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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

OWNing It: We're Addicted to Oprah

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2011 at 12:47 PM

click to enlarge Cast of "Addicted to Food," a reality series that debuted last night on Oprah's TV network. - OWN
  • OWN
  • Cast of "Addicted to Food," a reality series that debuted last night on Oprah's TV network.

Is Oprah your God? Have you made the move to her new home? OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, has kept us all waiting for the original programming it promised. And though Kidnapped by the Kids may not be our cup of tea, Addicted to Food speaks SFoodie's language.

The show premiered last night, and we waited with bated breath and Chinese takeout. We were hoping for an Intervention-meets-Celebrity Fit Club. Nestled between two warm and cuddly repeats of Half-Ton Teen lay Addicted to Food. The preview was a woman eating a red velvet cake and saying, "Every morning I wake up on a diet, and every night I end in failure" (cue voice-cracking on the last three words).

The first episode introduced us to an anorexic bulimic, five compulsive overeaters, a laxative bulimic, and a binge eater. The concept: eight people whose lives revolve around food, and one therapist from Texas. (No, it wasn't Dr. Phil.) Teenie McCarty is a 20-year licensed therapist who focuses on eating disorders, with a history of compulsive overeating and bulimia. The show takes place at the facility she founded, Shades of Hope. Her daughters, also former bulimics, work at the facility, and her daughter-in-law is the executive director ― food addiction is the family business. The daughter-in-law is what they call a "normie" ― no addictions of her own, but to quote Teenie, "We love her anyway."

The first step for the eight food addicts arriving at the ranch is detox. Whenever they go to the bathroom they have to be accompanied by a staff person, and they must learn the skill of continuous counting, singing, or talking while they perform their, uh, regular bathroom rituals. The rules: no purging, drinking, smoking, phones, books, magazines, or Internet.

There's only one man in the group, and two of the women had gastric bypasses but gained back the weight. Easily the most interesting woman in treatment is Elizabeth, the anorexic and bulimic. She's accused of purging the first night, and later we learn that she's training to be a counselor for people with eating disorders. Though Elizabeth declares herself "sicker than they are," counselors at Shades of Hope deem her the most difficult.

"It's not about what we are eating," says Teenie, "it's about what's eating us." The addicts are weighed but never get to see the number on the scale. Shades of Hope is one of the few facilities that put every shade of food addict together, instead of separating by disease. Elizabeth shares that her biggest fear is being fat, and how difficult it is to be around this large group. She also tells the compulsive overeating man that her disease is much harder. In group therapy, where the goal is to practice confrontations with one another, she gets called out and breaks down.

Once you interrupt food processes, it seems, real feelings come up. Last night one woman shared that her overeating is partially because she's never been honest with the fact that she's attracted to women. And if we were being honest with ourselves, we'd admit that OWN's Becoming Chaz promises more fun than Addicted to Food, but we'll tune in next week for more binging and purging (of feelings). We have a feeling this journey of food addiction could end up satisfying.

Read more from Carina Ost at CarinaOst.com. Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

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Carina Ost

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