I think I'm addicted to food.

I don’t mean in that glib, “If I wasn’t addicted I’d stop eating entirely” sort of way. I mean I think there’s a real addiction going on here.

See, for the most part I’ve always been an eat-whatever-whenever sort of person, and although I rather and generally practise having at least one “big” meal a day, my greater tendancy is to graze – eat little bits of things throughout the day. A piece of fruit, an empty-calorie snack, whatever. It didn’t strike me as a problem though – in fact I’d heard that in some ways grazing was a little healthier for your body because it kept your energy level relatively constant rather than subjecting it to peaks and valleys as you swung from main meal to main meal. (Has something to do with insulin production I think)

Until recently, that is. I’ve been trying to put myself on a diet, you see. I’ve managed to pack on an extra 30-40 pounds that I would very much like to rid myself of. Aside from the unsightly gut it has given me, it’s also playing silly buggers with my system’s ability to regulate its temperature properly, resulting in the development of my competition sweating ability. To that end I decided to alter the content of my routine, if not my routine itself. Rather than chips and other junk food to snack on, I’d buy fruit or low-cal yogurt or something like that instead. I wouldn’t eliminate chips completely, but rather I’d save it for an occasional treat, just so the whole diet thing wouldn’t feel like I was giving up many of the things I love entirely. It would make the process take longer, but that was something I was perfectly willing to concede for the sake of being able to stick to the diet without (too much) temptation to really cheat on it. Plus, whatever diet I went on had to be sustainable even after I’d lost the weight I wanted, so I couldn’t just go all tofu and salad. (I hate tofu anyway)

If nothing else the whole process has made me take very close looks at the nutritional information panels on foodstuffs – which provided me with no shortage of shockers regarding how many calories and how much fat the crap I stuffed my face with contained, as well as pleasant surprises that some of the stuff I loved was also amazingly low calorie. So, I developed a sort of loose goal: Try and maintain as close to a 1:1 Calorie:Weight ratio as possible (i.e. for every 100g portion of food, try and maintain a calorie content at or under 100Cal.) Low fat was always preferable too, of course. This gave me something to shoot for and made it easier to figure out what sort of foods I should be eating and what I should really avoid.

It’s a simple plan, really, but I am a big fan of the K.I.S.S. method, and dieting needn’t be complicated anyway. It’s been pretty easy, actually; I happen to like a lot of things that also happen to be low calorie, low fat, and taste good. However, another thing I have been trying to do is to break myself of the grazing. This is where the problem has manifested itself. I can’t seem to do it.

It doesn’t really matter what I eat, only that I do. If I don’t I’ll find myself almost automatically looking for something to nibble on and I have to mentally smack myself upside the cerebellum. Only 10, 20 minutes later, I’ll find myself doing it again and I have to tell myself to cut it right the hell out. And then again shortly afterwards – and sometimes I’ll just give in so I stop looking. I know I am doing myself no favours in acceding to my craving and am only making it harder to stop, but … well, sometimes I’m just a friggin’ weakling.

So, what the hell? Am I addicted to food or am I just such a creature of habit that I’m compelled to do it because I’ve been doing it for so long? Does the difference matter? I really need to cut the crap and start kicking myself in tender spots every time I have the urge or I’ll end up forgetting what my lower half looks like.


It’s probably mostly a habit, though it’s hard to say for sure - there could be an element of addiction to it as well.

I remember when I was first on Weight Watcher’s - I had user’s dreams, wherein I’d be at this spectacular buffet with all this food. Fortunately after a few weeks, when I got used to eating differently, that all went away. Basically what you need to do is teach yourself new habits and after that things will get easier.

I don’t think that means you are ‘addicted’ to food, just that some people like the hand-to-mouth sensation of eating and the chewing. I like it too, I think it is a leftover from my smoking days. Here are some things I do:

Drink zero cal drinks instead of eating.
Eat things that have almost no calories but that take a long time to eat, like popcorn or celery.
Chew gum.
Suck a hard candy.

After a while you will get more used to not eating as often too, but sometimes I still have those weird episodes of “want to eat…anything…but not hungy really.” I don’t know what that’s about but if I can wait it out it will usually stop in a half hour or so. It helps to go walk around or do something else for a while.

