04/06/2012 03:00 pm ET Updated Jun 06, 2012

Does Food Addiction Require Abstinence?

Hi, I'm Irene and I'm a foodaholic. By that, I mean that I have trouble controlling myself around certain foods. Those foods are the high-fat/high-salt/high-sugar foods, also referred to as highly palatable foods. I used to think I was just weak-willed, meant to be fat, had no self-control or self-discipline -- until I learned about food addiction. Then I realized that I was not alone and there was help for me. Here's a quick video for you on what food addiction is, and why it exists.

I got chubby for the first time around puberty. According to the research for my book Foodaholic, that is a common time for kids to get a little pudgy. As a chubby 11-year-old girl, I felt very uncomfortable about my body. I hadn't quite developed yet and so there were no boobs to hide my tummy, which stuck out. My mom died when I was 7, and so I didn't have that soothing voice letting me know that this was just a stage and it would all fall into place soon. Instead, I was told I was chubby and teased. Ha ha Ha. That set me up for a fat self-image. By the way, I hear this story a lot from the clients I work with. They tell me that they believed they were fat as kids but when they look back at photos, they weren't.

My dad took me to my first Weight Watchers meeting at 13. I wasn't obese by any means, but that early focus on my weight, and dieting so young, was not a good thing. It gave food a lot of power, the number on the scale became very important and my ability to control my desire for high-calorie food was tied to my self-esteem. I talk about all this in my book, and I know from the number of letters I get from all over the world, that I'm not alone here.

So fast forward through many years of battling with my weight -- sometimes I'd be winning and enjoying a "thin" period, and sometimes losing and hiding my overweight body in big sweaters. That was until I found what worked for me. It has worked for hundreds of people I have helped directly, and thousands if you count those being studied by the National Weight Control Registry.

It doesn't involve a special diet, abstinence, putting foods in good/bad categories or deprivation. None of those things ever worked long-term. Any diet you go on, you go off. So while they may work in the short term, unless you stay on them forever, as soon as you go back to what you were doing before, the pounds come back on. What works for me, and what I have outlined step by step in my book, is taking responsibility for my weight, my food choices, my exercise and my calories in/calories out. My weight, and your weight, is within your control, even though it may not always feel that way.

If you have never tried writing down everything you eat, and drink if it has calories, and seeing how many calories you are taking in, you don't really know what you're doing. You're flying blind, so to speak. I highly recommend trying this, even for a few days. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself and your food choices. It wakes you up to what you are doing. It also gives you data you can work with later. Try it!

So do you need to stop eating all white sugar, flour, butter and salt? To be fair, some people are better off cutting some things out completely. Some of us, using calorie counting, environmental control, food tracking and support from others, are able to eat a wide range of foods, even chocolate, pizza, French fries, etc... and still be thin.

By keeping track you will learn what you can, and can't handle. Some of us can handle having certain foods, in moderation, if we don't bring them home. Some can have a box of chocolate in the house and eat it in moderation. For some people, if they have one bite of something sweet, they are off on a three day sugar binge. Paying close attention will let you know what will work for you. You can do this!

Good luck and let me know how you're doing!

For more by Irene Rubaum-Keller, click here.

For more on diet and nutrition, click here.