. You won't learn anything.

  25. Wow! Yours passion and mission is infectious and inspiring! What an amazing speech.

  26. Food = MONEY for businesses. It is not in their interest to have us eat less. Plus big pharma needs us all sick to make profit from drugs use to treat the consequences of obesity. Eating meat and dairy kills us. It's the animals revenge Ha!

  27. This was amazing, and right on the money. I'm going to watch it again, and take notes. And the book is going on my amazon list.

  28. I’ve had disordered eating for 50 years it made me crazy depressed. I’m skinny but looks can be deceiving. God bless you.

  29. Cat valente

  30. I'm glad she's bringing this up, but I was hoping to hear some suggestions about how to overcome food addiction

  31. I missed the point where she broke the addiction. Story I heard: she got money, hired a trainer and he helped her lose weight….. where was the part about her overcoming the addiction? I think this was a commercial for her book. Thumbs down!

  32. Ah doh like how yuh start up dat

  33. ive beat booze cigarettes men i lose my mind over sweets! withdrawal is a …..

  34. what a distracting background

  35. Fasting cures everything and makes you overcome food addictions. We need to simply STOP eating all the time!

  36. Really great talk, strikes a chord with me!!!

  37. There is no way in corporate run America, that the food industry will realistically help.

  38. The thing I hear from people as to why they give up the healthy life style is that they do not lose fast enough. We need to think in terms of accomplishment and not speed.

  39. Have you tried Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous- a free 12 step program all over the world…addresses way more than a diet. No flour or sugar in this program.

  40. lmao I like that it comes from Mika

  41. She never explains how she lost weight!

  42. If you're looking for answers, you won't find them here.

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