Home > food, nutrition > Confessions of a chronic overeater and junk food addict

Confessions of a chronic overeater and junk food addict

I have been a chronic overeater for as long as I can remember.  What I mean by that is that at least at my evening meal I will eat past the point of full.  I don’t recall exactly how often but regularly this would mean eating to the point of nausea.  I would not define this behaviour as binging because I was eating at meal times in front of other people and there was no shame or guilt involved.  I also didn’t feel out of control when eating.  I simply didn’t know when to stop eating or kept eating even though I knew I should stop.  Part of it was a serving size that was way too big, going back for seconds and piling dessert in on top of that.  I never skipped dessert.  A glass or two of soft drink or fruit juice after all of that meant that I was regularly over-full or felt sick.

The reasons why I did this to myself are not that easy to explain.  I believe that overeating for me was a learned behaviour – I experienced it growing up and didn’t learn how to stop eating when I was full.  This doesn’t explain why I continued this behaviour into my late 30’s though.

I think by constantly overeating for years and years, overeating becomes a habit that is hard to break.  Part of the reason for my continued overeating was habit.  I continued doing what I knew, felt comfortable with and what felt good (at the time) and safe.  Of course the after affects were unpleasant but they didn’t occur until after the fact.

Part of my overeating was simply because I never learned how to stop eating when full.  I think this is a learned behaviour and it something that I have learned to do in the last few years.

I used to eat very fast.  I think that was also part of the cause of my overeating.  When you eat that fast your body doesn’t have time to signal your brain that you are full until way after you are full.  I actually felt stressed when eating and ate furiously until all the food on my plate was gone.  I would have sworn that I loved eating but I can remember whole meals that I ate so fast I didn’t actually taste the food.  Since then, I have learned to eat slowly and feel relaxed when I eat.  It is a mental attitude, a learned behaviour and a discipline and I still have to practice some times.

There were other things going on too.  It is thought that overeating increases dopamine levels and is actually an addictive behaviour (1).  It is an addiction that is hard to break.  Another aspect is food choices with my diet comprising primarily junk food (foods high in sugar and fat).  I would eat junk and then be starving not long after and craving sugar.  So I would eat more sugary junk foods and be progressively more hungry during the day.  I was so hungry by the time I got home from work I would look for sugary foods in the fridge when I got home and eat more than I should for a snack.  I also remember after dinner if there was no dessert I would make icing to eat just to get my sugar hit.  I did not feel satisfied after eating unless I ate sugar and I really think I was addicted to the junk food and sugar in particular.  I think that being overweight actually contributed to my overeating as well.  I think the brain chemistry of an overweight person works the same as the brain chemistry of a normal weight person.  Well, when I was obese mine didn’t seem to.

It has taken years to break these habits, behaviours and addictions and to learn new habits, master new behaviours and break addictions.  I started with smaller serving sizes for dinner, just serving slightly less for a couple of weeks and then reducing it again.  At first I just made up for it by eating more dessert but I have gradually got used to eating less.  Over the years my serving size from dinner has reduced to about a third of what I was eating.  The serves now look ridiculously small to me and I can’t believe that it actually fills me up.  I still have “dessert” most nights immediately after dinner.  I have found that habit hard to break.  But now “dessert” might be a couple of spoons of plain Greek yoghurt in a glass of milk or a piece of fruit.  I don’t have any sugary desserts in the house anymore.

A huge breakthrough for me was when I realised I felt stressed when eating and that I ate so fast I didn’t actually enjoy my food.  I remember before that being disappointed to see my plate empty and not remembering what the food tasted like.  I just decided one that I would not feel stressed when eating and not bolt my food ever again.  I made myself put my fork down between mouthfuls of food and actually chew, taste and enjoy the food I was eating.  After doing this for a while I started feeling fuller after eating less and certainly got a lot more enjoyment from eating from actually being able to taste my food.  Ok, admittedly the putting the fork down thing lasted about 2 meals but by then I had already changed by mental attitude towards eating.  Since the day I decided not to feel stressed when eating I have not felt that way again.  Sometimes for dinner when I’m really hungry, I do eat a bit fast but nothing like the frenetic eating that I used to do.

The junk food was the last to go.  At work, in my old team, our workstyle was a constant stream of junk (sugary, fatty food) – morning teas, team meetings, a junk food pile and treats from members of the team.  I supplemented this junk with more junk, a muffin for morning tea, and cake, slice or chocolate bar for lunch, a sweet biscuit when I got home from work, dessert after dinner every day and a late night snack more often than not.  My days were a roller coaster of sugar highs, sugar lows, sugar cravings and satisfying the sugar cravings with sugary, fatty food.  I never ate fruit, rarely ate salad and my only vegetables were cooked into lunch or dinner.  I did not help that when I felt stressed, tired or bored I ate junk.  I really feel that I was addicted to those foods.

Two things happened at the same time to break this habit.  First, I moved into a new more heath conscious team where there is no junk food (no morning teas, no junk at meetings, no junk pile to eat from and no treats from team members).  I had already started this blog to track my journey from unfit to fit and had already made some changes to my daily eating including eating more salad and.  Soon after that Rowena from Journey to 75kg set the #28daynochocolate challenge.  I didn’t take any convincing to join in a went cold turkey on all the junk that I used to eat that had chocolate in it (which turned out to be most of it!).  I replaced my chocolatey snacks with fruit and added some yoghurt for lunch.  By day three the yoghurt was so sickly sweet it was actually unpleasant to eat.  The next week I switched it out for some plain yoghurt with no sugar or artificial sweeteners.  I ate salads for lunch and fruit for dessert after dinner and by default pretty much cut processed sugar out of my diet after a week.

Now I have some yogurt, yoghurt and milk or an unsweetened banana smoothie for breakfast, long mac (no sugar) for morning tea, salad and natural yoghurt for lunch and snack on an apple and banana in the afternoon.  I have nuts but I haven’t been hungry enough to eat them.  When I get home from work I stir some Greek yoghurt into milk or have half a handful of nuts.  Yesterday I was hungry when I got home from work late and ate an apple.  It kept me going until dinner.  I am eating smaller serves of savoury and salad for dinner every day.  For dessert I just have some yoghurt stirred into milk or some fruit.  I don’t snack after dinner any more because I’m not hungry.  I don’t crave any kinds of food in particular and never crave sugar.

I have stopped eating like a fat person and I’m now eating like a healthy person.  Oh, and I don’t overeat anymore.

(1) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=addicted-to-fat-eating

  1. jkenjin
    February 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Thank you for this post! ^_^ Keep up the good job and have a great aloha week!! =)

  2. February 21, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Very honest account mate good work

    • February 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm

      Thanks mate. You know that ever since I have known you I have been trying to improve my health and fitness. Some things have gone really well but my battle with sugar addiction has lasted until this year. It’s really nice not to crave sugar several times a day!

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