If the man had good job performance reviews, why should he be fired any more than a smoker or a drinker. So long as his job performance was good, it seems to me that being fired was an expression of a social expression of disgust, The same expression that comes through very clearly in the comments appended to the Druge Report item.
If the company was worried about liability they could have spoken with him about the worry and asked him to sign some sort of quit claim for incidents that happened during the normal performance of his regular duties as per his job description. If the company had a health plan, they could have suggested he use it, or they could have sent him to Overeaters Anonymous, which is often helpful with folks with a weight problem.
Any number of less drastic solutions come to mind for an employee who is reported to have had good job performance reviews and 16 years seniority, should you manage to go so far as to define this difficult personal problem as a company problem in the eyes of the law. It turns out that almost any of them would have been more cost efficient, not to mention more thoughtful of employee loyalty and less cruel. I do wonder what the actual outcome will be.
From my discussions with alcoholics, I've heard quite a number express the notion that compulsive over-eaters are in a more difficult situation than they are. I'm not sure that's true, at least in the later stages of the alcoholism, when the mortality rate is very high indeed. But it may be true in the early and middle stages of these addictions. The point the alcoholics raise is that they have the option of quitting entirely, and not drinking again, while the compulsive eater (and the bulemic as well) is in the situation where they have to eat to stay alive. They must indulge in some of the addictive behavior without getting caught up in the addictive patterns.
I am not up on the current information, but from my time as an addictions/plus other psychiatric disorders counselor, the theory was that there was a common addiction pathway for food, alcohol, gambling and drug disorders that came from stimulation of opiate receptors in the brain. In the case of actual opiates, the drug itself took up the receptor site. In the case of the other drugs, and behaviors, they stimulated in various ways, the production of endorphins, which filled the sites, producing some approaching the same sort of high.
Different, because of side effects of the drugs or behaviors, but stimulating the same basic pathways. I may be out of date, but that's the story as of about 20 years ago. All of these drugs and behaviors tend to have some self-soothing function, although I think that gambling and the stimulant drugs run through a different pathway.
These are all difficult highs to give up, and suggesting that will power alone will do it is for somebody who has not tried to give up some of these addictive behaviors after they've gotten well established. Figures for treatment success tend to be far better for those who've been treated early, though there is some variation, depending on the profile of the illness.
Willpower is best thought of as an emergency measure, and useful only for the short term as an intervention.