Weight Loss Support - The familiar, all-consuming craving to just EAT

01-24-2012, 05:30 PM
Recently I have despaired of ever feeling ďnormalĒ about food. All the time, every hour of every day, I want to eat (even when Iím mostly unconscious I usually wake up at night, use the rest room and head for the kitchen before I even know Iím doing it).

Itís not a physical hunger, itís a mental one. Or maybe itís even a chemical one. And no amount of food is ever enough to sate it completely. Only ever when I load up on junk food (way, WAY too much of it)) does it abate for even the smallest amount of time, and even then it is a very uncomfortable feeling to be so full of junk.

But for the past two days that craving, that feeling of NEEDING to eat has been gone. Iíve gotten hungry and eaten, but even the hunger feels comfortable and almost pleasant because itís not that awful desire for food that seems to wipe out every other thought in my head. Itís normal, natural hunger. I rarely, if ever, feel like this. And I have to say that I LOVE it. If I never felt that all-consuming desire for food again, I would be so happy.

I donít think the cravings are done with me by a long shot. However, I will enjoy whatever time I get away from them. I donít know what triggers tem or what cures them, though I am trying to figure it out. I suspect it may be just my body chemistry. If anyone knows anything that helps with this, Iíd love to know.

I donít think that normal people (at least, people who donít get those food cravings all day every day) can really understand how hard it is not to eat when that hits. Often, it leads to weight gain.

Ricky Gervais recently wrote that he doesnít feel bad making fun of obesity because eating that much is simply greed and nothing that people canít easily control.

I disagree.

If I could easily say to myself, ďLook, Iím eating more than my fair share. I need to stop,Ē and if that would work, Iíd do it in a millisecond. But even when Iím done, even when I canít stand the thought of eating more, I usually have the desire to do it anyway. Thatís one reason why I think that food addictions are real.

Nicotine is the most addictive substance out of the commonly used drugs (itís even more physically addictive than heroin). I wonder where food would rank on that scale.

I donít think regular people realize that for some of us, itís not just hunger weíre experiencing. When Iím just physically hungry, I can still direct myself away from the donuts and toward the light soups with no problem. But when I have that mental urge to eat and eat, my body and my mind crave calories and fat and sugar and block out all other thoughts and feelings, and itís nearly debilitating in its strength sometimes. I hate it with a passion.

Honestly , if I had to choose, I would rather never enjoy a meal again (having it just be bland and whatever) than crave food like that. I feel so out of control when it happens, and I canít focus on anything else. Itís like I became an addict at an age so young I canít remember it. It sucks. And itís always been this way. I just never figured it out until I hit one of these lovely, short-lived periods without it.

I wish I could get rid of it. And itís not just carbs or sugar, since Iíve had them these past two days when I havenít had the cravings. I donít know what it is. Some of it is tied to decreased levels of dopamine (when Iím bored or unhappy), but sometimes things are amazing and I feel great, only the cravings are still there.

It scares me sometimes that Iíll never have a day without it. Iíve had about 4 days total without it in the past year, and it always feels amazing. I just with it was like that every day.

I donít always binge when it hits, but itís nearly painful to ignore the cravings when I donít.

Iím not sure what to do about it, but I suspect something like this is the root of many failed attempts at weight loss.

Has anyone else had and conquered these cravings? If so, how did you do it?

Arctic Mama
01-24-2012, 06:58 PM
Well I hate to be trite, but it's absolutely true - if the problem isn't hunger, the answer isn't food.

I have dealt with this and for me, the solution was twofold. One - stop eating the foods that make my body crave junk. In my case, sugar and grains do very little for my hunger and wreak havoc on my feedback system for cravings and actual satiety. Simply put, that stuff screws up the way my body cues for food, and makes me eat more and less nutritious stuff. When I eliminate those foods from my diet, seemingly magically my desire to overeat, feed on sugar, and feelings of hunger that aren't truly my empty stomach queuing my body to feed itself, disappear to about 5-10% of their previous severity.

