What do you think causes people to become addicted? Why do some people form so many addictions?
In my new book, I show how America's culture has become addictogenic. Essentially that means that our culture encourages people to consume in a gluttonous, addictive fashion. The "more is better" mentality is rampant. We are eating more, weighing more, accumulating more, spending more and it's not making us any happier. Au contra ire: it's making us depressed. That's why anti-depressant sales are way up. So, we're also applying the "more is better" mantra to prescription drugs which is another huge mass addiction. Since all addicts develop a tolerance to their substance of choice, it stands to reasons that all addiction is progressive because addicts will always need more of their "junk" to achieve the same high. So, these societal plagues are destined to become worse... unless we, as a society, hit bottom and have a moment of clarity about the insanity of our behavior.
Can you summarize the nature of food addiction in the US today, and how it has changed over the past several decades?
You don't need to torture a bunch of helpless rats to figure out fast food is addictive. Nevertheless, for those who feel the need to read research to verify the obvious, studies have now been done that show fast food, loaded with fat, salt and sugar, causes rats to behave as if they were hooked on heroin. As opposed to those fed the salad bar option who consume normally, rats fed a fast food diet will endure electric shocks, etc. to keep eating what they crave. When deprived of their fast food, they'd rather starve for days on end than eat the healthier options.
Again, cruel animal experimentation is not necessary to reach these conclusions. Look around you. America's obesity epidemic is exploding and fast food is the obvious reason. The rise of fast food outlets almost perfectly parallels the rise in obesity. There is also growing evidence that one can develop an addiction to meat. America is about 5 percent of the world's population but we eat about 25 percent of the world's meat. We can all "just say no" to fast food and junk food. You have to negotiate with food daily but you can say: I will never go into a fast food outlet or a fast food drive-thru again. Period. If all Americans made that one decision, obesity would begin to plummet almost immediately. Addict Nation outlines how you can narrow the food playing field. If you know someone who is a food addict/obese give them this book to read.
Do you believe addiction(s) can (and/or must) be eliminated, or can they be replaced and/or redirected? If the latter, what would you tell people to use in order to replace their addiction(s)?
Addicts drive different cars but they're all headed to the same destination: oblivion. That's another way of saying: people stuff their pain with different substances of choice and behaviors but the motive is always the same... to numb unpleasant feelings and avoid painful truths. Americans need to start facing themselves. If you're drinking, drugging, eating, shopping, sexing or texting additively it's because there's something you don't want to face. But, you need to confront it. That's how we grow and evolve as human beings. The most effective way to deal with any addiction is: the 12-Steps. In Addict Nation, I explain the 12-Steps in detail. They offer a way to surrender to the powerlessness of the craving and explore one's tormented inner landscape finding a path to serenity and joy. There are meetings for almost every craving out there. Check it out.
How could your understanding of food addiction inform the work of those trying to expose and end cruelty to animals (specifically, the ~99% of animals that are killed to be eaten)?
As almost every vegan knows, about 10-billion farm animals are cruely raised and slaughtered for food every year. The link between food addiction and animal cruelty is sitting right there in that statistic. Every person who goes vegan helps to save hundreds of animal lives every year. One great way to go vegan is to get real about how the animals raised for food are really treated. Educate yourself about the horrors of pig gestation crates and veal crates. If you're a meat eater, get out of denial about where your food comes from. If you are a vegan, cajole your meat eating friends into watching Meat Your Meat, Earthlings, Life Behind Bars, Behind the Mask or any of the other films that reveal the truth behind factory farming. Or give them Addict Nation, which has been called "a blueprint for green living." It is also a blueprint for vegan living.
Is there anything else you would like to tell the members of Vegan Outreach?
Every moment of every day offers a chance to spread the message about the vegan lifestyle. Every party, every office potluck, every lunch or dinner date, every shopping excursion is an opportunity to expose Americans to the alternative to the diet they're currently eating. We must not let these opportunities pass.