March 3, 2011 | by Joey DiGuglielmo
OWNing up to addictions

Gay author Brad Lamm says getting to the reasons behind why we overeat is key to long-term weight loss success. (Photo courtesy of the Change Institute)

Brad Lamm’s life has changed dramatically since his D.C. days.

In an epic biography of near fairy tale proportions, Lamm, a 44-year-old gay Oregon native who used to manage Cobalt, now lives in New York, beat a drug problem, has three published books under his belt and his own show slated to debut on Oprah’s new OWN network March 29.

Lamm visited Washington two weeks ago on a book tour for his latest volume, “Just 10 Lbs: Easy Steps to Weighing What You Want (Finally!)” and talked about the book, his show and how he turned his life around.

“Most people who start a diet will end up gaining the weight back and more,” Lamm told the Blade. “So I found what was really needed was a behavioral change book, which I did. It’s really about the reasons why, the what the how. People will often say they’re an emotional eater or they eat because they’re bored. Sometimes it’s even indicative of feelings of loneliness and it’s those underlying feelings we have, that’s why we turn to food. … Even if it’s something they’ve struggled with for decades, it’s really about how did this happen. It’s not rocket science. It’s not about the food.”

With so many diet books on the market, what can Lamm hope to offer that’s different? He admits it’s a crowded market — he counted 82 new diet books on a recent Barnes & Noble visit.

His philosophies were born out of his own addiction struggles. Lamm came to Washington in 1999 working as a weatherman for Fox affiliate WTTG. He says he “almost immediately” started doing crystal meth and was “very addicted for many years.”

He helped local nightlife entrepreneur Eric Little open Cobalt and was its director of operations from 2000 until 2003. Lamm was also a two-pack-a-day smoker and alcoholic who regularly consumed 10 to 12 drinks per day.

In the summer of 2002, friends convinced him he needed help. A turning point came when a friend, who’d tried to reach him 12 times the night before, finally got him on the phone around noon one day. Lamm had missed a 10 a.m. meeting. He says two things changed: deep down he knew “the gig was up” and he’d soon lose his job, friends and relationships if he continued on the path he was on. He also says being accountable to the friends who initiated the conversation made all the difference.

“I’d tried to stop drinking and smoking hundreds of times,” he says. “But I believed they loved me and it got bigger than me. It wasn’t just me in my own private hell.”

For Lamm, one thing led to another. Quitting smoking led to a weight gain, which led to getting that under control. And getting clean and sober led him back to New York where he’d lived after college. He went back to school and dabbled in various fields before starting his own intervention practice in 2008 — the Change Institute — after training as an interventionist in 2004. He calls it “invitational intervention,” a less-confrontational approach. He credits Colorado-based psychiatrist Judith Landau with introducing him to the concepts he endorses.

“We think of it as being some kind of ambush or surprise,” he says. “This is a six month-minimum program and is as much about doing work with the family as working with the addict.”

Lamm says he started developing a following in New York. An article he’d written found its way to Oprah who asked him to go to California to help an 800-pound friend who needed his own intervention. Originally conceived as a segment of her talk show, the cameras were eventually pulled and the segment never aired. Lamm felt in that situation the cameras were hindering the man’s progress.

But the experience got Lamm on Winfrey’s radar, obviously a turning point many dream of. Winfrey hired him to do some “internal stuff” with her Harpo staff, which led to more invitations and a burgeoning cottage industry.

“The Oprah halo certainly helped,” Lamm says. “I think my message was just different enough that it was a natural for the platform she provides.”

Lamm’s first book “”How to Help Someone You Love: Four Steps to Help You Help Them” was published in 2009. “How to Help the One You Love: A New Way to Intervene and Stop Someone from Self Destructing” came out last year. “Just 10 Lbs.” was moved up to a January release to tie in with the new show, “Addicted to Food,” which debuts on OWN on March 29.

Lamm and his partner, Scott Sanders, a producer on the Broadway show “The Color Purple,” got married in California in 2008. “Purple” author Alice Walker officiated. Oprah and pal Gayle King were both there. Lamm is also friendly with fellow gay Oprah acolyte-turned-TV show host Nate Berkus, whom he calls “a sweet guy.”

“It’s sort of weird,” Lamm says of his experience doing his own show. “It’s a surreal experience. We’ve already shot it and I believe it will be a success but in real time it’s sort of like I have this little secret over here. It’s a delicious calm right now.”

Lamm says he didn’t see the Barbara Walters interview in which Oprah, once again, denied being gay. He says the subject bores him.

“I’m sort of offended when people say she’s not straight,” he says. “Have you ever had a friend where you’re just sure the person is straight but one of your friends is convinced otherwise and just goes on and on about it ad nauseum? When people bring it up, I just want to say, ‘Enough already. She’s straight and I know better than you do on this.’”

Visit changeinstitute.com for more information on Lamm.

More gay characters on tap

In other gay TV news, look for a continuation of the trend of more gay characters and storylines in both scripted and reality shows.

The big dog, of course, is “Glee,” which is forging full-steam ahead with favorite teen couple Kurt (Chris Colfer) and Blaine (Darren Criss). Their show-stopping rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was the most deliciously gay moment, perhaps, in network TV history. Season two may be extended to 25 episodes. A season finale date hasn’t been announced.

Other ongoing shows with gay characters include the CW’s “90210,” Showtime’s “Shameless,” MTV’s “Skins,” ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars” and ABC’s “Modern Family,” which is in the middle of its second season. A third has been ordered.

On the reality front, season two of “The A-List” doesn’t debut until fall. Logo has ordered 11 episodes and the entire original cast will return. Same for “The Real L Word’s” second season, which hasn’t been shot yet. And no official word yet on a second season of “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys,” the Sundance guilty pleasure.

RuPaul’s Drag Race” isn’t even halfway through its third season. Look for its 16-episode season to climax around May 23.

Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

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