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Wellspring Camps Leverages Science-Based Approach and Research to Prompt Public Call-to-Action and Address the Nation’s Obesity Epidemic

ATLANTA – March 3, 2015 – When thinking about catalysts for addiction, illicit drugs, alcohol and cigarettes tend to be top-of-mind for consumers. A recent study entitled “Food as Drug: Americans Are on a Sugar High” conducted by ORC International for Wellspring Camps, an affiliate of RiverMend Health, in February 2015, found that nearly all Americans (92%) surveyed believe that food is another form of addiction. Emphasizing this thought is the fact that 66 percent of respondents believe it can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to fully recover from “carb” addiction, further demonstrating that food can have similar effects on the brain and body as illicit drugs have.

Despite aligning food with other severe addictions, nearly half (48%) of respondents also shared that they believe lack of motivation to exercise is the largest hindrance to weight control, which highlights pervasive misperceptions in American society about how people gain weight and struggle with obesity.

“Conquering an addiction requires commitment and support, as well as behavioral therapy and occasional medical intervention,” said Eliza Kingsford, licensed psychotherapist and executive director of Wellspring Camps. “If we think about food as a powerful addiction that affects close to one-third of obese adults in this country, then we cannot assume the solution is as simple as finding motivation to go to the gym. It’s far more complicated than that.”

How Food Acts Like a Drug

Dr. Nicole Avena, a research neuroscientist, author and expert in nutrition, diet and addiction, works with Wellspring Camps to research and analyze these topics on a regular basis. She explains that when a person repeatedly eats sugar, which we are often unaware we are doing as it is hidden in so many food products that we consume, it releases dopamine in reward-related areas of the brain. These same areas of the brain are activated when one drinks alcohol or smokes cigarettes.

As a result, the reward from eating sugar can lead to further eating, making it even harder to cut back on intake. On the topic, Avena said: “Emotionally, eating a piece of candy now and then can be rewarding and feel good. But, for people who struggle with weight issues or who want to cut back on their intake, eating candy can momentarily feel good, but then cause guilt, shame and a sense of failure. It is important that people recognize these feelings and not use food, similar to how some people would use a drug, to soothe their emotions.”

Create a Healthy Obsession

Interestingly, 40 percent of the survey respondents aged 18-34 said their parents did not set healthy food behaviors for them during childhood that they would feel good about passing onto their own children. Unfortunately, many adults are not able to overcome these negative patterns without intervention. In fact, 90 percent of individuals who are obese at 18 will remain so throughout their adult lives, according to Wellspring Camps.

“It’s time to create a new healthy obsession with diet and exercise,” adds Kingsford. “As we better understand how foods can affect our minds and bodies, instead of using food as a ‘drug,’ we can use it as fuel to create a healthy productive lifestyle for ourselves and our children.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity is becoming increasingly prevalent in the U.S. with 69 percent of adults ages 20 and older and 18.4 percent of adolescents ages 12-19 in America considered obese. Consequently, many struggle with obesity and weight loss for the majority of their lives.

In addition to overall health, there are significant psychological, social and economic impacts to long-term obesity. To put this in perspective, an 18-year-old obese person in the U.S. today can expect to save $549,907.35 during their lifetime if they reach a normal weight in the next 3-12 months.

To review the full study’s findings, download the report on the Wellspring Camps website.

About Wellspring Camps

Wellspring Camps, an affiliate of RiverMend Health, is the nation’s leading provider of health & wellness camps for children, teens, young adults & families. Wellspring Camp’s scientific approach to weight loss is giving boys and girls ages 10 to 26 the inspiration, education and tools to change their lifestyle for the better. The program is designed to be simple, scientific, sustainable and safe incorporating clinical treatment in the form of behavioral coaching, culinary and nutrition education, exercise science, personal training, a range of activity classes and traditional summer camp activities.

As a premier provider of scientifically driven, specialty behavioral health services founded on the belief that addiction and obesity are the nation’s most pressing healthcare challenges, RiverMend Health brings together the world’s preeminent experts and a nationwide network of rehabilitation facilities to conduct cutting edge treatment, research and education. For more information or to learn about enrollment for Summer 2015, visit

Survey Methodology

ORC International Telephone CARAVAN® survey was conducted February 5-8, 2015. The study was conducted using two probability samples:  randomly selected landline telephone numbers and randomly selected mobile (cell) telephone numbers.  The combined sample consists of 1,015 adults (18 years old and older) living in the continental United States.  Of the 1,015 interviews, 514 were from the landline sample and 501 from the cell phone sample.    The margin of error for the sample of 1,015 is +/- 3.08 at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups will have larger error margins.

Surveys are collected by trained and supervised US based interviewers using ORC International’s computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) system.  Final data is adjusted to consider the two sample frames and then weighted by age, gender, region, race/ethnicity and education to be proportionally representative of the US adult population.


Media Contact

Dawn Zinkewich
Prosek Partners
(212) 279-3115, ext. 147