Sunday, January 23, 2011


I had another small enlightenment today as I was eating a steak sandwich and thinking about why food was, and in some ways still is, such a focus for me. I've covered every aspect of it in detail on my blog: how I used food to stuff down emotions, to distract me from distressing stuff, to give me pleasure when I was sad, to hurt myself when I was angry. But it all boils down to a compulsion to commit the behavior of EATING. And I don't mean eating for fuel. For the sake of this discussion, I am not including eating proper amounts and types of food to satisfy hunger and meet one's nutritional needs. I am only talking about disordered eating... eating  for the reasons other than hunger (or even reasonable, 'normal' type social/pleasure eating).

I am talking about binge eating, over-eating, secret eating. I am talking about eating in your car, eating so much you feel sick, eating things you don't even really want or like. Crazy, disordered eating, which is how I got fat in the first place. Oh, I got 'plump' from having a few too many servings of bread or pasta. I gained that first 40 pounds or so just by not paying a lot of attention to what I was stuffing in my mouth between caring for a bunch of little kids. But then it turned into something sinister... something ugly. It went from just a bit of careless overindulgence to an all-out obsession or compulsion to eat large amounts of food in short time periods. And that pretty much happened when I got divorced 14 years ago.

For a decade, I ate in a way that was really abnormal. You can read about it on my blog if you like; it's all in the archives. And I have worked very, very hard over the past 3.5 years to change those behaviors. I've succeeded, for the most part... especially with changing the actual *behaviors.* But sometimes, the disordered thoughts are still there. I still have a vague sense of wanting to eat large volumes of food, or hide somewhere and eat, or eat in the parking lot and hide all the wrappers before I get home. I still sometimes get the urge to eat when I am not hungry, just for the *experience* of eating. And that's what hit me tonight as I was eating that sandwich: that what I wanted was not the *sandwich*... it was the experience of eating the sandwich. THAT is why one Oreo is never enough. Neither is 5, or 10, or 20. I would always eat ALL of the Oreos... not because I wanted Oreos, or even because I liked how they felt in my body. Not even because I subconsciously wanted to be fat. I have sorted through all the possible reasons why I would eat and eat and not seem "able" to stop, and while some of them do have a touch of validity, the bottom line is that I wanted to be *in the experience* of eating an Oreo, and that could only happen *while* I was eating one. And one didn't last very long. So it wasn't that I wanted to eat the whole package of Oreos. That made me SICK and I was tired of them and feeling gross long before I got to the end. But I wanted the experience and I wanted it to last as long as possible. And for those of you who think eating more slowly is the ticket here, it sure wasn't for me. Part of the experience was ruined if I tried to *nibble* and slowly eat an Oreo. And the only way to get the experience I was looking for was to take the 20 minutes it took me to eat the whole package of them. And if my stomach was bigger I'd have eaten a second package, too.

I thought I was addicted to the sugar/fat/salt combination, or to sugar itself... and I do think there is a component of that in there. BUT, if you hooked me up to an IV and fed me a bag of potato chips or cookies straight into my blood *without* the eating experience, I would be immensely pissed off. I am not looking for the feeling of having that crap in my bloodstream... I am looking for the *sensory* experience... the mouthfeel, the texture, the flavors, the temperature, the creaminess or crunchiness. THAT is what I am addicted to, if anything. The experience itself.

And THAT is why Medifast worked *so well* for me. No, this isn't meant to be a Medifast plug, but I really learned something here. When I followed that plan strictly, it was like going to rehab for eating addiction. Seriously. It was like quitting *the experience* cold turkey. No more oohing and ahhing over textures and flavors. No more long, drawn out, intimate food experiences. Open a packet, eat it. Period. Small portions every 2-3 hours that tasted fine but not *fantastic.* The foods are NOT amazing. They are NOT addictive. They are NOT an *experience* that makes you want more, more, more. You eat it and you're done. It is simple nourishment. And the dinners you prep for yourself: simple. I mean, how can anyone binge on a chicken breast and broccoli? Really. Maybe some people do, but plain, simple, healthy food has never really triggered me into a binge.

