Thursday, November 13, 2008


Have you ever gone too long without eating and gotten that crazy, desperate feeling that you have to eat RIGHT NOW or you are going to DIE? It's a really unsettling feeling. When I go for more than 3 or 4 hours without food, I start feeling a little hungry. Then my head starts to hurt. I start thinking, "I need to eat. I have to find something to eat." If I don't eat something right then, it won't be long until I get this urgent, raving maniac feeling that I do not CARE about losing weight, eating right, or anything else at that moment. All I care about is getting food into my body. I will go through cabinets grabbing handfuls of stuff and eating it. Carbs, sugar, cheese. Anything. NOW. It feels very out-of-control.

I know it's related to blood sugar getting too low and biological responses to hunger, but it feels like insanity when it is happening. I thought for years that I might be pre-diabetic, but all the tests I have had come back normal. They say it is just how my body reacts to low blood sugar. The easy, practical solution to this kind of crazy hunger? Don't get hungry. Don't let myself go for hours without eating. When I go out, keep a baggie of almonds or a granola bar in my purse just in case. And that works most of the time. Unless I forget the granola bar, or eat the almonds and forget to put new ones in my purse. Then today happens.

I was running errands with my daughter. I was fine. I was not hungry. I would be home by 12:30 for lunch. Then it hit me, in the car: that panicky, I-gotta-eat-NOW feeling. I started planning in my head what I would eat when I got home: a healthy bean salad. But by the time I got in the door, my head was throbbing and spinning and all I wanted to do was eat eat eat. I grabbed a handful of whole grain crackers and some water. All kinds of things were whipping through my brain: eat some cheese... bread and butter... a peanut butter sandwich... anything and everything to make this feeling go away. I forced myself to throw together the bean salad instead. In five minutes I was frantically chowing down half a can of kidney beans in a bowl... and within minutes of those beans hitting my mouth, the headache was gone, my pulse slowed, my breathing deepened. I felt a wave of relief sweep over me. Ahhhhh. Peace. I felt so GOOD. So well.

In the past I ate like a maniac trying to be rid of those intense sensations of... almost like I was going to starve to death if I didn't eat immediately. At least now I can fight through it and grab something healthy instead.

Then there's the other kind of urge to eat. The "mouthfeel" kind, or the brain-driven, desire-filled kind. I might be already full or satisfied but I have a thought. Maybe a commercial or a magazine ad or someone just MENTIONS a certain food. Like cheesecake. Someone says it, and I get a little frantic. I start thinking of ways to make a healthy cheesecake. I Google it, I start looking at recipes and images of cheesecake. I remember that some websites have cheesecake GIVEAWAYS sometimes, and I start going around entering them. After all, if I *win* a cheesecake, no one can fault me for eating it, right?? I start imagining the cheesecakes, the various flavors. I want one. I want it now. I think about sprinkling a block of cream cheese with sugar and eating that. Or maybe I want bacon cheese potato soup and breadsticks. And then my mind runs wild, thinking of all the things I miss. All the foods I want to indulge in. Sometimes this kind of thinking is what leads to an all-out binge. I head to the store for a cheesecake, a container of soup, breadsticks, oh and since I am screwing up I may as well go all the way and get some donuts, hot dogs, Cheetos and ice cream. And candy bars. Get it all out of the way so I can start over tomorrow... or Monday. Yeah. That's exactly how I got fat.

The logical thing to do is short circuit that craziness. Just STOP looking at the food, distract myself with something else. Eat a bowl of sugar free Jello and hope that gives me enough time to get a grip. It usually does. And sometimes, if it happens late enough, I just go to bed and have a smorgasbord. I actually tell myself I can eat anything I want in my dreams, with no consequences. And then I go to sleep imagining eating that whole cheesecake, and cookies, and anything else I can imagine. I dream of bowls of chocolate frosting and cookie dough and brownies. And then I wake up and I am one pound thinner.

That's the life of a food addicted person. The life of someone who let food become their focus in life for years. I am becoming a different person. In the daytime I maintain control most of the time. I bike every day. I am strong. But the old fat me is still hanging around inside this flabby skin, just waiting for a chance to snatch some cookies. So I just feed her the imaginary ones. Eventually I hope she will become thin and eat healthy right along with the rest of me. I hope someday my whole self is done with the binges. For good.


