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-   -   'chronic restrained eating' (https://www.3fatchicks.com/forum/living-maintenance/48095-chronic-restrained-eating.html)

jansan 10-18-2004 08:57 PM

'chronic restrained eating'
Hi all, I have been reading posts here with interest to prepare myself for what to expect. I also have been reading various articles in the library section and came upon an article from a couple years ago that is pertinent to some of the discussions here. Here is the link to the whole article, as well as a small excerpt. Jan.


<<Researchers are finding that, for most people, chronic restrained eating is what it takes to keep obesity at bay in this country, which is glutted with tasty, inexpensive high-calorie foods.
Chronic restrained eating is not a formal, structured diet with specific foods or portion sizes. Instead, it is a general philosophy about food.
People who practice CRE to manage their weight are constantly vigilant about what they eat: They often eat less than they want, plan their meals ahead of time, and think through what they'll eat before they go out to dinner, attend a party or sit down to a big family dinner. They don't sit around and mindlessly nosh while watching TV. They go back for seconds only when they're hungry and don't routinely indulge in sweets and other high-fat foods.
"Most people have to be chronic restrained eaters to maintain a healthy weight," says Thomas Wadden, director of the Weight and Eating Disorders Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. "They have to eat less than they'd like to, and eat less than they are being encouraged and urged to eat by neighbors, friends, advertisements."
Research is backing up this idea. People who have successfully lost weight and routinely kept it off use about the same amount of restraint and vigilance in eating as those who have just finished a weight-loss program, according to a study of participants in the National Weight Control Registry, a group of more than 3,000 people who have maintained at least a 30-pound weight loss for a year or more.>>

Only Me 10-18-2004 09:24 PM

Thank you! I hadn't noticed that article, and it does describe what I've been doing to lose weight for the past 6-7 months, although I've also put a big emphasis on healthy, low calorie density foods in an effort to feel less hungry most of the time. Now I just need to figure out how to loosen up enough to stop losing without giving up entirely and reverting to eating whatever I want.

Another fascinating exerpt:
Eating and exercise habits make a difference even if someone has a genetic predisposition to obesity, Wadden says. Studies have shown that some people gain weight more easily than others. When people in one study were overfed by 1,000 calories a day, there were remarkable differences in weight gain. Some gained as little as nine pounds in 12 weeks, and others gained as much as 29 pounds. "That looks like it's due to genetic differences," he says.

Meg 10-19-2004 08:21 AM

Great article! Thanks for the link -- I missed it back when it was originally posted. Of course, I wasn't focusing on maintenance back in January, 2001 -- I was in my losing phase (down about 80 pounds) and still under the illusion (delusion?) that I'd live happily ever after once I got to my goal weight. In other words, I imagined that the hard part would be over with once I got to goal and that maintenance would be easy and effortless. :dizzy:

The article highlights several of the key points that we talk about here at Maintainers:
  • exercise is key to keeping weight off
  • our bodies are different than those of never-overweight people
  • maintenance requires constant vigilance
  • eating can't be "intuitive" for us - it takes thought and planning: If you trust your instincts, you'll overeat and under-exercise. You have to override your instincts.

You've given me an idea -- I'm going to set up a "sticky" thread for articles like this that pertain to maintenance and everyone should feel free to add to it. :)

jansan 10-19-2004 05:55 PM

What I have watched in thin folks - cre at work
Hi all, Althought I am not technically a maintainer at gw, yet, (I still have 35 to 55?? pounds left to lose), I have kept off more than 35 pounds for about 5 years so this subject is of great interest to me.

Afew years ago when the stark reality of what was necessary to maintain was beginning to dawn on me - as in unceremoniosly hit me in the face-, I started to watch the eating habits of what I considered 'naturally thin' friends, none formerly fat other than from pregnancy. Even at close to 60yrs, and still overweight, I play a mean, active game of tennis, as do these friends. They are normal sized to very thin, I am not. We have shared snacks and meals, traveled to tournaments, and shared dinner parties over the years. These are physically active women of all ages from all walks of life and family situations. And they are constantly watching what they eat so they remain thin. They dont talk about it very much, but you can watch the eating wheels turning.