So for months I did the plan. I ate the packets of stuff. I didn't "cheat." I lost a lot of weight and I reported that food had lost its hold on me and I could sit by a loaf of warm bread and not have it "bother" me. Food was like a rock to me. No more extreme draw or appeal. I no longer felt compelled to eat, unless I was hungry, and even then I stuck with small healthy portions and that was all I cared for. Losing weight was no longer a battle.

I thought I was *cured* of binge eating disorder. I lost 59 pounds on Medifast. But you know, I wasn't "cured." It's just that I was in rehab. Medifast is, in my opinion, like rehab. It took my experience away and made me feel normal for the first time in ages.

And then I started trying to doctor up the foods to make them tastier. That's allowed, to a certain extent. I started adding in more fats and condiments than permitted. I started making up my own snack items to have instead of the ones Medifast recommended. And you know what? Eating became an experience again. The packets became quite tasty, and I wanted more. The snacks were so good, I wanted them to last longer, so I had more than one. The dinners with my special added ingredients were sooo yummy that I couldn't stand for the eating to end. And I stopped losing weight. And I started screwing up, going off plan, eating sandwiches and chips once in awhile because, once again, I was addicted. Am addicted.

The benefit of Medifast, to me, is getting me out of my head, out of bad habits, nourishing my body without driving me to OVEReat. I've been pushing the envelope too much, with excuses of stress, illness, being too busy. I think I need rehab again. Thankfully, it is only one packet away.

And no, while I think Medifast is a great product, I do not believe it is *the only* way to achieve these results. Only you know what your triggers are. If you can eliminate them completely, and formulate a simple plan with correct nutrition for yourself, you can 'rehab' yourself without any outside products. Or maybe you can just count calories if your issues are not quite as deep as mine have been. But I am very thankful I have this simple option, because as of right now, it feels like a lifeline to normalcy for me.

*FTC-required disclosure: Medifast provided me with its products for my personal use for free. I am not paid or compensated in any other way for mentioning their products. Medifast states an "average weight loss of up to 2 to 5 pounds a week."*


Ex Yo-Yo Dieter Debbie said...

Thought-provoking! It brought to mind this question: when you are bingeing and having a food experience, perhaps what makes it "magical" is that when you are eating the cookies (and the act of eating is innately pleasurable for most "normal" eaters), you are not experiencing ANYTHING ELSE at that time. The eating of the cookies, at that exact time, is the only thing that exists - a form of escapism.

I think of this...imagine eating a chocolate chip cookie in a mindful way. You focus on the cookie, on how it tastes, how it feels in your mouth, etc, WHILE NOT DOING ANYTHING ELSE. You make yourself eat it slowly, so that you get the full experience of it. With no distractions, eating it slowly and mindfully can annoy the heck out of a compulsive eater like me.

Now imagine eating it the way you normally have your cookie experience...cookie after cookie, eating them fairly fast, usually alone, likely while watching TV or playing with the computer or reading, or SOMETHING. Then you get to zone out in your cookie experience.

I recently read that compulsive eating and mindful eating (willingly paying attention to what you're doing, being in the present moment) can't co-exist.

To me, as someone fighting with compulsive eating, it comes down to that: I'm either trying to use food as an escape or I'm mindful of what I'm eating (and while enjoyable, the food loses its "magic").

When I binge, I'm checking out (like an addict who's using). When I eat mindfully (no matter what it is), I'm HERE.

As difficult as it is, when about to binge I try hard to ask myself, "What is it I'm trying to escape from?"

I definitely understand your struggles - we have many, many shared experiences.

Hope this made sense! said...

Thanks for this post. It really resignated with me. Not just an hour ago I was at walmart with my husband doing the should I or should'nt I?? It was not just 2 weeks ago I finally said I was DONE with ice cream. It IS my binge food and always will be. So tonight on my list I had ICE CREAM? When I got to that isle. I said to my husband should I? Then I said but I said I was done with it..I thought for a second..Then I said..I am sticking with it!! I did not think about it again till now. Ice cream seems to then trigger other foods.I do so good all week with everything. I eat so healtyh. Then every night I sit down to this big bowl of ice cream. Well I have gone now something like maybe a week or a bit longer with no ice cream and I am doing good! TOM is on it's way and I am starting to crave sweets hense tonight..So I did pick up some 86% chocolate and 1 piece is 60 calories. I am so glad I did not buy that ice cream!

Lynne said...