MizFit said...


that's really it. thinking about you. and thinking again how hard it is to be addicted to FOOD as it isnt something you can go cold turkey with like drugs or alcohol.
that you have to try and do "just the right amount" of your demon/addiction daily.

hang in there, L.


Vickie said...

My husband - who does not have a food addiction and it not overweight - has those same panic - got to eat or I am going to die feelings when his blood sugar drops.

And it took me a long time to figure out that this happens when he does NOT eat complex good carbs (like beans, baked plain squash, baked plain sweet potato, brown steamed rice) AND Lean protein TOGETHER so they hold him.

Eating just carbs (crackers, bread) is setting him up to repeat about 4 hours later.

I started out eating 5-6 very small meals a day. And I always ate evenly from the food groups. So when I eat - I am eating protein and good carbs ALWAYS and then depending on the meal - I eat dairy, fruit, veggies with my good carb and protein. This keeps ME very EVEN and takes away that roller coaster.

The other thing that this reminded me of is that if I don't take care of my other heath factors (migraines, allergies, asthma) and let myself fall into a state where I do NOT feel good - this same Eat To Make Myself Feel Better feeling persists. That was one lesson that I learned in my weight loss phase. When I took the weight off - I got rid of a lot of my body problems and pain. And the ones that didn't go away with the fat - I had to take care of - see doctors, get on right meds, even two surgeries to correct things I had ignored for y-e-a-r-s. And I really did have to take care of all those things - inorder to make my body and mind and therefore my eating fall into balance.

Scale Junkie said...

You are not alone. I could have written those words. I know that insane must eat NOW that you describe. Its physically painful. Its an addiction and I struggle with it every single day. Thanks for sharing, I feel a bit more normal now knowing someone else feels this way too

moonduster said...

I know exactly what you are talking about here, because it happens to me too.

Today, I had to take one fo my teenagers to the doctors (for headaches). The appointment was for 9:40am, and we had to catch the bus, so we were out of the house by 9:00am, and Is till hadn't eaten breakfast.

We got there ate 9:30am, but of course, she wasn't seen until almost 10:30am. And then we had to catch the bus home, so we didn't get home until 11:00am.

By then, I'd been awake for 5 hours without eating anything.

I had to make my two youngest kids their lunch, so I made myself a piece of toast using whole wheat bread and added a spoonful of sugar-free strawberry jam (only 18 calories for the jam).

Then as I got their lunches ready, I sliced myself up a couple of plums, a kiwi and a couple of carrots to munch.

Now I feel good and ready to get my hour and a half of exercise done before I decide what to have for lunch.

Catie said...

I think food addiction may even be harder than alcohol or drug addiction. You can totally abstain from alcohol and drugs, but with food you have to have it. Someone once told me, eating with an addiction to food is like letting a ravenous tiger out of a cage three times a day, and then trying to get him back in the cage. So true! That is what we call "Moderation", and it is hard to do.

~TMcGee~ said...

Good heavens, Lyn! I feel terrible that you and others have this. I get hungry but not to the point that you described. I am so sorry that you have to experience these situations. I so wish that you were able to go to a therapist who specializes in this addiction. It was almost like you were describing the addition of a heroin addict.
I'm sending big hugs to you today, you will get through this, I know it.

~TMcGee~ said...

that was supposed to read "addiction of a heroin addict" not addition. Sorry.

Leticia said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. I have begun telling myself when I start feeling this way to stop. I acknowledge that I'm hungry and that its not an emergency. I'm going to be ok. It seems bizarre to be talking to myself this way, but I swear I used to think it was an emergency to eat. Craziness.

Jayme said...

This happens to me!! I even get a step beyond this, when i start feeling really nauseas.

Once i start eating,, i feel better but then i sometimes overeat,, it takes the brain 20mn to send a signal that you are i feel so famished that i totally binge out!

I always wondered do our skinnier counterparts feel this???

It feels like starvation and its one horrible feeling.

Thanks for this entry!

Betsey C. said...

Yet another awesome post from you -- you are such a good writer, so good at describing feelings. You perfectly describe what goes on in the head of this compulsive overeater.

I do believe that there is something organic, something haywire in our brains that causes this "panic", something other than just a reaction to low blood sugar. We may be able to control it and work through it, but it's always there. "Normal" eaters don't act like this. My cube-mate at work is a normal eater. She will say "Oh my God, I'm so hungry, I wish it was lunch time." Then she'll forget about it for an hour or more. She will do crazy, amazing things like pushing her plate of stuffed pizza away when she has had enough. Unbelievable!