I recommend:
Potatoes Not Prozac, A Natural Seven-Step Dietary Plan to Stabilize the Level of Sugar in Your Blood, Control Your Cravings and Lose Weight, and Recognize How Foods Affect the Way You Feel (Paperback)

It has helped me regulate my sweet addiction. (Well, OK, so far I’ve only gone two weeks without eating candy or cookies, but if you knew me, you would know that is a huge accomplishment for me.)

Or hungry, even :rolleyes:

I was also going to add that those episodes are especially dangerous for me, because I find I can control portions when I plan meals, sit down, and eat them, and then I feel fine and satisfied. But if I start eating during those moments I will eat and eat past any sort of realistic amount even after my body tells me I am full. It’s really odd, it’s almost a dissociative state or something so I have to fight it. I find it gets worse during times of stress so that might be a cause. It’s almost a restless feeling when it happens, I can even compare it to cravings for a cigarrette I had when I was quitting smoking.

The comparison to cigarette cravings is apt – I am a smoker, so I can say that it is very similar, though it is different enough to recognize as not exactly being a withdrawal symptom.

I can also say though that I tend to eat well past the “full” period when it comes to snacking – but only when it comes to light snacking material. I won’t do it after a big meal where I am neither understimulated nor in any condition to even think of food.

It’s not even an addition to any partular kind of food or ingredient therein – I don’t have a sweets addiction or anything. (Actually I’m not really much of a candy eater – the odd chocolate bar here and there, maybe, but we’re talking once a week or less here) It’s really more on the order of eating for the sake of keeping myself occupied in more ways than just sitting at my desk working or reading the 'dope. (In fact, the fact that my current job does involve a desk does exacerbate the situation since I can have snacking material nearby and can eat it whenever I want)

I’ve tried some substitutions, but it usually comes down to a matter of convenience/availability:

Zero cal drinks: Bottled water. I do this. I can’t stand 0-cal flavoured drinks though, because I find the taste of Splenda/Nutrasweet/Whatever rather unpleasant. I do mix sugar and Splenda with my tea though, so I have some real sugar in there but with a little extra sweetness provided by the 0-cal Splenda where the presence of real sugar mitigates the unpleasantness of the Splenda. I also use skim milk in my tea, so while not exactly 0-calorie, it’s still very low calorie with no fat.

Eat no-cal things: Possible, but logistically improbable. I am far more likely to snack on things that require no preparation or can be prepared at my desk (provided I have the necessary implements and/or ingredients to prepare it there also). I have a box of microwave popcorn in my desk drawer for such occasions, but so far have only made one out of the six bags in the box. I bought it months ago. Moreover though I want to try and break myself of the desire to snack like that altogether if at all possible. While I really don’t mind snacking on 0-cal things (provided I like them), I think ridding myself of the habitual desire to do so will make it less likely I’ll feel the need to eat something – anything – in the first place. Nothing has fewer calories than what you don’t eat. :wink:

Gum: I do that from time to time, but as I’m not a huge sweets person, and this only lasts so long, it’s a bit of a poor substitute and used only as a bit of a stopgap.

Candy: Sweets. Meh. Caramels – real cream soft toffees in particular – are an exception, but the calories, Og, so many empty calories…

So, yeah. I’ve tried a few things and some work temporarily, but I think it’s going to end up requiring me to put the boots to my arse. I’m fairly weak-willed most of the time but if I piss myself off enough I’ll become just stubborn enough to stop. I hope, anyway…

Now if only I could apply that to smoking, too… that one’s gonna be tougher.

What helps me stick to my diet when I get cravings to eat is to exercise. Any sort of exercise will do it for me. When I find myself looking in the pantry, I use it as a trigger to do some dumbell curls or some jumping jacks or some pushups, anything that gets my heart rate up for a few minutes. All I can say is that it works for me and might work for you. Plus, it is just a few minutes and so even if you are exercise phobic, it isn’t like committing yourself to an hour on the treadmill.

heh. The reason why I finally decided to get up off my ass and lost 20 pounds is partly because I quit smoking cold turkey a few years ago, and I figured if I could do that then I could surely lose a little weight. I find that the processes for me are actually quite similar, although quitting smoking was definitely much harder in the beginning. Eating better and keeping the weight off gets tiresome later on, although setting up new habits is part of it and that part does get easier after new habits are established.

I guess it’s running the marathon as opposed to an all-out crazy sprint like smoking.

I agree that it’s better to just get used to not snacking then finding a replacement. I just need to have some of those “eat a lot of low cal food” things on hand for the times when I do just give in and eat, as I inevitably will once in a while. During those times I will eat what I can find, so better to eat the popcorn instead of chips. If I pretend I never will give in to the feeling then I end up eating crap when it happens, better to prepare.