A solid argument for "Cold Turkey" Medifast living... I am with you on the eating - sneaking, binging, needing certain flavors and textures as a reaction to anger, frustration, boredom, sadness, loneliness.... After 4 good weeks on WW I am trying to come to terms with LOSING it's OK, and why do I get anxious when I finally start seeing the scale go down. Self sabatoge... You know what you do... DO you know why you do it???? I haven't a clue.

Rebecca said...

You are a huge inspiration to me. Between your blog and one I've found on tumblr, I've got some great role models to follow and I love you for putting yourself out there for me and others like me.

This post made me wonder one thing... what happens when it's time to get off Medifast? How do you transition back to regular food? With the addiction factor, I'd really be interested to hear how this works.

Jane Cartelli said...

I understand this behavior from painful repeating of it in my journey. I know that when I have been sick and unable to taste or smell because of sinus congestion I have searched for the 'one thing' I could taste/smell/enjoy even while sick. I was seeking that sensory experience that would come with the action of consuming he food. I am so grateful that awareness of this issue and commitment to a program of recovery as saved me from continuing this pattern for today. My journey has not been perfect and I still have I still have steps to travel but today there is less pain in my life and that is a good thing.

Vickie said...

really good post

Mel said...

The lure of "magical" food. Doug Lisle's "The Pleasure Trap" changed forever how I look at food.

Desert Singer said...

yep yep yep.

Jen said...

Amen, sister. You have finally-- really and truly--hit the nail on the head!

crazyjojo said...

Exactly! My food is tasty, but plain. No sugar in any form. Only whole wheat flour, as unprocessed as possible. I don't try to kid myself that I can "handle" chocolate or my binge foods. When I live that way, I DON"T WANT TO BINGE. I realized that binging for me is shoving the food in my mouth while reading a book. This jams the negative, critical voice that yammers at me all day long. It turns it into a white noise that I can ignore. Afterward I can just float in a drugged haze.

mk said...

I think I know what you mean by the sensory experience. People always say you shouldn't deprive yourself, but man, I do so much better when I just don't even go there in the first place. I find that when I go without for a while, that experience is a distant memory that doesn't bother me much and I can escape the clutches of food that makes my life miserable. 9 times out of 10 nowadays, I'm able to just say no.

anyway, you're awesome. it's been so great to read your journey. i finally got up the courage to start my own health blog, mixed in with some fashion (because no one ever tells you how hard it is to dress yourself once you have a completely new body!) Not sure if you'd be interested, but I've commented here before and just thought you might want to see something besides my family blog. the new link is

Keep it up, Lyn! :)

Lyn said...


Yes, it is definitely an escape from reality or drudgery. Makes perfect sense!


It's complictaed, for sure. I've written about the why's of my sabotage and for me it goes back to being abused and relating that to being lighter and more "movable" as well as equating thinness with death.


Medifast has a very detailed and slow (months long) transition plan as well as a maintenance plan, which I plan to follow. You can use the search box on the upper left of my blog to search for Transition if you'd like to read it in detail. I think it will be very helpful to me!

aec5940 said...

Again - amazing post. I have never really thought of why I need to eat an entire box/bag/container of junk, but it is definitely the experience. M&Ms for example - I usually like to let one dissolve in my mouth, and I will eat several this way. But I also like to put a BIG handful in my mouth all at once, and feel and taste the sensation of eating all of them at once. Then sometimes I bite them in half. So I do end up eating the whole bag (and no, a single-serve bag isn't enough) in order to experience all the different pleasurable ways of eating them. I have figured out that I eat to avoid thing/emotions/situations, but this gives me good insight on why I eat SO MUCH in those situations. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

"When food is love"

Princess Dieter said...

After I saw your success on MediFast, I added some WonderSlim (a quasi-medifast, cheaper and with fewer items and much less soy) products and it is part of what spurred me to lose MORE. I realize now that I need lower carb (should have known this being Insulin Resistant).

After experimenting with high-carb/low-fat for a recent challenge and STALLING and getting all weepy and emotional, I realize starches are not good for me except in minimal amounts daily.

I saw and RD, she made a plan for me that is essentially clean and lower fat and lower starch/carb, but with normal food--fruit is limited to 2, no more than 3 if I must, veggies are bountiful, starches no more than 1 a day (and I often skip altogether), and two dairy, and one nut serving.

