Junk food ‘as addictive as cocaine:’ Houck speech set

While the addictive natures of alcohol and drugs are well known, another more prevalent and legal addiction is sapping the energies, strengths and willpower of millions of Americans, and a Farragut resident is on a mission to change that.

Andy Houck, who has spoken out for years about the addictive nature of sugar and junk food, made changes in his own life to eliminate those temptations. He will speak on the topic beginning at 11:15 a.m., Wednesday July 14, in West Knox County Senior Center, 239 Jamestowne Blvd.

“Junk food is as addictive as cocaine, and just as hard to get off,” said Houck, a former home care business owner, now retired. “You really have to treat it like you are getting off drugs.”

He described how sugar and junk food trigger the body’s dopamine production, giving consumers “a high” they constantly seek.

“It leads to people snacking, all the time, to keep those dopamine levels up,” Houck added. “It is really amazing how little humans need to eat to survive, but it really has become an addictive response.

“There are so many exterior factors working against people,” he added, referring to billboards, commercials and everyday activities, such as going to the movies.

“You don’t have to have Cokes or pretzels or popcorn at the movies, but we are trained to believe that is just part of the experience.”

It is problen for adults and children.

“Kids want to do what they see their mom and dad do,” Houck said. “If they smoke, the kids will probably want to smoke. If they eat junk food, they will want to do that too, and will, especially if it is in the house.

“Nobody wants their kids to be overweight, but many times they don’t see the problem because they are addicted, too,” he added.

Another problem he points to is how unhealthy food “is a multi-trillion dollar a year business.”

“On the other hand, 80 percent of all major diseases are caused by bad diets,” he added. “And, once you start down that path of an unhealthy lifestyle, it has a snowball effect.

“I’m just hoping to help people realize the physically harmful properties of sugar and junk food, and perhaps they will be more apt to fight it off,” Houck added.

The first step, as is the case for anyone in the throes of an addiction, admitting there is a problem — and actually wanting to be different.

“You have to decide you want to make a change,” Houck said. “People talk about diets but don’t typically talk about the addiction component, so that must be addressed.

“Diets are temporary — you must embrace a healthy lifestyle,” he added. “Then it really becomes a one-day-at-a-time process.”

David Catlett, a decade-long friend of Houck’s and frequent tennis opponent, has been helped by his advice.

“He has really guided me and helped me in my diet,” said Catlett, who has heard Houck’s talks on the subject. “One problem is that I wasn’t drinking enough water, and sometimes, when I would feel hungry, that was all I really needed.

“He has helped me so much, and I’m glad he is sharing what he has suggested that has helped me,” he added.

Ultimately, Houck said he would like to lead a support group for those addicted to sugar and junk food.

To register for Houck’s talk, call 865-288-7805.