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Reality TV serves up 'Freaky Eaters'

Janet Helm writes: One guy is addicted to raw meat. A woman only wants to eat french fries. Another man lives on pizza. People with food obsessions are the focus of a new show called “Freaky Eaters” that premiered this month on TLC. The series, based on a British show of the same name, profiles people who the hosts say have bizarre culinary compulsions.

Each week, psychotherapist Mike Dow and celebrity nutritionist J.J. Virgin sweep in to stage a food intervention and fix the freakiness in 22 minutes. But while the show claims it helps a freaky eater “confront the painful truth behind the food obsession and come face to face with the destructive side effects of their addictions,” judging from the first few episodes, some of the treatments may be wackier than the so-called disorders.

In one episode, Dow and Virgin attempt to get a french fry obsessed woman to shun her potato fixation by forcing her to eat fries that have been dyed blue. A young girl is told to paint with broccoli stalks and jelly to help her better embrace vegetables. Another woman who is supposedly addicted to sugar is blind-folded and fed raw kale to help her retrain her taste buds. (That didn’t go over so well.) A pizza-addicted guy suddenly feels like he can ditch his daily pizza habit after an emotion-filled session with his parents helps him realize that they’re not disappointed in him after all.

The tone of the show is just so dramatic – with such language as “solving the mystery” and beating the “addiction that is destroying his life.” Really? Maybe these folks are just extremely picky eaters and need to get out of a rut. Maybe they do need to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle. But are these truly addictions?

As a registered dietitian, I’m conflicted about reality shows like this. Maybe some of these people do have eating disorders that need more help than what they’ll get in front of a camera. Ongoing sessions with a therapist or a registered dietitian who specializes in disordered eating would be more beneficial than a quick, televised fix that gets them to temporarily step away from a french fry.

Do you eat like a freak? Share your twisted dietary tales.

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