This is what I have observed over the years. They are ALL Chronic Restrained Eaters. They rarely skip a meal, but they very frequently share something. They wait till they are very physically hungry before the eat. They rarely eat between meals. They take care to order what they want, but dont always finish what is on their plates. They eat the leaner things first, and what they leave will be part of the bread or potato. They use little butter on things, even bread. They frequently order a leaner choice such as soup or salad with dressing on the side, tho not always. And NEVER anything really high in calories such as deep fried or fatty. They cut all the fat off meat. They rarely use 'doggy bags'. They rarely order dessert, but when they do, they enjoy it, and even will pass it around to share. On occasion when there are snackies after a social tennis event, they may have a beverage, but they tend not to partake very much of the nibbles that are presented- a bite of something that looks good perhaps, but not much more than that. Food is important to them and many are good cooks. One hosted Julia Childs 90th birthday party and knows her way around a kitchen, but practices cre in daily life. And I do mean daily.

And they regularily exercise. Some just play tennis 3-4 times/week, others add gym workouts in between playing, and some walk in addition.

I hope this was helpful. Watching them over the years with intent to learn has taught me invaluable lessons, and has changed how I eat as well.

Jan, h250/s214/c206/g?170, then I will re-assess

Meg 10-20-2004 05:26 AM

Jan! Welcome to Maintainers and please stick around! You've got some wonderful insights to share and it doesn't matter at all where you (or anyone) are in the weight loss process - at goal, near goal, or just thinking about life after goal. :) Everyone's welcome!

I wish I had been smart enough to think after life AFTER goal ahead of time instead of reaching goal and panicking because I had NO IDEA what to do to keep the weight off. All my energy went into losing weight and none into thinking about keeping it off. Fortunately, I've mananged to muddle through maintenance with the help of everyone here! But I give you a lot of credit for keeping off the 35 pounds for five years and being so thoughtful and observant about maintenance.

What you say about naturally thin people is dead-on correct. I'm married to one and you hit the nail on the head with all your observations (too bad being naturally thin isn't contagious but it hasn't rubbed off on me in 25 years, darn it :lol: ). I think that sometimes, when we're overweight, we like to moan and groan about how unfair it is about "skinny people who can eat everything and not gain ... and never exercise ... " There may be a few lucky souls like that but you're right, most normal weight people are restrained eaters. Normal weight people don't eat entire bags of Doritos and whole boxes of Girl Scout cookies. :o

It may be though, that the restrained behavior comes more naturally to normal weight people. I'm convinced that their brains are wired differently when it comes to food. DH, at least, tells me that he just doesn't get that hungry (which is :crazy: to me). He eats small portions - even of his favorites - and stops when he's full, even if it's the best dessert in the world (again, alien concept to me). It's not that he's trying to be this way; his brain is just wired to keep his body weight steady (if anything, he's underweight).

Thanks for your insights, Jan, and we'd love to hear more from you! :D

Ilene 10-20-2004 07:00 AM

Jan and Meg that is so true about "naturally" thin people...

Years ago the wife of a boss of mine who was, and still is, very thin, used to say about her DH, who was much rounder: "*I* eat to live, *HE* lives to eat..."

It's such a true saying... My DH, a naturally thin person also, will only have a couple of chips, I will have the rest of the bowl. This situation has not happened in a very long time but just the same it used to happen all the time. It's something that I have to work at and with time is getting much easier... I have to consciously make this decision, which I don't think naturaly thin people have to do, it's just more "natural" for them to taste and walk away rather than eat the whole thing. What I don't think happens to them, like happens to me, something chemical in my brain clicks and I want more, specially carbs.....

Just my 2 cents this morning... I hope it makes sense! :)

BTW welcome Jan :wave:....

MrsJim 10-20-2004 10:16 AM

I'm not sure I like that phrase "Chronic Restrained Eating" as far as defining myself and others who watch what we eat. Part of that has to do with my irritation of giving syndrome-like names to any conscious behavior, but another part of my dislike of that phrase probably has a LOT to do with the connection the word 'chronic' has with pot smoking and drug use... (yeah I know).

In my case, I KNOW I'm a food addict. I used food as a recreational tool, a source of enjoyment...heck I still do sometimes - when I go out to eat or to a dinner party and SAVOR the food. But instead of eating a whole loaf of sourdough bread or a whole half-gallon of ice cream, I consciously eat only a serving and SAVOR the taste.

I do know people who have NEVER had a weight problem and don't worry about what they eat, don't even think about food that much. One example is my horse trainer - she'll get a turkey sandwich, take a couple bites of it, then forget about it for HOURS. If she remembers to do so, she might have wrapped it up and put it in the fridge but a lot of the time she ends up tossing the rest, without any real regrets.