That means that controlling my macronutrients eliminates my desire (both mental and physiological) to binge about 90% of the time it would otherwise occur. That last 10% is controlled by a little willpower (saying no to yourself is much easier when you aren't doing it multiple times a week!) and keeping my mind and hands busy with things like knitting, piano, reading, etc. And the few times I do have the kinds of food that cue up the cravings for me are usually controlled - a dessert at a restaurant, slice of birthday cake at my children's parties, etc - and while it may briefly make me feel cruddy and kick up some cravings and bloating again, because the stuff isn't regularly available to me neither the calories nor the cravings are an issue and both are balanced out and subside within a few days.

Basically, I can eat like a normal person with normal hunger and satiety cues when I am disciplined enough to rid my house of the ingredients that wreak havoc on my brain and body chemistry. Then the rare indulgence isn't a complete spinal downward because it is neither eaten in large quantity nor great frequency and my normal diet moves me back toward homeostasis and health. And don't be so sure that sugar and bread/grain products aren't to blame for some of this - it often takes upwards of a week to detox your body from the effects of these foods and then another week or two of solid, nourishing fare (fat, protein, starch from fruits and veggies, sparing dairy) to heal and rebalance both your brain and endocrine system. Until you've made a concerted effort at a true elimination diet (six weeks of nutrient isolation of suspected culprits followed by another three weeks of adding back a serving of the food every day or three and watching your your body responds to the stimuli) you cannot really eliminate the possibility of those foods being to blame for your issues.

01-24-2012, 07:07 PM
For me, it is eating satiating foods not too high in carbs, or with a carbs imbalance. Like, I can eat mor carbs, but only if it is also high in protein or fats. Where I have problems ar when the carbs are too high and it does a numbers on my blood sugars. I then need to eat morer and crave sugars more.

When I get cravings, it is never for something low in carbs, ever. It's never for a piece of chicken, but for cookies or cake or bread. So, it's the carbs screaming to me because my body wants a quick fix.

I also get these cravings if I run too short on sleep. This was a big thing to learn. I was using sugars to keep me alert. With enough sleep, I crave sugars less too. So, keeping it lower carb and getting enough sleep is enough to keep the cravings at bay 90% of the time.

01-24-2012, 07:15 PM
I know that feeling. For me its when I have a headache. For some reason a headache makes me want carbs and caffeine. So a PB sandwich on white bread and a soda are things I really crave when I have a headache, but it won't stop there...it'll keep going. I will graze and graze.

Its funny that I'm reading this now because I'm struggling with this feeling right now. I haven't done too bad (I'm on WW and haven't gone over my points, and even have enough for a healthy dinner left) but I am really really having to work against the desire to go and eat.

01-24-2012, 08:36 PM
Oh, I SO know how you feel. It is scary to think about how much time I actually fantasize about food and eating. It's embarrassing to admit to others who do not have this problem. I really do feel like an addict. The only reason I am not double my weight is through sheer willpower. (But I've yo-yo dieting throughout the years, so it seems as if my willpower only lasts so long). I experienced such hunger in the extreme last week, and I [barely] managed to stay within my maintenance calories that week. This week, I am still experiencing an intense desire to eat, eat, eat, but because I've made it a point to plan my meals more carefully and to make most of my calories substantial meals (e.g., lentil soup, roasted vegetables, turkey & cheese sandwich, etc.).

I wish I could offer you a solution, but I'm still trying to find one myself. I wonder if this problem is actually physical (because I definitely feel physically more at peace when I've eaten a lot of what I want) or if it's social conditioning (i.e., all the diets I've been on screwing me up). I was not this way as a teen. Yes, I watched my weight a bit and I liked to pig out, but I was not obsessed like I am now.

01-24-2012, 09:21 PM
I have been working with different combos of macro-nutrients, but I haven't hit a sweet spot yet.

For example:

I cut a lot of carbs and eat more protein. This fills me up for a few weeks, then all the sudden it's not enough and I'm always hungry. So I add back some carbs and I feel better and fuller more easily.

Then after a while if I eat any carbs I get the strong cravings again, so I cut the carbs and add in more protein.

Then the cycle repeats.

And I'm starting to wonder if it IS a cycle. Sometimes I need carbs to feel full, sometimes I need protein, sometimes I need a little bit of not-so-healthy food and sometimes I need only-healthy food to feel full. It sometimes varies by month, sometimes by time of year.

