Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What is it about food...

What is it about food that makes us want to INHALE it until we are SICK? Or, perhaps a better question would be, what is it about US (me) that makes us want to do that?? Obviously, not everybody gets these urges, and I would bet that most people who DO get them don't act on them. What makes us different? More importantly, will it ever change?

I have never been a person who can have a "cheat day" where I eat what I want and then go right back on the healthy-eating bandwagon the next day. Once I get a taste for "the outside," I am a goner. One day of eating muffins and sausage, and forget it. It takes a crane to get me back into healthy eating. I am sure that's why I am so fat. It's like the unhealthy eating just SNOWBALLS. It gains momentum, going faster and faster as I eat more and more and care less and less, until I finally crash and burn in some health crisis or emotional epiphany. So it is essential for me not to let myself take that first step that will plunge me off the binge cliff back into the caverns of morbid obesity.

Does anyone else see a McDonald's commercial and, no matter how full you are, get the sudden urge to go through the drive-thru for a Big Mac Meal? I start fantasizing about the sauce. And the Coke, and the salt on the fries. My mouth waters and I think about it for days. What kind of wacky obsession is this?? And if I go and give in to the craving, but the actual food is not quite up to the image in my head (the fries are cold and limp, the Coke is watery or God forbid there is NOT ENOUGH SAUCE on the burger), I eat it anyway but keep on fantasizing about it and want to go back later that day or that week to "try again" for the perfect, saucy burger with hot crispy fries and sugary Coke. What the heck? Does ANY normal person do this stuff?

Granted, I have not done this in a long, long time. That's why I am losing weight now. But sometimes there is this weird "click" in my head. Like the other day I was reading on a dieting website where someone said they sometimes went through TWO drive-thrus, one right after the other, eating at BOTH. The little "click" in my head went, "HEY! Why didn't I ever think of that?? I WANT TO DO THAT. Then I can have Wendy's AND Arby's! I can get a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a Frosty and then I can get a roast beef sub, curly fries with a side of cheese and a Coke and maybe a dessert..." What normal person even CONSIDERS doing that kind of thing, much less actually fantasizes about it?? ::shakes head:: I just don't understand.

I am doing well with my eating. When I don't THINK about junky food, I am pretty okay. I am getting back into eating vegetables, watching portions, and eating less often. I am drinking a lot more water. And I am losing weight (245 today). But it only takes a MENTION or a commercial or a thought, and I am flipped back into some kind of weird fantasy world where I binge until I am STUFFED. I actually MISS baking pan after pan of chocolate chip cookies and eating them all before the kids get home from school. I long for the sensations of sweet, gooey, sugary hot cookies and melted chocolate in my mouth and going down my throat. But what I DON'T miss is being 278+ pounds. I don't miss how horrible I felt about myself. I don't miss being so fat I could barely move, and waking up in pain every morning. But I wonder if the WANT of food will ever go away.

I have wondered if this all has something to do with "permission." When I was a kid, my mother kept a tight reign on all the junk food. She was fat, and was always on Weight Watchers, but there was always junk in the house. Chips, cookies, soda, candy. When my Dad would buy her a box of chocolates, she would hoard them. I would come over and ask for a chocolate and she would scowl at me and snarl, "These are MINE!! Your Father bought them for ME!!" with her arm curled protectively around the box. Nevermind that she had 2 pounds of chocolates in her lap, she couldn't spare one for her kid. So when I grew up, I went out and bought MYSELF those big, 2 pound boxes of chocolates, and I sat down alone and ate them ALL MYSELF. I wonder sometimes if the inner kid in me is rebelling against people telling me what I can and can't have. "I can have ANYTHING I WANT!" Maybe it's about control. Or maybe it's just about eating because stuff tastes good.

Anyway, those days are past, and hopefully I can keep my brain on track 95% of the time so that I can reach a healthy weight. I know I will slip up sometimes, and I fear it will always be a mental battle. I am up for the fight.


Teale said...

I really believe that overeating can be an addiction. It's an addiction to food & what it does mentally & emotionally for us. And just like an alcoholic or drug addict, it's hard to give up that rush & that feeling of satisfaction when we get our fix. It's not normal for someone to drink a bottle of vodka either, but people do it, and those people are addicted. The difference though w/drug addicts & alcoholics vs. food addicts is that they are supposed to abstain totally from their drug of choice in order to have the best chance of success.... whereas we dont' really have that option. We can't abstain from food. It's always going to be there, so we have to retrain our minds... and that is a long process.

