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26th Dec 2021

Pointless star Richard Osman discusses life-long battle with food addiction

Simon Bland


‘It will be with me for the rest of my life’

Pointless star Richard Osman has opened up about his life-long battle with food addiction during a recent appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.

Speaking with host Lauren Laverne, Osman – who recently found great success as an author with his hit book The Thursday Murder Club – spoke of his battle with food addiction and revealed that he has sought therapy for the issue over the years.

“There hasn’t been a day of my life since the age of nine where I haven’t thought about problems with food and how it affects me. And it will be with me for the rest of my life, I know that. I’m either controlling it or not controlling it at any given time, and these days I control it more often than I don’t,” Osman told Laverne.

Whilst perhaps not as common as drug or alcohol addiction, eating food that is rich in sugar, salt or fat releases dopamine in the brain, similar to most addictive drugs.

Those battling this type of addiction can often find themselves facing a loss of control when it comes to food, alongside bouts of compulsive eating. Combined, these can ultimately lead to changes in the chemicals present in your brain, according to the Food Addiction Institute.

Osman told Laverne that while food addiction is devoid of the same “doomed glamour” of other vices, it still has the same dangerous impact.

“If an alcoholic came to my house they would be shocked to see bottles of gin and bottles of wine, completely untouched. Because an alcoholic couldn’t have that in their house,” Osman told Laverne.

“And if I came to your house and there were crisps or chocolate bars untouched in the fridge, I’d be like ‘What? How are they untouched?’ – if I’m going through an episode.”

Osman revealed that it was during a “directionless” period of his career where his addiction really took hold.

“I think it is that thing of, my career was going well and I was successful, and I had kids, so I had all the things that I thought were the thing that I needed or the thing that was going to make everything OK, and none of them did,” he explained.

“And getting older and older and just working out that I was slightly directionless, and I had various addictive behaviours as well.

“As soon as you have an addictive behaviour you know that something’s up because you know you’re hiding something or controlling something.

The author and TV personality went on to highlight the “tricky” nature of trying to distance yourself from this particular habit – before assuring listeners that it was possible, despite its difficulties.

“Food is a tricky one, because booze and drugs you can just give up. [It’s] unbelievably difficult but [with] a zero-tolerance policy,” he explained. “Whereas if you’re addicted to food or to love or all these things that are sustaining, you do still have to have them, and so it’s quite a hard one to work your way out of.”

He went on to add: “you have to eat, it’s actually quite hard and sometimes you do slip but I try my best and I certainly have no shame about it now and anyone at home who overeats or, and thinks it’s ridiculous, you’ve just got to divorce that.”

Listen to the full interview here.

For help, guidance and further information on eating disorders, the charity BEAT keep their helplines open 365 days a year 

NHS advice on eating disorders can be found here

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