The Doctors, hosted by Dr. Travis Stork, recently worked with stand-up comedian Anthony Steven Kalloniatis on overcoming his food addiction. CBS Local’s Matt Weiss spoke with Dr. Stork to get the inside scoop on the work Anthony is going through as well as how to maintain a generally healthy lifestyle.
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MW- Today’s episode of The Doctors highlights stand-up comedian Anthony Steven Kalloniatis and his struggles with addiction. Anthony is a former heroin addict currently suffering from a food addiction, how did you initially get in contact with Anthony?
TS- Ant reached out to us because he saw an episode we did with food addiction and got in touch with one of our producers. Ant highlights something really important which is, you can overcome one addiction but sometimes it gets replaced with another one. He openly admits on the show today that heroin was easier to overcome than his food addiction and there’s a reason for that. Food is different from a drug in the sense that you have to have it to survive, it’s ubiquitous, legal and a lot of the foods we eat nowadays are literally designed to be addictive. The way that your brain processes food is very similar, in terms of how those dopamine centers light up, to drugs and alcohol.
Ant’s story is really salient because a lot of people out there, they may deal with food addiction and not really realize it. At some level food addiction becomes a true eating disorder so Ant’s story, I think, will really raise awareness and a lot of folks out there will probably empathize with what he’s going through.
MW- Is that a situation you see a lot, where someone overcomes one addiction and replaces it with another?
TS- Absolutely. As anyone knows, some people have addictive personalities, the challenge becomes if you can replace a bad addiction with a healthy one. Then you win. In Ant’s case he replaced, in many ways, his heroin addiction with a food addiction. Our goal is to change that food addiction to something that’s going to be good for his health.
When you’re addicted to something it’s not like one day you’re just un-addicted to it. In many ways you stay addicted to it forever, you always want it. What’s beautiful is you can change, change your mindset. For some people it may literally be they’re able to overcome alcohol or drugs or food addiction by becoming a triathlete or maybe they find some other habit that they really enjoy. Ant’s story is still not finished, next season we look forward to having him back on and hopefully we can say, look Ant was able to overcome his food addiction. His story is one, I think, that people are going to really be moved by.
MW- I think this story will definitely resonate with a lot of people. Now Anthony suffers from a pretty long list of symptoms, he’s got shortness of breath, body pains and he even suffered from a mini-stroke last year. When a patient comes in with this many issues, what is the process for building out a treatment plan? Do you attack one symptom at a time or do you look for wholesale changes?
TS- Well, there are a multitude of reasons why someone could have shortness of breath, chronic shortness of breath or why someone could have all these other symptoms. With Ant, we didn’t find out until the day before he came on the show that he had what a lot of people know as a mini-stroke. I’ll tell you right now, you worry when you hear that because our cardiovascular system is like plumbing. If you have a stroke you’re more likely to have another stroke and you’re more likely to have a heart attack. All of these things can be a result of having too high cholesterol levels or obesity, so for Ant overcoming his food addiction is essential to him improving his health. Our hope is that if he is able to overcome his food addiction, lose some weight and get healthier, that these other issues will resolve themselves.
MW- And while you’re treating all these physical ailments, trying to put Ant or anyone else onto a healthier lifestyle, how important is it to treat the emotional and mental sides of the equation as well? I saw from looking into Ant’s backstory that he went through a great deal of emotional trauma while going through his recovery process.
TS- The mental side and the emotional side of addiction is essential to address and I think that’s why Ant got emotional on our show because he has always hidden it. He makes people laugh and when you’re a comedian it’s not a laughing matter if you start talking about some of the emotional pain that you’re dealing with. So I think the reason it’s important to talk about this is because a lot of people out there, a lot of people who watch our show, will realize that you can’t just overcome these things with will power sometimes. You have to address everything that’s going on in your life and sometimes an addiction can stem from emotional things that you haven’t really dealt with. For Ant, we’re going to deal with all of these things together. You can’t solve one problem unless you, in many ways, address them all. Food addiction can stem from emotional eating and that’s certainly one element of this.
MW- Now in line with the overall health of a person, in May you will be launching the Fierce Flaws campaign, can you discuss what went into the creation of this campaign and what your ultimate goal is?
TS- Well I’m not from Hollywood, I’m from the Midwest and when I moved out to Hollywood, or should I say when I commuted out to Hollywood (laughs), social media got more popular and I began to realize, just like my co-hosts and our producers, that every image out there for youngsters and the rest of us to see is this perfect image. As doctors we really want to emphasize that perfect image doesn’t necessarily mean good health. The Fierce Flaws campaign starts on Monday and is something we’re going to continue to do. We want to highlight that we all have flaws, let’s embrace these flaws, let’s not hide them. None of us are perfect and quite frankly the eight pack and really perfect bodies we constantly see on magazine covers, for a lot of us, not only is that not attainable but it’s not healthy.
So the Fierce Flaws campaign is about embracing our flaws, let’s be healthy, let’s focus on health, not being perfect. I think once you can realize that all of us are dealing with flaws you can actually embrace them and that’s the concept. Fierce Flaws, take your flaws, they make you fierce and don’t try to hide them because it’s what makes us unique.
MW- Sometimes striving to get that perfect body can become an even more dangerous addiction, you’re trying to be healthy but it can actually have the opposite effect right?
TS- Well we’ve talked on our show so many times, you may have an actor who comes on our show who has lost a lot of weight for a role and in the role they look great, they’re super lean. Then when you learn about the process they had to go through to get there you actually begin to realize, the light bulb goes off, that is not healthy.
I think for most of us who live our lives day to day, good health can be as simple as making sure you go for a 30 minute walk every day or replacing refined carbohydrates like white rice and white pasta with whole grain, even increasing your fruit and vegetable intake a little bit. Those are the things that make us healthy, not trying to mimic the cover model where quite frankly, it’s probably been air brushed to perfection.
MW- So how would you suggest the people at home get involved? What can someone do at home that wants to be a part of the Fierce Flaws campaign?
TS- Well if people want to be a part of the actual campaign they can go to our website TheDoctorsTV.com. More importantly, tonight you can look in the mirror and you can acknowledge maybe some things about yourself that you’ve always tried to hide. Look at yourself in the mirror and appreciate you for who you are. At the end of the day the Fierce Flaws campaign is all about everyone as an individual being able to look in the mirror and embrace who we are.
MW- I think that’s so important today for adults and especially young people being bombarded with those perfect body images all the time, to know that it’s ok to be proud of what makes you different. Well on that note, I want to say thanks for the time today and good luck the rest of the way!
TS- Alright thanks Matt, take care!
The Doctors is a nationally syndicated show, click here or check your local listings for what time and channel the show comes on in your city.