Sorry to get so long-winded... I got my bachelor's in psychology, and addiction was a big area of interest for me!

Heather said...

I am the same way..before I made this change in my life, I would sit and think about food constantly. I would actually get EXCITED about eating and my next meal. and now, I am like you...I dont have a "cheat" day because once I have a taste of something like pizza, I cant stop.

~Diet Goddess~ said...

You are preaching to the choir here! I understand EXACTLY what you are talking about!!! Especially the way we build up those "perfect" meals in our heads and then find that they disappoint and just don't quite make the grade, but - like you said - we go ahead and eat them anyway. Ugh! They say that fantasy is always better than reality. I need to convince my stomach and tastebuds of that so that I can get over getting that "perfect" meal.

You are doing great! I'm so glad that it's clicking for you. I'm working really hard to get there myself and I'm thatclose to being there!

justoofat said...

"But I wonder if the WANT of food will ever go away."

I don't think it ever does. In the end, I just wake up each morning hoping that today will be one of the days in which the want to be healthy is stronger than the want for food. I'm like you though, once I fall off the wagon, it's very, very hard for me to get back on. But fast food does very little for me. Personally, I dream of thick steaks, plates of ribs, loaded baked potatoes, endless plates of crusty bread slathered with butter, vats of chocolate mousse and some terribly caloric fizzy drink. Frankly, I think I just put on 10lbs talking about it.



Chubby Chick said...

I know what you mean. Sometimes I look at skinny people and wonder how can they NOT want to eat everything in sight? And why does food NOT have the same hold on them that it has on me? Why DON'T they want to eat a whole pizza, drink a couple sodas, and follow up with 1/2 a gallon of ice-cream?

I'm learning that emotional eating is my biggest problem... and I am slowly learning to deal with that in a healthy manner instead of in a destructive manner.

It's a battle. All we can do is take it one day at a time. We're all in this together... and I'm here for you, girl. You are doing great so far... and I have full confidence that you will continue to do so! :)

Anonymous said...

Usually it's not just one thing but a combination of things...I imagine your mother hoarding her chocolates does have something now to do with your realtionship with them.

And addiction may be part of the equation too...for some people excess weight is just about eating a little more than they need. Others, it's not so simple. There is a book, out recently-- titled Hungry-- that gives some good insight in this area...the author weighed over 300 pounds at one point...was fat as a kid. There is a blog by the author:


And being stimulated by seeing a food commercial and such, that is an emotional response...when I was going through a very stressful period in my life, I couldn't watch the Food Network...it made me so hungry I was eating everything in sight.

And like you I love to bake and eat those chewy cookies...but the pleasure derived is not the endpoint...we move past the pleasure to pain because that behavior brings can cause excess weight. So we must connect the dots.

One last thing...you write about eating healthy and not eating healthy as if it is all or nothing...a good long term weight loss plan allows some of those unhealthy foods. I find that allowing some of those things takes away the forbidden tag, and I actually desire them less.

I enjoy your blog...it is very well written.

Anonymous said...

You've posted here and also in the past about your mother's dieting and the presence of junk in the house when you were growing up, & how that affected you. I was just wondering, what is your relationship with your mother today, and also, what does your mother's relationship with food look like nowadays? I'm a faithful reader of this blog -- it's awesome.

Lisa said...

Did you just write that, or did I? I've been thinking about this alot lately. I hate to say it, but I don't think the desire ever goes away. I have finally gotten myself on a good eating path again (after yo-yoing for years), but I still WANT to eat until I am sick & cannot move. It is embarrassing & I believed that the need to binge like that would just kind of....go away. But, for me, you & many others, I don't think it does. We just have to have a very strong mind set & not allow ourselves to fall back into the misery of morbid obesity. I know people say you can have some "bad" food sometimes, but I cannot do it without falling off the wagon SUPER DUPER BIG TIME. So, you are not alone & we will do what is best for us. Keep on going, you inspire us all.

Susan said...

I could have written this post myself - except you are doing GREAT with your healthy food choices. I, unfortunately, am still in the battle of my life against the fast food junk. I can relate so much to all the fantasies. Oh my gosh.

Thanks so much for opening up in your posts. You've given a voice to a lot of my bottled up feelings and now I'm starting to let them out.

Lidian said...

I always enjoy your writing - makes me think in a good way...