Or the acquaintance of mine who bought a package of Oreos in April, put them in her pantry...and most of them were still there in September, maybe a quarter of them were gone. If she wants a cooky, she has one or maybe two, and doesn't dwell on them. (she does the same thing with bread - buys it, forgets about it, and has to toss it when it's all moldy) Now if it were ME, those Oreos would've been history within 48 hours after getting home, no doubt about that. Even today, I don't keep stuff like cookies, baked goods, peanut butter, etc around the house. I know ME. It would be the same as if I were a recovering alcoholic and kept bottles of booze in my house 'for company'. There's just NO freaking WAY.

Meg 10-20-2004 10:34 AM

I know what you mean about making everything into a syndrome or a disease. You know, like shy people now have "social anxiety disorder"? I guess if it's a syndrome, then the pharmaceutical companies can develop a drug to "cure" it?? Anyway, for myself I prefer to think of it as thoughtful eating -- in other words, the opposite of thoughtless, "intuitive" eating. No matter how each of us wants to characterize it, we've all got to have some kind of plan or system in place to deal with food. Because I highly doubt that any of us here could have a bag of Oreos in the kitchen for three months -- that's just plain :crazy: !

For a long time, Karen, you've been talking about the importance of environmental control and that's really a biggie. Like you said, you know yourself and so you keep the bad stuff out of the house. I'm the same way -- if I ever get myself into trouble with food, 95% of the time it's with something that's in the house already. If it's not here .... I'll eat my SF jello and go read a book. :D

midwife 10-20-2004 11:28 AM

I was at a breakfast meeting where they were serving eggs, hash browns, sausage, bacon, cheese, fruit, danishes, etc. I had eaten breakfast at home and had only a water bottle for the meeting. The woman next to me had gotten some eggs and potatos and bacon. She ate about half of what was on her plate and pushed it to the side and did not touch it anymore. That blew my mind....even if I was full after half of the food, I would have nibbled on it until it was gone, whether I needed it or really wanted it or not. I am not wired the same way she is! Conscious attention to calories in and out is what I have had to do so far, and it is working, and I will have to do it for the rest of my life. If I had had breakfast at that meeting, I would have chosen lots of fresh fruit and a bit or two of the eggs. If one must clean one's plate, one must have only clean eats on the plate..and control the other foods in amounts.

jansan 10-20-2004 08:22 PM

Meg said: <<It may be though, that the restrained behavior comes more naturally to normal weight people. I'm convinced that their brains are wired differently when it comes to food. >>

I also dont like the term 'chronic r. e.' Tho the meaning of the word chronic means 'over time'. But I still dont like it. I guess it doesnt matter what its called as long as we do it.

When I first started thinking about controling my weight years ago, I decided first I had to figure out what made me 'eat that way' instead of losing the weight then 'eating that way' again, and gaining it all back. I had done that before and didnt like it. And that is what I did. It took several years of learning, reading, thought, and deep, honest self examination, as well as buckets of tears. Time well spent. It changed my life in the best way possible and brought be peace and joy even while fat. I now know why my eating was out of control some times, and the mechanics behind it. And these behaviors indeed are vasty improved.

But... when there is something I want to eat very badly, I still want more of it than natural eaters do. I can tell. :) And food is still more important in my life than theirs. And it always will be. Yes, I am much better and havent binged outright for years, and I rarely overeat anymore. And can even have chocolate in my house without eating it - I have it here now, for months in fact. (cake would be another story, LOL) But I still have food 'issues' and always will.

As a child I learned to comfort myself with food, I learned to suppress negative feelings such as sadness and anger with food. I celebrated with food, grieved with food, and thought about food 24/7. I learned to eat when I wasnt physically hungry as well as to eat the wrong things with gusto. Food was love in my family. It was how we interacted. The only thing that would totally erradicate this entrenched personal food history -that will always influence my food relationship- would be a lobotomy. Not my idea of acceptable wls.

Although I thankfully have many of my obsessions and compulsivities understood as well as vasty reduced, when you have travelled the wrong pathway (eating habits) for your whole life, when it was the first way you learned, and you have lived it for decades, I believe the tendency for dysfunctional eating simply does not totally ever go away no matter what you do. That of course is my opinion, and what I have seen in myself. We can learn new functional ways of thinking about, and loving ourselves, new ways of eating and exercising, and learn to have deserved joy in our lives, but it will always be there lurking, just like the inate instinct in tamed wild animals. Ask sigfried and roy.

