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'Lbs.' looks food addiction in the face

(Courtesy of Matthew Bonifacio)

You want to know what it's like to be addicted to food?

Watch this movie called "Lbs."

"Lbs." is about a guy named Neil Perota, who, at 27, lives at home with his Brooklyn-Italian folks. His mom likes to cook, and Neil loves to eat. So much so that he weighs more than 300 pounds. His heart attack days before his sister's wedding sets the story in motion; Neil leaves home, telling only one childhood friend where he's going. He buys a remote lot with a couple of decrepit trailers in the boondocks of upstate New York. During his year living there he loses weight. I'm not going to spoil the story by sharing further details. Nor am I going to critique the film as a film; leave that to the critics.

But better than any other movie I've seen (including Super Size Me, which debuted at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival the same year "Lbs." did), "Lbs." makes you understand what it feels like to be fat and resigned to being that way. It shows what life is like when food is the most important thing in your life and holds more power over you than anything else. "I love food -- it fills the void," Neil says.

Refreshingly, "Lbs." points no especial finger at a fast-food conspiracy. In fact, some of Neil's most beloved foods come from his mother's kitchen or from diner-style restaurants with signs for $3 "special breakfast" and the like. (Though he does eat far more than his share of fast food, too.) These are the places he goes when he's feeling bad. And he feels bad an awful lot.

Much of the film is, by design, painful to watch. Neil's gorging binges are horrific, especially as he appears helpless and out of control as he shoves food in his mouth.

"Lbs." does a credible job of likening food addiction to drug addiction, and seeing the movie may persuade some who regard obese people as spineless creatures who simply lack will power to reconsider. There's lots of psychology behind Neil's foodaholism.

Neil is played by Carmine Famiglietti, who wrote the screenplay with director Matthew Bonifacio. Famiglietti weighed nearly 400 pounds when he began the project; during the course of its production and filming he, lost 170 pounds. We don't know how things will turn out for Neil. Sadly, Bonifacio reports that his friend Famiglietti has regained most of what he lost.

"Lbs." isn't perfect. (One does wonder, for instance, where the unemployed Neil gets money to buy all that food.) But it paints a surprisingly rounded, nuanced portrait of a fat guy, and without pandering, it highlights the daily, life-long struggles of one for whom food has become so much more than fuel.

"Lbs." is playing this Friday at the E Street Cinema.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  May 3, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Me Minus 10 , Obesity  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Is that right? An extra 10 pounds won't hurt, might help?
Next: When kids want to eat junk


Food addiction?

Gee, I've consumed food every day of my life; usually several times. Sometimes I wake up craving food; others I don't think I can sleep without having some. Sometimes I eat food just because of peer pressure even though I don't want it.

I never thought this was a problem since my weight and other health indicators are normal. Am I addicted to food?

Posted by: WmarkW | May 3, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

I never thought this was a problem since my weight and other health indicators are normal. Am I addicted to food?

Posted by: WmarkW | May 3, 2010 11:46 AM

Just like many people can drink alcohol or try certain drugs without becoming addicted, not everyone with a craving for a certain kind of food is a food addict. Just like with any other addiction there is some kind of reaction in the brain that pushes it from being a craving to being a full-fledged addiction.

If you are not clear about what I am saying then you can feel certain that you are not addicted.

I suffered with bulimia in college and since then food has been an addition for me, to the point where I will spend money on food when I should be paying the bills. Sometimes I am preparing one meal while thinking about what to have at the next meal. Food is rarely not on my mind. It is a struggle everyday not to just keep eating. Some days are better than others (when I keep busy I seem to do better with it than when I have nothing to do).

The thing about this addiction that I think makes it worse than any other is that you can't get away from it. If I want to I can complete cut alcohol out of my life (it would be tough, but I could do it). I can't cut food out. You have to eat.

Just a bit of perspective from someone who struggles with this.


Posted by: mwalkerg | May 3, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Of all the sneaky tactics practiced in Washington D.C., this recent action by Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) is one of the most insidious: While no one was looking, he injected amendment language into the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 4173) that would expand the powers of the FTC (not the FDA, but the FTC) to terrorize nutritional supplement companies by greatly expanding the power of the FTC to make its own laws that target dietary supplement companies.

This is a little-known secret about the FTC and the nutritional supplements business: The FTC routinely targets nutritional supplement companies that are merely telling the truth about their products. Some companies are threatened by merely linking to published scientific studies about their products.

The government wants you to be fat and vitamin deficient. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose - Janis Joplin.

Posted by: alance | May 3, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

"surprisingly rounded"

heh heh heh

Posted by: jjjunob | May 3, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

SO happy this topic is being brought to light in a legitimate fashion. It is TIRING to read/hear comment after comment after slight that fat people are simply "lazy" or "out of control". It's NOT THAT EASY when you use a common everyday item to comfort yourself. I don't get WHY people can't understand food addiction when it makes utter sense. Think about it: you have some sort of life trauma (in my case, I was raped and molested as a child). Food was what I turned to to comfort myself, MUCH as an alcoholic turns to the bottle or a drug addict reaches for their next fix). This causes me to gain weight (and hopefully protect me from any more male predators), but then you get taunted/teased/mercilessly heckled for being you turn to food for comfort. It's a vicious cycle and I don't get why there isn't more compassion and (attempted) understanding of this... I could argue about this for days.

Posted by: sigmagrrl | May 3, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

The key is telling your body there won’t be any more famines. There are two primary ways of doing this:

1. Eat real food. When you’re eating quality food and it’s assimilated efficiently, the body begins to receive what it needs to function at its best. This is one very important step in turning off the famine response. The presence of nutrient-dense food in the diet signals to the body that there is plenty of food available and there’s no need to pile on fat stores. Digestion is also an important part of this equation because you want to make sure the real food you eat is assimilated properly. Including raw and cultured foods in your diet on a regular basis can improve your digestive health and ensure you’re getting the most out of your food.

2. Reduce stress. Another folly of modern society is the intense level of stress most of us are exposed to, often since very early childhood. Stress induces the famine response as much as dieting. After all, the body doesn’t distinguish between types of stresses; the same biochemical reactions occur whether you’re stressed by your work, a difficult marriage, lack of real food, poor sleep habits or any number of stressors. So it’s very important to address this and take the appropriate steps to reducing and managing the stress in your life. Read more about the stress connection to weight loss here and here and here.

Without addressing these two components, a healthy body composition is virtually impossible to achieve. Plus, healthy food choices reduce stress, and reducing stress makes it easier to choose healthier food. So making one small change at a time really can add up, and the right choices will come more naturally over time. Granted, this involves patience and won’t produce results like "Lose 10 pounds in one week!" But it will set you on the path to lasting health.

Posted by: redhotfan | May 4, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

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