Addicted to food?
October 22, 2013 8:05 PM   Subscribe

I used to be around 40 lbs overweight. I've lost weight gradually over the past couple of years and am down around 30 lbs. People say that you are supposed to feel great after losing weight like this. But I don't feel great. I feel like I have to be constantly vigilant. I've always had issues with anxiety, but now the anxiety is almost overwhelming and I have a lot of trouble sleeping. Tonight I just caved and made brownies and had a mini-binge. And... I feel good. The constant headache is gone and I have a pleasant buzz. I feel relaxed like I haven't in awhile. Are these signs of food addiction? If they are, what can I try as a healthy substitute? (I already walk about an hour a day - it's ok and I look forward to it, but it doesn't make me feel like I do right now.)
posted by jenh526 to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Whenever I have restricted, I feel euphoric (though with perhaps different amounts of guilt) when I am finally on that binge. I always interpreted it as the following: my body wants food; that's what makes me bigger; I'll cut back; when I get to eat something that's not "safe," I feel euphoric because I'm free (if only until I get back on the calorie-restriction wagon).

In your case, you're wondering if you're food addicted because you loved the mini-binge. I would think you loved the mini-binge because you have been restricting and your body is craving the foods that you, prior to that point, hadn't let it have. So I don't think I would worry about that. I know it is stressful to restrict, which could explain your constant vigilance.

If you're still worried about food addiction and are looking for substitutes, what about joining a tennis league (your city, if it has such a program, offers teams for all skill levels)? Or what about having one brownie once every x number of days or weeks if you think that would make you less anxious without sabotaging your diet program (or an apple drizzled in caramel sauce or whatever would satisfy your craving)?
posted by juliagulia at 8:23 PM on October 22, 2013

No, I don't think this is a sign of food addiction. I think it means you're typically not getting enough calories and are in a constant state of low blood sugar, which can be very anxiety inducing for a lot of people. Maybe this is a good time to re-evaluate your daily caloric intake and see what you can do to maintain your weight but keep your blood sugar up?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:34 PM on October 22, 2013 [20 favorites]

I agree-- when I was poor and couldn't afford food, I had a constant low-level headache and a great deal of anxiety. I would look at your diet and maybe talk to a dietician if that's possible? You shouldn't be always suffering. I know food addiction is a real thing, but dieting culture and pressure are sometimes thus that we forget that as living beings we are fundamentally addicted to food, and should eat enough.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:37 PM on October 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

Also, can you eat foods you like and just not eat a lot of them? I find that when I don't have enough food that mini-binge feels amazing, but when I'm used to a healthy diet and I start binging all the time, it makes me sick. Maybe with your diet experience you've internalized portion control and can think about eating a brownie on occasion while balancing it out with other foods.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:39 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you eating the foods you need in the amounts you need to feel good? How many calories are you taking in per day? It almost sounds to me like you aren't eating enough.

I need a certain amount of fat and protein, and less sugar, to feel good and do my best. Maybe try writing down what you eat and how you feel within an hour or so after eating, how soon you feel hungry again, cravings, etc.

After a week or so you should start to see some patterns, and if so you can pin-point what foods make you feel good and what foods make you feel bad, and adjust your eating habits.

Also, what These Birds of a Feather said. Maybe just try eating more non-junk food and see if that helps.
posted by bunderful at 8:39 PM on October 22, 2013

Personally, I used food for emotional reasons and as stress relief. When you stop using food for non-hunger reasons, you need to find a replacement coping mechanism or you'll just go back to the last thing that worked - food. Therapy can be great for this.
posted by cecic at 8:50 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Carbs can elevate your mood. If you have been on a low carb diet to shed pounds, that would explain a lot.

This explains emotional eating, actually. People eat carbs because they actually make you feel better emotionally. Has something to do with serotonin but it's been awhile since I learned all this so I don't remember exactly what the mechanism is.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:50 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

(Just so you know, you can lose weight and still eat small amounts of things like sweets or ice cream. You simply have to make them small portions and eat mindfully the rest of the time. )
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:52 PM on October 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

Personally, if I try to merely cut calories (that is, eat what I'd normally eat if I weren't worried about getting fat, but just less of it), I go crazy, because those a small handful of potato chips as a snack makes me want a whole bag, the little scoop of ice cream makes me dream of a giant sundae, etc. So I've only found success through drastically limiting the things that I find I crave (high carb stuff) except for once in awhile. When I go to a strict meat/vegetables/eggs type diet, the cravings go away within a day or two. Maybe not for everyone, but it seems this works for a lot of people.
posted by skewed at 8:55 PM on October 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

Have you tried treating you anxiety with something _other_ than food?
posted by amtho at 9:04 PM on October 22, 2013

One thing brownies and such have in them is fat. Fat is not bad. Avocados are fat. There are tons of recipes for chocolate avocado mousse and/or pudding all over.