If I can nail down the cycle, maybe that would help...

Thanks so much for the advice so far! It is truly appreciated.

EDIT: Anyone ever feel like overeating really IS an addiction/disease and that we're trying to wrestle it into remission? And even then, it's only remission and could come back. Sadly, doctors aren't much help with this. It's up to us. -sigh-

01-24-2012, 09:50 PM
Well, first I try to decipher if my hunger is physical or emotional. If I haven't been under stress or been indulging in negative thoughts, then I consider it must be physical hunger; but if I just ate 1 hour before, then I wonder if I ate enuff of the right foods or enuff for that day ...

It's possible that it's just physical; maybe you are just hungry; and your body is craving what it is craving -- a carb or protein. I try to balance them for every meal and snack to keep from craving either one.

Then there are those times when I have eliminated all those things. First, I try to distract myself with activities, and if that doesn't work, I have a cup of tea, coffee, or l/c hot chocolate.

Sometimes, I do notice that my calories are low for that day, so I eat something healthy and have a drink with it. On occasion, I have a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter & tea; and that seems to stop the cravings ... :shrug:

BTW, have you tried going out for a vigorous walk to get your mind totally off food? I was wondering if the adrenaline rush might help. Then go back to bed and go to sleep ... :D

01-24-2012, 10:20 PM
I definitely think that my compulsive overeating has an addiction quality to it. I've been reading a book about self-soothing without food and the psychologist/author writes about using overeating as a numbing technique, as a way to zone out. I know that's what I do - standing at the kitchen counter after I get home from work, mindlessly eating a bag of popcorn. It's not so much that I crave certain kinds of food (I love all sorts of carbs, salty foods, high fat food - all the stuff that tastes so good!) as it is that I want to eat and eat and eat to maintain whatever feeling I get from it. Like a crack addict on the pipe.

So, for me, success entails just saying no, and telling the voice in my head to shut up. Some days are easier than others, but not a day goes by that I don't have to say no to myself. Like a recovering alcoholic.

It sorta sucks, but there it is.

01-26-2012, 12:47 AM
That's so weird that I just happened on this post today, as I have been going through the exact same thing for the last couple of days and wondering what the heck is going on! Normally, I'm STARVING (physically, mentally, whatever, it's all the same when I'm cramming Fritos in my mouth) and it's agonizing to stick to my allotted 1500 calories per day, even when I force down all the "low-calorie-density" things people always seem to recommend.

Then, all of the sudden this last Monday I just started enjoying the hungry feeling. Like, someone would make some delicious smelling food that I would normally be elbow deep into before anyone else even has a chance to grab a plate, but ever since Monday I have found myself eating tiny portions and even SKIPPING MEALS. Gasp. My calorie logger tells me I ate about 1000 - 1200 calories per day for the last three days, and that's including a treat or three. Which brings me to my one and only idea for what may be happening here.

My mom made these amazing apple cookies with practically nothing but apples (peel left on), oatmeal, vegetable oil, cranberries, and a smidge of either sugar or sugar replacement. I counted up the calories and they total about 50-60 calories per cookie, so I log them as 60. Also, I have gotten on a raspberry kick recently, and between these two snacks I think I've been taking in a lot more fiber than normal. I'm going to keep eating like this for a few more days and see if it holds true. I'm a little nervous about eating that few calories per day but I guess it won't hurt for a week or two, so I'm just going to go with it.

Or I just jinxed it and will end up eating half a pizza tomorrow. Sigh.

01-26-2012, 11:10 AM
Saying no is one of the hardest things to do for food. For me it's like "I can justifty eating this...it's not "emty calories". But calories are calories and you can still have too much of a good thing.

I have also been working very hard at counting calories by measureing and weighing everything I eat.....pain in the @$$!

All day I sit at my desk and think about food..like what I can eat next, when..how much longer till I should eat another snack so I prevent eating too many snacks!

Not to mention when I'm bored I think about it more and more. Right now we are dead at work and I think about food all the time...drives me bananas. MMmm banana.

It ticks me off to know people who don't eat breakfast or are never really hungry. I know food is a fuel.....but still I can eat so much more than other people if I don't pay attention.