We can form new habits, and even make these our first line of action so that old habits are difficult to bring out, but they are still there lurking, in my opinion, simply because the old pathways in the brain are still there too, and always will be. They say you never forget how to ride a bike. Its the same thing. That information is in the brain too and cant be lost, as is historic erratic eating. But then, so are our new, better habits there too. And the longer, more consistently we do them to ingrain them, the more likely they will be our first line of action when around food/eating. And over time should get even better.

I do not in any way imply that this means we all will revert to old behavior, and regain our weight again, we wont, just that from what I have come to believe, it will take constant vigilence and attention. Not 24/7 necessarily, but especially during those times that we are vulnerable, when our life isnt going as well as we would like, when we are tired or irritated, when we pass that chocolate cake and someone hands us a gooey piece, etc. It will NEVER be as easy for us as those who never had a problem, but then we now know more about our mechanism than those who have never had to work on it.

Stronger in the broken places, Jan.

vmelo 10-21-2004 10:09 AM

Meg and Lanaii, you both hit the nail right on the head with your comments about “naturally” thin people. Meg, are you sure your husband doesn’t have a long lost twin? If he did, it would assuredly be my husband. I figured out a long time ago that he’s thin simply because he doesn’t focus on food like I do. He may “forget” to eat lunch whereas that would never happen to me. When dinner is unexpectedly delayed, he has no problem waiting even if he’s hungry. He’ll watch TV or just do something else. My reaction is quite different. If I’m expecting to eat dinner at 5:30 and for some reason it isn’t going to be ready until 6:30, I’m like a spoiled child who’s been denied her favorite toy. I get annoyed that I’m not eating on time and will munch my way through any miscellaneous snack in the kitchen until dinner is ready.

If anything is “natural” about “naturally thin” people, it’s simply that their brains are wired differently. They must not have that “gotta-have-more-good-stuff” gene that I honestly believe many overweight people have. In a sense, people who have a hard time with their weight are subconscious Epicureans: if something brings pleasure to us (in this case, food), we naturally want to continue it. If something is initially uncomfortable (e.g., getting out of a warm bed and going to the gym to exercise in the dark at 5 a.m.), we don’t want to do it. In a sense, therefore, we’re always working against our true natures!

Just my .02!

funniegrrl 10-21-2004 12:19 PM

I do think there are some wiring differences, but I also think that environment & experience play a role. Some people may be predisposed to be compulsive eaters (or have addiction issues), but not everyone develops an eating or addiction problem. Face it, all humans -- most if not all animals with brains! -- prefer pleasure and avoid pain. What happens in some people, though, is that they experience a stronger sense of reward in response to something (food, alcohol, cigarettes, sex, gambling, running, knitting, whatever) than others. If the reward also simultaneously blots out a negative, the reinforcement is that much stronger. If someone's circumstances do not ever build an association between Activity X or Substance Y and mitigation of pain, then the compulsion may never develop.

The way we become addicted to things that don't produce physical dependence is entirely chemical. There is an interesting book called Anatomy of a Food Addiction that explains this in some detail. The author then goes on to posit sugar (including simple carbohydrates) acts on brain cells in exactly the same way as narcotics, and the only way to cure the addiction is go cold turkey on foods that include ANY sugar -- any substance ending in -ose (lactose, etc.). I'm not sure how necessary that is, but the explanation of the chemical basis for addiction is pretty fascinating.

I also read an article recently that explained something I'd forgotten -- that just because someone's body may develop a physical addiction to a substance such as an opiate doesn't mean they are psychologically addicted. They pointed out that most people who become addicted to things like OxyContin are NOT people who took it for legit reasons, but people who already had addiction issues. This of course is contrary to the common media portrayal and celebrity cover story. There's also a great book that was hot in the business world a few years ago called The Tipping Point. It takes a theory from epidemiology about how diseases become epidemics and pandemics, and applies it to human behavior. It looks at things like fads, popular restaurants, hot products, and cigarette smoking as examples, and talks about why some people do and don't get hooked on cigarettes, and why some anti-smoking/angi-drug campaigns do and don't work. Pretty interesting stuff.