You have to get yourself a treat now and then. What do you like or crave? Chocolate? Okay, then have some. I like cheese. So I buy myself the best and freshest container of locally produced goat cheese, packed in oil with rosemary and peppercorns, and I serve it to myself on water crackers with a glass of Chardonnay.

Why should eating food you like mean you're addicted to food? It's not like you are stuffing your face with Twinkies all day, every day, and that's all you are eating! You wanted brownies and you made them. They are good. They made you feel good. And that's okay. Fat and sugar and chocolate make people feel good, otherwise it wouldn't be a thing. The brownie mix people would go out of business, and we would never see piles of cake and brownies on women's magazines next to headlines about how to walk to lose weight. They put those pictures there because they sell magazines.

We all love brownies. I love cakes and gingerbreads and cookies. I also love ramen noodles. Yet I eat yogurt and berries and then sometimes I make myself a cake with a stick of butter and a few apples, because apples are healthy. Then I have a piece and let my husband eat the rest.

It's true about chocolate: you can eat just a square or two and wait 20 minutes and the craving will go away. But it's so much fun to cheat once in a while, isn't it? It just makes you human, like the rest of us.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 9:06 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

Possibly. That's how I feel when attempting to eat what many people would consider to be a normal, healthy, balanced diet. With or without the occasional indulgences that people are supposed to be able to allow themselves without wanting to claw my face off to keep from letting a small treat become a massive binge. Following a very low-carb diet helps to eliminate food cravings, which allows me to separate food-related (and food-influenceable) anxiety from regular anxiety, so that I'm no longer interested in taking the edge off my emotions with a binge. Attending Overeaters Anonymous was also helpful (at the very least, you will get to speak with people who believe in food addiction,) but changing my diet was the main thing. Once I adjusted, it was as if a switch had been flipped in my brain, and my appetite became that of a normal person for the first time in my life. I still have anxiety, but eating my way out of it is no longer a compulsion.

Regarding possibly diet-related headaches, however- a magnesium supplement if you're not currently taking one might help with that. Also if you're drinking more water than you used to, having some salty beef or chicken broth before your workouts can help balance electrolytes.
posted by notquitemaryann at 9:13 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you can't ever make brownies, what's the point?

Seriously, I'd rather be 40 lbs overweight and eat brownies sometimes than beautifully thin and always depriving myself.

If you don't sometimes eat things purely for enjoyment and not because they're "good for you", you will drive yourself crazy.

Brownies taste good, and like most people you probably have good associations with them. That's why you feel happy and satisfied after treating yourself to them.

Also, frankly, I've always felt like the euphoria and "I just feel so much better" etc. are things people tell themselves. I'm not saying that means that cutting back and being responsible and having a healthy diet are bad, but it's a little bit "doth protest too much", to be honest. I eat OK. I've always eaten OK. I don't feel any particular way due to my approach to food. If I have an unusually healthy spell, I don't feel better. If I spend a week indulging in junk I don't feel particularly gross.

That said, by sticking to a pretty moderate diet and mostly eating what I want within reason, I find that I don't overwhelmingly crave junk. I'm not hungry all the time, much less headachey and anxious. I can look at a dessert menu and think, "nah, I'm actually pretty full," or walk down the junk food aisle in the store and not feel tempted at all. This isn't because I'm so crunchy granola healthy that I feel euphoric all the time and could never sully myself with such trash. It's because I know that the treats will always be there, and I can always give myself permission to have some when I want it. Which makes it a lot easier to evaluate whether I actually want it or not.

I don't know from addiction, but I think you need to find a sustainable way of dealing with food. Feeling deprived all the time isn't healthy. It concerns me that out of all the answers telling you that you might be going too far with the calorie cutting, and that there's nothing wrong with a brownie now and again, you selected the one about how Carbs Are The Devil as the best answer. No food is the devil.

Chocolate Protip: keep some high quality dark chocolate on hand. When you crave sweets, have one small square. That will likely satisfy the craving, and it's certainly healthier than a "mini-binge" on brownies.
posted by Sara C. at 9:32 PM on October 22, 2013 [13 favorites]

I've been low-carbing and calorie-restricting it lately and, yeah, after dinner is traditionally where we have our pudding, and my body doesn't feel like it has "eaten" until I have something dessert-like after the main. So I found myself a kick-ass recipe that is ultra-low in sugar, ultra-low in carbs, ultra-low in fat, and ultra-high in protein (which is great for helping you feel full). I know you're not after recipes but you should try this thing, it's pretty much guilt-free and I love it to bits:


2 x scoops low-carb whey protein (try for one that's 1g or less of carbs per 40g scoop)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon of quark cheese
1 fistful of frozen blueberries

In a bowl (obv.) xix the whey and baking powder with a little water until it turns doughy. Then add the quark and a little more water and mix until it's more battery. Throw the blueberries in and mix them through, cover the bowl loosely with Glad Wrap, then nuke it for anywhere from 1-3 minutes, depending on if you want more pudding and less slurry, or more slurry and less pudding. You don't need to stir it at any point, and it will rise up like mad.