Some day it will become clear exactly why people become compulsive overeaters, alcoholics and addicts. Until then we just have to work hard, every day, to keep it under control and reach our goals.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy that I found your blog not too long ago. Although I cannot say that I get the ravenous hunger that you describe if I haven't eaten...I do have the thoughts and ideas of the "bad" foods and convince myself that I am missing out by not having these and will go to the store to get something. Sometimes I am too embarrassed to actually buy all of the junk that I want that I will make another trip to a different store, just so they don't know all of the crap that I am getting to put into my body. Thanks for sharing your journey with the rest of has really put a lot of things in perspective for me.

Sheri said...

What I have found, when I actually pay attention, is that my sugar fluxuations are minimized when I eat less and more grain filled carbs, and stay away from the really sweet stuff (not that I did that much to begin with). The best thing for me is to stay away from foods monopolized by enriched white flour. There is an old saying, "Eat white bread you're dead." When I go for all those things I used to love so much, then food cravings build to monsterous proportions. I am pre-diabetic, so I hvae to get it right, and when I screw up I physically feel like crap.

Carol said...

Yes, I know that feeling. As I went through the Beck book and I read that hunger was NOT an emergency I was shocked to read those words because for me, it was always an emergency. That was probably the most shocking realization I had during my weight loss.

bbubblyb said...

Hugs Lyn, I know those feelings well. Hang in there it will get better.

Amy said...

Thanks for reading my mind and putting it into words!

Sometimes I can fight a craving for several days and just finally say, "Enough! I'm not going to waste my mind thinking on this food for so long, just eat some and get on with life!" And I do. Sometimes I go way overboard, othertimes I can compensate for it.

Sometimes fat, working on it, but happy is better than fat and miserable while working on it. Especially when it comes to being around my loved ones. I must balance weight loss with family life.

Although, how many times can I read the word cheesecake on a weightloss blog before it becomes counter-productive? ;-)

Tina said...

It's so nice to hear that someone else feels the way I do about food. It makes me feel like I'm not a complete lunatic. Thank you for your honesty as always.

Petunia said...

TOTALLY feel the same way.

And sometimes I have lots of dreams about food! I talking about major spreads of sweets. Gotta change the thinking...

Ms Ingrid said...

As a successful "loser" I can tell you that the only way I cope with these hunger pains is that I prepare my meals AHEAD of time. I even do it night before and then I know exactly what and when I am going to eat. It only takes me 2-3 minutes to heat it up and that's how long I am able to keep myself away from junkfood.
Learned it the hard way and now sharing my experience.

I'm a severe food addict and need to be extremely cautious every minute of the day.

Good luck!

Pubsgal said...

Oh, yes, food addiction. Can you imagine a smoker being told they MUST have one (but only one) cigarette per day?

And you know what's REALLY crazy? That hungry feeling can be caused by blood sugars being too high as well as being too low. So when I get that hungry/panic feeling, I check my blood glucose. For me, it usually isn't a low, and so I have a cup of tea or bouillon and hold out until my scheduled meal time.

That was smart of you to get checked for diabetes, Lyn, and I'm glad you don't have to deal with that one, too.

If anyone else on here is dealing with type 2 diabetes (and maybe feeling ashamed, "if only" thoughts, like I used to do), here's an article that helped me tremendously:
(The rest of the Blood Sugar 101 web site is terrific, too.)

PaulaM said...

Wow, I have never experienced this, it sounds horrendous. Can't imagine how you all deal with it.

Dinah Soar said...

What you described also happens to me often. Sometimes I can go for hours and hours and never get hungry. But most of the time if I don't eat "on schedule"..about every 4 hours, I get that panicky, shaky feeling....and feel like I must eat immediately. Sadly the food is never as satisfying eaten in that setting as it is when I am able to prepare ahead on time.

Deb said...

I know exactly the feeing of panic you are talking about. At those times it seems like there will be no amount of food that will be enough.

Heather said...

definitely have those feelings! that is why I try to eat often and eat things that help keep your blood sugar in check and give you energy. but it does happen from time to time where you are caught without something to eat or miss meal time and you feel ravenous. I try to come home and stick with the meal that I planned for myself rather tahn eat anything and everything in sight. that is what I would have done before. now I just try to keep calm and stick to what I planned. thats why plans are great!