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Eating Has Become A Compulsion

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Old 04-16-2009, 11:08 PM   #1
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Unhappy Eating Has Become A Compulsion

I feel so frustrated. I want so badly to be healthy and fit, and to eat right, and yet I feel such a lack of control over my eating. I don't binge, but I definitely eat when I am not hungry, and almost always high-calorie foods. It's a problem; I must have gained about 30 pounds in the past three years, and it is only going to go up and up if this continues.

The worst part is that I used to be very healthy and in control. I felt so good about myself then. I had lost my excess weight, started exercising regularly, and best of all I eliminated my bad eating habits, overeating in particular. For some reason, I cannot get myself back into that mindset. It is incredibly frustrating to not be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle when I was able to do it happily for years.

Things changed when I went to graduate school. I had no time to exercise, and I turned to food to deal with the stress. I no longer had time to exercise or dance like I had done in my healthy days, but it never took a lot of time to walk down the block to a bakery and try a new treat or to just bake something myself. I sublimated my desire for the things that previously made me happy with dessert. When I realized, with some sense of patheticness, that dessert had become the only thing that I really looked forward to anymore, I scheduled an appointment to see a school counselor. With some pain and embarrassment, I tried to explain that I had been using food to cope with my life. He told me I needed to make time for fun things, but he completely missed the point about using food as a crutch. I did not return.

Eventually I signed up for some recreation classes at my school gym which helped immensely in that I finally had something to look forward to other than food. But that hasn't changed my eating habits, and overeating has become a habit. I've become so used to going for a little treat as a break during the day or as a way to destress at the end of the day that I have great trouble now resisting the urge to eat even when I am not hungry.

Just tonight I spent hours agonizing over this feeling of wanting to eat despite not being hungry. I decided to bake myself another cookie (I had already eaten some earlier), but as I started to turn the oven on I had an internal struggle. I could practically see the angel and the devil shouting at each other from opposite shoulders. Finally, in disgust, I turned the oven back off, but for the next few hours all I could think about was eating something. I had to fight not to go out and get something. Eventually I gave in and I ate just a few bites of my leftovers from dinner, and I as I ate I felt such a sense of relief. It was incredible; even as I felt sort of repelled at the thought of eating more because I was not hungry, the act of eating felt so satisfying. I was no longer eating for hunger purposes. I was eating just for the sake of eating.

I want to get back on track, but I don't know how to deal with this pressure. It really feels like a compulsion at times. It is not a matter of feeling hungry-- I am quite aware I am not hungry-- but of just a feeling of a need to eat. Does anyone else feel like this? How do you cope with it? I so want to be my old healthy self again, and I am starting to hate myself for exercising so little control.
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Old 04-17-2009, 12:05 AM   #2
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I'm sorry that I do not know what it is like to compulsively overeat, but I am obviously no stranger to overeating. I can only tell you what helps me and might help you too. Find lots of snack under one hundred calories that will satisfy your cravings to eat, even if you're not really hungry(but must) and then you won't feel guilty. Try drinking more water and eating food high in fiber and protein, because even if you're not hungry and feel the need to eat, as long as you feel full and know that you do not need food, I imagine that it will be that much easier to resist.

Try keeping yummy flavors of sugar free gum around so the chewing and sweet flavors will keep your mouth occupied, because you may possibly have an oral fixation that doesn't have much to do with food.

Water, Water, Water too!

Hope that helps a little bit.
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Old 04-17-2009, 07:32 AM   #3
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personally I think there is something emotionally and mentally binding you to the behaviour so keeping low calorie snacks on hand isn't really going to solve the problem. A good 80% of what you've written I can apply to myself, though my reasons for putting the weight back on, starting to overeat again and giving up all forms of exercise were for other reasons.

So personally I think you need to either discuss it with a professional or talk it out as much as you can here or whatever other resources you have to pinpoint the reason why you feel this compulsion and why it goes against what you really want.

I haven't finished the book yet, but I started reading Secrets of a Former Fat Girl and I can't tell you how much I relate to the way of thinking and emotional attachments I have with overeating. Maybe it's something that can get you thinking about it too, something that can help.

I'm still a long way from being some sort of amateur authority on the subject, but I just wanted to say I can so relate and I bet there are others here. Sharing and talking about it can really help, but it's only part of the journey.
~Renée (do I seem familiar to you?? )

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Old 04-18-2009, 08:46 AM   #4
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Hello, and welcome.

I'm Pat and I'm a complusive overeater. Having stated that I can only share what works for me, and that is the Overeaters Anonymous program patterned after the AA 12 step program.

If you go to OA.org you can find out more about this program and if there are meetings in your area, on-line meetings, and telephone meetings, I wish you the best and if I can be of any help please let me know.