I am exactly like this - you describe the feeling perfectly - about candy. I get excited/panicky when I see candy in stores, yet I HAVE to go look at it. I really want to have candy every day and I feel deprived when I can't. It is really hard not to. I don't talk about this IRL because no one I know GETS this. But it is a big thing for me.

My mother had her stash of candy, too. It was a housefull of stress, I can tell you that. The candy was definitely linked to that. I still see it as a 'reward' for getting through stressful bits of the day.

But like you, I am getting better. Acknowledging it helps.

kemde said...

Food does so many things for me, unfortunately. I grew up using it as a drug that would be give me intense pleasure and it would also help me shut off my feelings about what was going on around me. Now in my thirties, I can think logically about the fact that there are MANY alternatives to bingeing that will help to calm myself, enjoy pleasure, etc. However, retraining the brain is SUCH a long process - especially when there's that years-long pattern that reminds me that food will give me the most intense pleasure possible. It's very difficult to say no to it.

*Thank you for your blog. I'm 5'8" and am nearing 300 lbs. I like reading about your struggle because it seems so similar to mine.

Ms Ingrid said...

It is an addiction.

I was like you one year ago. Right now I would like to call myself a "recovering food addict". It is very hard work to recover but you can do. If I can do it, everyone can.
Just get started and good luck!

Anonymous said...

Read the book FAST FOOD NATION, and I swear you will never want to eat fast food again. ever. Better yet, read Kevin Trudeau's books. While some things are a little over the top in his book, the idea and premise that corporations and their greed don't give a RATS ASS about your health is true. I believe every word of it. Did you know that 8 out of 10 people in the US eat at Macdonald EVERY SINGLE DAY. That Macdonalds is the single largest producer of beef in the entire nation.
Trust me, I was the Queen of Macdonalds. I've been there. I will never eat there again or have the desire to eat there again.

Honi said...

I agree with Teale Over eating is an addiction.. but also.. I believe that when you start replacing those actions with other actions.. I.E. knitting, craft work... something outside of food.. that it helps.. Sadly, I am not sure if the want ever goes away.. thats the thing about addictions.. they seem to linger .. but maybe.. once we are on the other side of the addiction.. maybe the way we feel and look will cancel out the calls for those foods.

Lyn said...

Thank you all very much for the supportive and thoughtful comments. It's good to know we are not alone!

As for the comment asking about my mother now and her relationship with food... sadly, my mother passed away several years ago from cancer. She never did lose the weight. She was always on a diet, and I believe when she passed away she was approx 245 pounds (and 5' 3"). She was in her mid 50's, and there is a good chance that if she had lost the weight, she would still be alive today. A very sad ending for her... but not a legacy I wish to continue.

When I was 18 I moved out of the house, and she and I never really interacted much over food after that (I moved far away) but I do know she always wished she could lose weight, and I always thought I would never get fat. One more good reason for me to continue fighting my way out of this fat prison.

cindy said...

you write that you would buy the box of chocolates b/c you wanted CONTROL over your food, so you could have your OWN, but I think you actually felt out of control, like you don't have control over yourself. you write also that you have crazy wacky obsessions about food, that you just want to binge. ooooh yeah, i've had those too. again, i think this has to do w/ FEELING OUT OF CONTROL. i've gained about 12 pounds in my 1st semester of college, b/c i felt out of control, i felt soooo scared and lonely so i turned to food, and like you said, it gave me a feeling of happiness, i felt safe, and again like you said, the feeling isn't as great asyou think it's gonna be. also, i just want to say that maybe the reason we want the food is b/c we think, we can't do this, we can't be healthy and happy, so junk food will be bring us comfort and faster happiness. BUT MAN, you are SOOO inspiring. AGAIN, YOU GO GIRL! MORE POWER TO YOU and just remember, ppl have those wacky thoughts about food. we think food will be happiness, but it's not. one day at a time.

Anonymous said...

I started to experience this "inhaling" food phenomenon just recently. I just turned 19 and experience the worst illness in my life, with the unfortunate (but I'm told very common) after effect of depression. I've piled on 35lbs, and feel huge. My clothes don't fit and I have developed a nasty habit of eating my feeling, seeking that numbing warming food that will stop me feeling these feeling of despair I've never had to deal with before. Your blog is so inspiring. I am almost in tears as I read you describe the relationship I have with food too. You have inspired me beyond belief. My depression has faded as the illness did and now I'm ready to reclaim my life before it gets any worse. God bless you, I don't know you, but you ARE an amazing woman. Love.