FWIW, I have kept the weight off for almost 8 months now even with the occasional binge. What’s different this time is after a binge I just go back to my regular eating instead of giving up. Maybe throw an extra workout in to help. Sounds obvious but in the past I would give up if I wasn’t doing perfectly, now I think of it as a long-term way of eating where one meal is not going to make much of a difference no matter what you eat. It’s all about the pattern of healthy eating, not one blip on the radar.

After going through some of those episodes I have some inkling of what I think a bulimic does, that mindless and frantic eating and eating - it has nothing to do with being hungry or full and everything to do with filling a void. Sometimes after I do have the urge to throw up as well, just because then I feel guilty and want to ‘undo’ it. So I can see where it comes from even if I won’t resort to doing it myself.

I’m not an excer-phobic, I’m just completely lazy. Or maybe put more specifically, I lack the energy and motivation to get at it. I was sort of hoping that if I start this thing off slowly and shave off a few pounds I’ll find that soon I do have a bit more energy, and that in itself will help motivate me to start putting more effort into it. Sort of a snowball effect.

That’s pretty much it; you can quit smoking and that’s that, the addiction’s gone and you’re back to your old self. To keep the weight down though you have to plan well ahead and change the entire way you think about food, and you have to keep at it as long as you want to maintain a healthy body weight.

See, I went into this with a very similar mentality. I’ve never dieted before so this was all new to me, and I figured I had to take a really common sense approach or it just wasn’t going to work. And one of the things I decided was that I couldn’t outright ban certain foods. Denying yourself stuff you love as a rule is just creating a “don’t think of a pink elephant” scenario. On the other hand, if you tell yourself you can have that stuff but you really shouldn’t you’re more likely to stick to the plan. It’s all silly head games, but it seems to work.

How long have you been watching what you eat? It may be nothing more than you’re doing a lot of thinking about food and what you’re going to eat, and all that attention is giving you the urge to eat. It’s normal. When I hit 30 and could no longer eat like I could in my teens and 20s, I read all about food and nutrition. For the first few months, all I could think about was food: what I was eating, what I was sacrificing, when was my next meal, would I break down… It got damn tedious, but I got over it. It’s like starting any new thing. It’s top of mind all the time at first.

Try to occupy your mind with other things. Don’t try to avoid thinking about food (that will guarantee you’ll obsess about it), just find some things that really occupy your brain and make sure to spend some time on them each day. Take up a new hobby that will give you something to get excited about aside from your meal plans.

If you still obsess about food, try the flooding technique. When food thoughts enter your brain, just go with it–but go overboard. Force yourself to think about food. All kinds of food. Make yourself think of nothing but food. Just overwhelm your brain with thoughts of food. You get pretty tired of that after a few minutes, your mind starts wandering, and you’re off to thinking of something else.

When do you have the urge to eat? Is it when you’re bored? Trying to concentrate? Watching TV? Once you recognize when you have the temptation, you can make plans to address it. Watching TV is a big one for me. Now that I realize it’s a trigger, I either avoid watching TV or make sure I have low cal snacks around. (Really, who cares if I pig out on cucumber slices while watching CSI?)

Good munchie snacks that have very few calories and require little to no prep time:

Baby carrots
Celery (I dip it in salt, which is probably crazy bad for me, so I try not to do it too often. I also dip celery in salsa and everyone thinks that’s weird, but I love it.)
Snow peas
Air popped popcorn (some of the microwave stuff has too much butter flavor on it and can have more calories than you think)
Sugar free jello.

As for drinks:
You don’t like the artificial sweetener taste, so maybe some herbal teas would give you that hand to mouth satisfaction. Also, many of my friends who hate diet drinks love Diet Peach Snapple. It’s the best tasting diet drink out there!

You may also want to look into Weight Watchers. They have lots of good techniques for changing your eating patterns and lifestyle.

Maybe I’m mis-remembering nutrition class, but that seems a bit strict.

IIRC, carbohydrates and proteins are 4 kcal per gram, and fat is 9. For the 1:1 idea to work, 3/4 of what you’re putting into your body would have to be fiber, water, or zero-calorie mass… minimum.

Then again, vegetarians may eat similarly…

But, wow. I’d have to eat 4.4 pounds of food daily to maintain my healthy weight. That’s a lot of broccoli.