I have started eating with my left hand, it has slowed me way down..which is good...nothing I hate more is to be done eating 10 minutes before my BF and sitting there watching him eat.

I also try to brush or use something minty after I eat to stop the mouth watering haha. Less incentive to put food in your mouth as it will taste nasty.

It really is one day at a time. Frustrating no doubt.

Beach Patrol
01-26-2012, 11:50 AM
Nobody likes to hear the "W" word (willpower) but unfortunately, yes, it has a lot to do with it. It's not easy! Not easy to pass up your favorite food, or to say no to 2nd helpings or whatever - esp. when it's staring you in the face. Even if you've just eaten & you KNOW you are NOT physically hungry - how many of us can attest to the fact of eating a slice of cheesecake even tho we're stuffed from the surf'n'turf we just had? (I know my hand is raised!!!)

And I believe it's very seldom that we get fat by overeating our fresh veggies and lean fish ... no, it's the carbs, the sugars, and even those "healthy" foods that have been demonized (chicken - great! fried chicken? not so much! - mashed potatoes? Sure! ....loads of butter, sour cream... just made a healthy food VERY unhealthy!)

I know that I have to fight my urges pretty much every day. Sometimes every meal! - altho I do eat an abundance of healthy food, and I know exactly what carbs/sugars does to my body (makes me feel like **** and always makes me want more-more-more!!!) I STILL WANT THEM. I know it's better if I just stay away from it altogether... and sometimes my WillPowerMuscle is strong... and sometimes, not so strong. And on those times when it's not-so-strong, I always end up feeling like a failure because "I just couldn't say no". :nono: But - could I have said NO???

I simply could have walked away. Thrown out the leftovers. Not gone to the vending machine. Told Aunt Carol that I was too full from dinner to have some of her famous cherry pie. Never have bought those donuts into the house. Had the grilled fish instead of the fried filet. By-passed McDonald's & took another route home. Opted for no before-meal alcohol. Picked an apple instead of apple pie.

Will power. It exists. We all have it. Some of us exercise it more than others. BUT HOW? WHY? I think the scientific community has sooooo much left to discover when it comes to the human palette. So much is involved when it comes to eating; not just hunger. Emotions. Specific tastes. Dietary restrictions. And then there are soooo many choices (how many times have you been hungry - TRULY HUNGRY - and yet, you just couldn't decide what to eat?)

CHOICES. We make them every minute of every day. So why can't we simply choose what's good for us all the time? Why can some people "just say no" while others can't seem to work it into our vocabulary - especially where food is involved?

01-26-2012, 03:03 PM
I hear you. I feel this way, too, about sugar. I have tried to explain this to people for years but only those who share my affliction ever really get it. I CRAVE sugary sweets. Sometimes I go cold turkey and don't eat them for days, weeks, even months. During those times I feel so good, my body feels so much better.

But then the craving starts. And it's like an undercurrent sucking me in. At times I fight and scream and rail against it. But eventually I grow tired from fighting the cravings and I give in. And I eat waaaaaaaay too much sugary junk. Then the cycle is revved up until I eat sweets daily and feel sick.

The only way I know how to describe it is that my cravings for sweets, when I am abstaining, is like a small fire (almost blissfully unnoticeable at times). But if I eat one mouthful of cake or cookies or whatever, it's like someone dumped an entire bottle of lighter fluid on the fire and I just start stuffing my face. I feel like I can't stop. I don't want to do this, yet I do it nonetheless.

Normal people try to sympathize, but they can't truly understand what it is like. "Just eat it in moderation," they say. Yeah, right. Bonfire, remember?

My mom was an alcoholic. She was pretty badly addicted. I don't have that issue. I can drink and I don't crave it. But I crave sugar. And I wonder if it's connected to my mom's issue. I think sometime down the road, science will discover that there's a reason some of us struggle like this.

I do think there are books and articles out there that say sugar is an addictive substance. Corn syrup is supposed to be pretty addictive, and it's in everything. We know already that sugar changes your seretonin levels (gives them a boost but later causes them to crash), so there does seem to be some scientific evidence behind why eating chocolate ice cream makes me happy. :)

01-26-2012, 05:12 PM
Not to mention when I'm bored I think about it more and more. Right now we are dead at work and I think about food all the time...drives me bananas. MMmm banana.