Remove your epic pudding from the microwave. Throw some cinnamon on there, a little more quark, and I guarantee this thing will melt your face. It's about 1470kj/351 calories, it's 67g protein, 3g fat, and 9g carbs. It will leave you blissed-out and sleepy. Eat it up.

Note: This may be too much food for you. It's probably too much for me too, but when I consider that on training nights I would easily demolish a whole apple pie and a half pint of ice cream with it barely touching the sides, this is ultra-restrictive starvation-level dieting for me.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:59 PM on October 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

If you have a constant headache, I would look at a few things: hydration, calorie intake, and electrolytes. Are you eating enough? Are you eating enough protein and fats? Fat isn't evil and is key to making you feel full and satisfied while you are eating at a caloric deficit. Low-carb works for a lot of people because you end up getting foods that are more satiating. Eating 2 eggs and some avocado will make you feel fuller longer than having a bagel.

Which is all a long-winded way of saying that no, I don't think you're addicted to food. You're restricting something too much in your daily life. Whether that thing is calories or electrolytes or something else is hard to know without knowing your general dietary intake. If I were you, I'd consult with a nutritionist and see where you might be missing nutrients.
posted by bedhead at 10:20 PM on October 22, 2013

I didn't get a chance to read all the answers. But you could say I've struggled with my weight. Lost 50 pounds, gained 50 pounds, and have now lost it again. This time it's been going great. You mentioned having to feel "constantly vigilant." Boy, I can relate a lot to that, and I think that's an early symptom of burnout.

My advice? Take one day out of the week off, eat whatever you want. I'm not a scientist, but I honestly feel like this might even assist in weight loss. It'll also keep you in the game longer. Treat yourself once in a while. Spend the rest of the week earning it.

Also, what you are eating is really important. I did something called The Quantum Cleanse and even though I don't meet a lot of people that know about it, I have to say it changed my life. It's helped me learn about food. Normally, I'm a "go to McDonalds at midnight and buy two value meals" kind of dude. Now I'm probably what you could loosely describe as a vegan. No animal products, no gluten, no bread, major cutbacks on sugar and caffeine. I had major headaches for a couple of days and then they totally disappeared.

If I want something sweet, I look for lower-sugar alternatives. Skinny Cow makes a nice line of ice cream products, unfortunately they're so good you want to eat the whole box. There's another company that makes some kind of frozen yogurt ice cream, don't remember the name, they come in 3-packs, 100 calories per serving, taste great. If you really want to go nuts and sacrifice a lot of flavor, Whole Foods sells an ice creams called Arctic Zero that has 150 calories per pint. One thing I've learned? There's no such thing as healthy chocolate, or healthy cookies, or healthy brownies. Don't even bother with miracle alternatives. I bought a "sugar-free" chocolate bar from Trader Joe's and it contained tons of maltitol, an ingredient that I later found out is a sugar alcohol that allows the manufacturer to call the chocolate bar "sugar free" while gifting you with the craziest shits ever for about a week.

Look, "eating your feelings" is a thing, and without a doubt you will "feel more" on a diet. Maybe there's something missing in your life other than brownies. Are you doing any fun exercises? Writing? Therapy? Your body and brain will thank you for it.

There are also walls in weight-loss - periods where it feels like your body doesn't want to lose weight as fast as it did 20 pounds ago. Pictures of role models can also help. I know, a little weird, but it can be inspiring when self-motivation runs low. Just remember what Kate Moss said. Nothing feels as good as skinny looks. Hehe. Sometimes the greatest things get done for superficial reasons.

The moral of the story is, don't think of weight loss just in terms of cutting back. Think in terms of finding totally new, all-natural things to eat. You will discover a whole new world out there. I used to be a "Weight-Watchers-count-the-points," "eat three popsicles because they only add up to 9 points" type of person. And while that method has been scientifically proven to work, it is a severely dumbed down way to look at food. The most important thing I've learned is that when it comes to eating right, it's about ingredients, not nutritional facts. Within certain reasonable parameters, the body is an incredibly adjustable machine. These days I can't eat a lot of regular bread without feeling sick, and the only cheese I eat is lactose free. Maintained weight loss is about changing your lifestyle. Some vigilance might be required to get there, but it shouldn't feel constant. That means you're doing something wrong.