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Old 04-18-2009, 09:28 AM   #5
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I know what it feels like to deal with stress using food, and to give food an unnecessary emotional attachment. When I was getting ready to go away to college, there was a lot going on in my home/family life. Like you, I began to eat my stress and feelings. My mom was an amazing cook and baker, and I think she used cooking/baking as a coping mechanism, and I used eating as a coping mechanism. We had a nice "thing" going, lol. Somehow in my years growing up, I began to associate that food=love. I have found after a lot of soul searching that a lot of the times where I would eat out of stress or emotions - all I really needed was a hug or kiss from my husband, or a conversation with a friend or a conversation with my parents or whatever... I forgot about food when I was getting that "love" from a real source.

As a side note, my husband used to feed into my food problems. When I would get really upset, no lie, he would ask me what I wanted to eat that would "make it better" and I would have him get me icecream or egg rolls or a box of brownies to bake at home. Finally, when I realized what I was doing, I sat him down and explained to him that I was using food as a way to deal with my stress and my feelings, and that he was just going to get me more addicted. Now, when I get stressed out, and I get emotional, I still want to eat... but my husband instead will grab the keys, and grab me, and we'll leave the house and just go somewhere- for a walk, window shopping at the mall, wherever. And slowly, I am getting re-programed on how to deal with my stress. After years of emotional eating (since early childhood) I am now beginning to associate stress relief with other, more productive things.

I would suggest trying the same thing, and seeing if it helps. Every time you want to eat because you are stressed or upset, pick up the phone, or pick up your car keys and just get your mind off of it. If you are married or you have kids, grab them- give them hugs. If you have pets- hug them, play with them. Just do something that will instill positive emotions in you, something that has nothing to do with food.

I wish you luck. Emotional/compulsive overeating is a very difficult habit to break. But there are lots of people on here that can help you change your habits, and support you through all the ups and downs associated with this journey. Take care!

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Old 04-25-2009, 01:47 PM   #6
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Angel~ My word, can I ever relate to what you wrote. I had almost the exact same experiences and it's SO frustrating, like an actual physical craving and it does not go away unless you eat it out. I remember one night when I actually did manage to get to sleep w.o giving in, but I woke up the next morning feeling like crap and actually had think back to remember if I ate or not.

As far as getting back into that "healthy" mindset... can only speak for my own experience, but sometimes you're just not "ready" to switch back into the healthy mode. At times, I've felt guilty for "letting myself go" and eating all the wrong foods, but feel like if I switch back into the healthy mindset, I'll have to give up eating all the "fun" bad for me foods. This time, just as an experiment, I've implemented a ban on nighttime (boredom binge) eating, but other than that, I can have pretty much whatever I want. If I get those cravings late at night, I tell myself that I can have whatever I want in the morning after I've slept and more times than not when I wake up I'm not even hungry for it anymore. I've also found myself naturally inclining toward foods that make me feel better and am slowly starting to build my own meal plan with foods that I like AND are good for me.

Again, it's just an experiment and only my experience, but I'm hoping that this will work out.
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Old 05-14-2009, 02:07 PM   #7
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I can easily relate to what you describe. Just finished a post about my own struggle with overeating/no exercise/weight regain --- and no coincidence, I've also got that *magic* 30 pounds back where I don't want it!!!!

On a brighter note, we've realized the problem. Now we can move in a better direction.

Take good care and know there are folks here who understand what you are experiencing.

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Old 05-14-2009, 06:29 PM   #8
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Boy do I understand you, Angel! That is exactly my problem, too. I eat when I'm depressed, angry, lonely, frustrated, etc. Even if I just had lunch, if something happens that upsets me, I immediately want to eat again. It really is stuffing the emotions down and there is an actual chemical change in your brain when you eat that makes you feel better. Bleh.

So, I'm battling with that currently, too. I just decided to pay more attention to it, so I'm in the thick of things.

However, what I CAN tell you is how I worked through emotional-eating for a period of time last year. Basically, I had one of those big calendars and just marked every day/meal that I ate when I wasn't hungry. I marked when I was just emotionally eating. I did NOT judge myself (that makes it oh-so much worse.) But just keeping track of it, I ate emotionally less and less. Being aware of the fact that I was going to have to put a little X on my calendar for emotionally eating slowly got my mind working through why I was really eating. What was bothering me? What did I REALLY need?

All I can say is that it helped tremendously, and reading your post helped me remember that. I just decided to change my life today (again? Once and for all!) and your post really helped because I totally forgot using that tool. So... thanks! I hope it helps you, too.

~Shannon / Nonnahs
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