My energy has soared. My sex drive went nuts. My happiness index is off the charts. Just removing the fricken starches and I stopped stalling.

For some of us, I think it's not just sugar or wanting to eat...its the way our bodies handle those carbs/starches make us want to eat more, make us moody, make us susceptible.

I have done experimenting. I know I don't need packaged foods anymore (my boxes of WonderSlim have been sitting neglected, but I still like a shake or a pancake serving of theirs now and again cause I ENJOY them and they are controlled, so it's a safe treat.)

I hope you find the place again of feeling calm and well and continue to lose and go back to your "clean" natural foods. Do what you need to to regain your food composure.

Cause binge-ing sucks the big one.

And thank God I haven't binged in months and months. It's like a reprieve from some dire sentence.

Take care,
Mir/Princess Dieter

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean, I used to eat huge meals and it would always be big chunky food that I would have and I would wolf it down and it felt satisfying-even when I drank drinks, I would always choose gassy drinks rather than juice drinks because it just felt chunkier and more satisfying! I know that sounds weird but I kinda liked shoving food in my mouth, that was my experience!

Mavra xx

Happy Fun Pants said...

Back from a weekend away from the internet.

I'm with Debbie here...when I overeat it's because I am bolting from my life. And while things are going well, they're not going the way that I want them to - or as quickly as I want them to.

It's so frustrating to me...because I recently started eating beyond the point of satiety, beyond the point of fullness.

And it still wasn't enough. said...

Thanks for the recap on Medifast. I've never looked into it, but I think I'll at least look at it now. Cheers, Rick

Anonymous said...

I just lost 45 pounds on mfast and then went into transition. I could not control my eatting when "real food" was reintroduced. I could see myself slipping back into old patterns. Until I can get my issues with food under control which are so much like yours I am going to go back on program. I feel like it's a never ending struggle.

beerab said...

I know how you feel. There are times I still want to eat like crazy. Chips are calling to me now and I'm doing my best to NOT look at the kitchen. You have done so well I have no doubt you will continue and get to your ultimate goal :)

Karin said...

Thank you for posting this. From all the responses it obviously hits a LOT of people right in the gut (no pun intended..or maybe I did!) I feel the same way with my hcg protocol. No sugars in any for, no oils, nothing processed (maybe a little pure stevia here and there) and just plain eating not so exciting foods. But i've learned a LOT from it and that is...right now, i'm missing that "experience".. It's getting easier, but if I had loopholes i'd use 'em, that's for sure. Cold turkey is about the only way for me to see exactly what my issues really are and boy are they smacking me in the face. Thank you for your insights and inspirations, you rock :)

Katherine said...

Yeah, it is that sensory experience and not just the food....I feel that I started turning toward eating as comfort/escape from loneliness, but my *sinister turn* was when I started turning down being with people in order to stay home and eat by myself (or in the car).

cindy said...

*light bulb* wow. this is in a nut shell and you have truly hit the nail on the head, now for me to take your insight and continue to explore in my own mind, why this works so well for me and to (hopefully) figure out how to turn it off. And as for MF, yeah, its "safe", its my world and I'm comfortable there. I do fear transition, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, your insight will hope fully help me to reach my goal weight. Ever moving forward on the learning journey! :)


beerab said...

So true- I just discovered that we can have 1 tbsp PB and I definitely have to reel that in or I will go overboard with it! I have been putting the pb on my brownies and they are heaven lol.

Interesting you describe it as rehab- well put- some of us really need to hit rock bottom to realize it's time to lose weight.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most eye-opening posts I've ever read from you (and I *love* your posts!).

I cannot relate more to what you're saying. Wow. You just hit the nail on the head.

I think within that experience that you talk about comes a 'HIGH' from sneaking, bingeing, all of that.

Malee Ann said...

Something that has helped me in my journey to living a healthy lifestyle, is tackling why I eat or overeat. i am also on medifast and it is a wonderful program. However It wasn't until I started attacking the deeper issues! Setting the Captives Free website has free programs for those who suffer from habitial issues in life! The one Focused on Foods is called the LORDS TABLE. But it is a great resource!

Miss Obesity Rehab said...

Hey! What a great accomplishment! I've got a blog of my own ( and I don't have many followers how did you get that many? Do you have any tips for me?