MrsJim 10-21-2004 01:03 PM

Have you guys ever seen that Dom DeLuise/Anne Bancroft movie Fatso from 1980? (It's been on Cinemax a lot recently, so I've had the opportunity to view it several times this year.) It's a comedy, of course, but filled with pathos over Dom's situation - trying to deal with his obesity and compulsion to eat. The scenes during the opening credits follow Dom starting when he was a baby - if he cried, his mother gave him a bottle; later as a boy, he was pacified by food at all times - using food as a comfort, as recreation, because it was ingrained in his environment. His baby brother, Frankie, and older sister, Antoinette (played by Ron Carey and Anne Bancroft) don't have the same love for food that Dom has:


Frankie: You love bread, I don't love bread, I only LIKE bread!
Dom finds a girlfriend, falls in love, stops thinking about food so much, and suddenly one day realizes his clothes are too big - then he has a crisis involving his girlfriend and binges on $40 worth of Chinese food (and remember, that's $40 in 1980 money!). Afterwards, he recalls his mother's way of pacifying him during a catharsis...


Dominick DiNapoli: [to a picture of his mother] How you loved to feed me! Look at your chubby baby now, ma, I'm a fat, fat man, a damn fatso. I can't stop the fat!
Anyway...if you have a chance to see this movie - I'd recommend it. Totally.

And that brings to mind *my* childhood...I often wonder why me? out of four girls, why was *I* the fat one?? I sure as heck don't think it was genetics. I'm SURE it was environmental - I just loved to eat, and I KNEW I ate more and thought more about food than my sisters did. I was also a bookworm, wore GLASSES (nerd!) and wasn't good at sports, where my sisters were cheerleaders and loved gymnastics - I spent recess alone in the school library, they were out twirling around on the monkey bars with their friends. As I became fatter, it just got worse, like a vicious cycle. At least I didn't have it as bad as the fat girl in Judy Blume's book "Blubber" but I was still miserable much of the time, which is probably a big reason why I never kept in touch with my school reunions and all that. (of course my sisters go to ALL their reunions... :lol: ) Ah well...that's life and I believe I just went on another tangent. ;)

vmelo 10-21-2004 10:48 PM


Originally Posted by funniegrrl
I do think there are some wiring differences, but I also think that environment & experience play a role.

I agree. It's the old nature vs. nurture argument. I've always thought that the answer to these type of questions lies in nature AND nuture (rather than "or").


Originally Posted by funniegrrl
The author then goes on to posit sugar (including simple carbohydrates) acts on brain cells in exactly the same way as narcotics, and the only way to cure the addiction is go cold turkey on foods that include ANY sugar -- any substance ending in -ose (lactose, etc.).

I think there must be some truth to this. I love sweets. When I get on a roll and start eating dessert at night, I have a strong physical craving to have dessert EVERY night. If I can go cold turkey, though, within 4 or 5 days, my craving diminishes.

Sashenka 10-22-2004 11:40 AM

Right to the point, Funniergrrl!

Regarding going cold turkey - I once was addicted to chocolate and cookies. Like I could eat as much as I could see... and eat. Anyways, it was really a lot! The reason I cut on those was that I tried to run, and since I am uncontrolled asthmatic and was suffering from attacks which prevented me from running, I tried tons of books and suggestions. Once of the books from Stu Mittelman was about diet and running and it suggested to cut sugar COMPLETELY for 2 weeks. I thought, hey, 2 weeks is not much, why dont I try? So I tried. And funny thing happened - 2 weeks after I took my previously favourite Danone yogurt and tried to eat it and it was TOO SWEET! Those two weeks played a huge role in my eating habits - I can now say NO to chocolate and actually I figured out that Nanaimo bars are too sweet for me. Imagine I could eat 30 of them in one attempt!

I also agree about environment and eating. While living in Soviet Union we only had candies for holidays... When I first came on scolarship to Europe (I was 23 y.o. and skinny 120 pounds or less) - I had access to all cookies available, to all pies available, never mind all kinds of chocolate! Well, I gained 10 pounds in the first month. Funny enough, when scolarship ended and I returned home I was back to normal in a month!!! That is why all those ads on TV just call for trouble - try me, try me, while back than I could not even imagine food ads on TV!

Anyways, north americans are doomed to be overweight, it is one of the examples when progress is driving people towards deseases and problems - that is for sure...

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