Food 'Fix': Can Overeating Really be an Addiction?

Dr. Pam Peeke offers a three-step program to breaking the yo-yo weight cycle.
3:00 | 09/24/12

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Transcript for Food 'Fix': Can Overeating Really be an Addiction?
Tonight, sweet, salty and addictive. It's a controversial theory but some doctors claim you can actually get hooked on food and that sugary processed foods can work on your brain like a drug. Others say addiction doesn't apply when it comes to food something you need to survive. Abc's juju chang met won woman who try aid three-step program to lose the pounds for good and gain control of her life. Reporter: Tara calls herself a recovering addict, the substance she abused, food. The former plus-sized model wasn't overeating, she was out of control. Give me the experience. I would get wing, ben and jerry's and that meal alone was probably around 6,000 calories if not more. Reporter: By the age of 22 she tipped the scales at 316 pounds and then decided to shed the weight in the most public way possible on the tv show "the biggest loser" she lost an astonishing 155 founds. Landed on the cover of magazines like ok! And woman's world. When she started to creep back, she realized it was not about her body but mind. Doctor says tara is not alone. Organic changes that happen in the reward system are identical to whether it's drug, alcohol or food. If might be flying american's obesity epidemic. Four americans die of obesity related diseases than cancers combined. Food can be as addictive as cocaine. You're secreting lots of pleasure reward brain chemical called dope mean. It's coming out and giving you that fantastic feeling of, wow, this is wonderful. Reporter: For compulsive eaters like tara, recognizing she had an addiction was like a thunder clap to her brain. That makes me feel good. Reporter: In her new book, the doctor offers a prescription to get on the way to recovery. THREE Ms. Mind, memory and mouth. We reveal the snacks we crave most. For me it's cheese. You're a fatty girl that also likes salt. What did you call me. What did you call me? You like fatty w salt. Reporter: For now, we head to send tlal park. It's time to medicate. I'm in control. I'm powering up my brain. This is not a new age moment. This is hard core neuroscience. You're powering up the brain to stay vigilant, say no and rein in impulses. Reporter: Step two. Instead of ice cream we try a chocolate protein smoothie. There's not sugar in it. Peanut butter. One of my favorite things. Step three, move your muscles. She rewards her brain with endorphins. Now if I have too much sugar I get violently sick. New science shows you increase the size of the brain because you stimulate brain When you do things like physical activity. You induce changes in your genes. Reporter: These scans show the reward senters reacting to a ocolate milkshake. For some people the pleasure receptors turn off. For others it keeps reacting, wanting more. BY FOCUSING ON THE THREE Ms. Mind, mouth and muscle. The doctor thinks you can restrain the brain. Tara is in what dr. Peak calls master recovery. She did something beyond her wild dreams. Finished an iron man triathlon. No dream is improblem. Reporter: Tara said she'll be a recovering food addict but knowing that is a victory. I wish I could be normal with it. But it will be okay. "The hunger fix " is in stores now.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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