Credit: Eric Smith/TLC

Freaky Eaters

I’m a pretty picky eater. My friends and family often give me a hard time about my not-so-normal eating choices, but after watching Freaky Eaters I know I’m certainly not alone. Similar to another TLC series, My Strange Addiction, each episode of Freaky Eaters follows someone with a bizarre compulsion toward a particular food. In the premiere, you’ll meet Nikki Myles, who consumes up to 3,330 calories a day in corn starch. Two experts, psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow, and nutrition specialist J.J. Virgin, (seen above during a shock therapy session) stage a food intervention to help these individuals overcome their bad culinary habits. Read the interview below, and then watch an exclusive clip from Sunday’s season 2 premiere. (Freaky Eaters airs Sundays on TLC at 10 and 10:30 p.m.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So what is a freaky eater?

J.J. VIRGIN: Everyone has a little bit of weird eating going on. We all do. It’s when it goes to the extreme. A freaky eater is someone who is focused on a single food or food group, and they are eating it to the point where it’s damaging their health, relationships, or finances.

MIKE DOW: It’s usually completely out of control. The way they feel about [the food] is actually the same as any other addiction.

Are all freaky eaters actually food addicts?

JV: There’s always different degrees. You can have a habit where every day you have to have a certain muffin from Starbucks. That’s not going to get in the way of your life. It’s when you would have to eat those all day long, every hour. The difference between this and other addictions is you can’t get away from food.

MD: [In an upcoming episode, there’s a] woman who would only drink liquids. She had a traumatic incident where she almost choked to death. So, you could call it addicted to liquids. But she was actually just very afraid of eating solid foods. Some of those people are not technically addicts in the narrow definition of the word, but I think almost every single other patient we’ve had on the show really is a food addict.

How common is food addiction?

MD: Compared to drugs or alcohol, food is the most socially acceptable drug of choice. Who doesn’t emotionally eat once in a while? Everybody! Freaky Eaters shows the worst-case scenario of when it completely spirals out of control. But food addiction is probably the most common addiction in the world. Because everybody eats.

What’s the most obscure case from season 2?

MD: The guy who was addicted to eating raw meat was really interesting.

JV: It’s not as dangerous as crossing the street!

MD: Yes, that was his rationalization. It wasn’t just filet. We’re talking raw chicken, raw hamburger beef.

JV: We showed him there was E. coli in his beef and she still ate it.

In the premiere episode, you deal with a woman who’s addicted to eating corn starch. For her shock therapy, you actually walk across a pool of corn starch! Where do you come up with these ideas?

JV: It’s usually a brainstorm between us and the producers. She thought she wasn’t eating anything, but really she was eating 3,000 calories of corn starch each day. We have to show patients the magnitude of their problem. That’s always our goal with shock therapy. So when they sent us a YouTube clip of someone walking on corn starch, we got excited!

MD: Let’s do that! We didn’t even know it was possible.

What can viewers expect from the new season?

MD: There are so many good episodes. I loved season 1, but I think this season especially, people are going to see so many emotional stories. We have a woman with four children who was afraid to swallow. She was literally starving herself to death.

JV: She would chew and spit, and her oldest child, her 5-year-old, was chewing and spitting.

MD: They are all so sensational but even more so than last season. Each episode has the emotional piece that you can relate to and it will pull you in.

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