I loved your whole post, but this had me laughing out loud. I am so with you!

As to BP's point about willpower, I agree. I've also read the our willpower is stronger earlier in the day but that the more we have to resist, the weaker it gets as the day goes on.

Today, I had a Noon meeting, and I did bring my lunch --a turkey sandwich and an orange. A salad was also part of my lunch, but I figured I would just save that for later in case I got hungry. Well, someone brought in some of those giant soft pretzels. They're not even my favorite, but they really looked good to me today for some reason. I was so close to having one, but then I looked up the calories and I found out that they're close to 400!! So, I didn't have it. But I felt irritated that I couldn't. I mean, I was really annoyed!

Man, sometimes I feel like a child throwing a temper tantrum when it comes to resisting food.

Beach Patrol
01-27-2012, 11:13 AM
Well, someone brought in some of those giant soft pretzels. They're not even my favorite, but they really looked good to me today for some reason. I was so close to having one, but then I looked up the calories and I found out that they're close to 400!! So, I didn't have it. But I felt irritated that I couldn't. I mean, I was really annoyed!

Man, sometimes I feel like a child throwing a temper tantrum when it comes to resisting food.

OMG, ^^THIS^^! A thousand times, THIS!!!! It really DOES irritate me that I can't indulge whenever I want, however I want. I love, love, LOVE Ritz crackers with canned cheese. LOVE IT. I can't have just two or three. And not just a little cheese, either. If I start, it's a whole sleeve of Ritz plus pretty much the entire can of cheese! And that's more calories than a regular steak dinner!!! And that's just my own personal sodium-from-**** addiction... imagine what it's like when my sugar addiction rears its ugly head when FRESH CUPCAKES are in my sights? (I can completely ignore stale cupcakes, tho... heh! :o :dizzy: )

01-27-2012, 02:58 PM
I want to explore this too. I get the same way with certain foods. I want to say it's the blood sugar rising and crashing (I have IR) so when I eat foods that are high on the glycemic index, it's really easy for me to overeat, even when I'm not physically hungry.

But I wonder if there is something other component to it too.

01-27-2012, 04:10 PM
I agree, it's rough to stop. I usually do well at stopping if I feel really full, BUT....if we eat out, ****, I'm paying for this food and I'm gonna eat it! Even after I get full. So when we eat out I do try to get things that would be acceptable as leftovers as well. That really helps.
But the worst part is even if I feel full, sometimes the food just TASTES so darn good....I don't want to stop! Probably because if something tastes that good, that means I'm probably NOT going to get that food again for a very long time. It means it was likely some sort of treat, and I don't want to waste it. Or if it's like cookies in the cupboard, even if I don't feel my stomach is hungry, I still won't be able to stop thinking about those wretched cookies until they're gone. Thus, no cookies kept in the house because I'd like eat a whole package of oreos in one day.
I really want a "normal" relationship with food as well. Have you ever heard of "intuitive eating"? You should read this post (http://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2012/01/what-is-healthy-eating/) at a blog I've found recently. She's got some good stuff on there. And read the comments because she posts a lot of links on there in response to some of the comments, including my own. I hope it helps!

01-27-2012, 05:15 PM
Thanks, Rapunzel, for that link. I found that very interesting!

I know that my craving to eat is MUCH worse if I'm bored, frustrated or feel deprived somehow. I eat to feel interested in something, to feel pleasure in something, when I am having a particularly slow or monotonous work day. On the days I'm busy, I don't think about eating when I'm not hungry.

01-27-2012, 05:27 PM
I have the same problem and I'm trying to figure out WHY? I don't know if it's because I'm bored or if it's just because I know that food is there and I should eat it. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot have snacks in the house or in my office because I will eat it. I have to add more veggies to my diet and drink more water. I have to stop buy cookies and crackers. I can eat an entire box of cookies and crackers at one time.

01-28-2012, 09:51 PM
Wow, I loved all these posts and I do mean "all". They so hit home with me. The wanting to eat all the time is so true and it does scare me. And just eating way, way too much most of the time. Gosh, so agree with all these posts. Thank you all for sharing.