Sugar (especially manufactured sugars like high fructose corn syrup) is addictive, probably one of the least talked about problems in the American diet, and on top of that it is jam-packed in a lot of things in the food aisle. But with a little knowledge, you can cut it out of your diet and be extremely happy with simple things. For me these days, I can say without being funny that sprouted bread with almond butter is decadent.
posted by phaedon at 11:35 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding the idea of looking at your electrolytes. I follow a "primal" way of eating (no--or very little--grains or legumes, processed foods, etc.) and sometimes it can be hard to get enough potassium, resulting in symptoms like you describe. Suggest you talk to a dietician about whether/how you should supplement your food intake.
posted by rpfields at 1:05 AM on October 23, 2013

When I reduce simple carbs (cakes, white bread, white pasta) I feel unwell like withdrawing from caffeine for about 2 weeks - and then I feel great. As someone with lifelong anxiety/depression issues I have never found carbs to elevate my mood except in the sense of comfort food. I am now in love with brown / whole meal bread & brown rice though it took a good year to get used to the textures. So, my guess, not addiction, also the serotonin amounts possibly too small to affect your mood more than psychological response. Keep trying but add complex carbs like brown/raw/less refined things and maybe oats. Good luck.
posted by b33j at 1:14 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Barring a current nutritional deficiency chances are you were overeating to alleviate anxiety. Now that you aren't doing that you are feeling the feelings (the anxiety) you were previously avoiding. I recently read keeping a food journal--tracking your food consumption & moods at that time, etc--is really helpful. Journaling in general is a great way to get your emotions out.
posted by wildflower at 4:13 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

This could have absolutely nothing to do with the nutritional content of the food in general, not that it's impossible it does. If you're incredibly anxious about something and then you give in and decide to do something pleasurable? You're going to feel better for awhile, although not necessarily in the long term. People with eating disorders do this all the time, and it has nothing to do with the carb content of the food. Maybe you need to look at this as an anxiety problem, not as a food problem?

If you are inclined to be anxious about your eating, you are kind of only a short hop from an eating disorder. Not saying that you have one now, but be very careful about trying to solve a feeling like this with ever more obsessing about food. I would consider relaxing your daily standards just a little bit--it is better to be a few pounds overweight and relaxed than someone else's standard for the right weight and an anxious mess--and then look at adding pleasurable activities to your life that have nothing to do with food.

Some people can totally track everything they eat and keep to very strict diets without it being emotionally unhealthy at all, but not all of us fall into that category.
posted by Sequence at 5:16 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

can you eat foods you like and just not eat a lot of them?

For me, at least, if the foods involved are carbohydrate-rich the answer to that is absolutely not. If I eat a small amount of predominantly carbohydrate food, then within five minutes I will be experiencing outrageously intense and unrelenting hunger pangs that basically render me non-functional until I either fill my stomach or suffer them for three, maybe four hours.

I don't think this is food addiction. I think this is just the way some people's digestive systems work.

jenh256, I am not at all surprised to hear that you felt good after a mini-binge on brownies. That's what sweet fatty foods do.

The real worry is the business about feeling the need for constant food vigilance. That, and the persistent headache, says to me that you've still not found a diet that actually works for you even though you have found one that's giving you the adipose reduction you're after.

How much crunchy raw stuff is in your present mix? If you make a habit of putting pretty much everything else you sit down to eat on a bed of shredded raw veggies, and commit to eating those up every time, you might well find that you can trim your rich-foods portion sizes without feeling deprived. Fibre is a Good Thing, especially when it comes laden with useful micronutrients.

Something else that might be worth your while to experiment with: four days of total water fasting does far more good than harm for most overweight people and can also reset your eating habits quite radically. If you intend to try that, plan it around not having to be terribly productive on day 2 - because by the end of day 2 you will feel bloody awful (headaches mostly). Days 3 and 4 generally go surprisingly easily.

During the fast, keep a decent sized bottle of water on you at all times and every time you have a hunger pang, think "thirst pang!" and react quickly by drinking. That will do two things - it will help you break the automatic connection between hunger and food-seeking (or the exertion of willpower to suppress food-seeking), which will be of lasting value to you after the fast; and it will actually take the edge off the hunger pangs and make them subside quickly.

On the day you break the fast, do it with rabbit food and rediscover the joy of chewing (think of it as being extra gentle to a gut waking from slumber). Only once your gut has settled back into something approaching its pre-fast rhythms should you start adding your usual foods back in.

Fasting has taught me things about easy self-control around food that I don't think I could have learned any other way, and has also taught me to approach eating the way I have long approached the drinking of good red wine: as something to be done slowly and without distraction, with consideration and appreciation of the complex and subtle evolution of flavours and textures as chewing goes on, as opposed to yum yum good good nom nom nom gone! boo hoo.

I'm shedding fat at a nice steady pace, I feel better about food and eating than I have in a long time, and as long as I stick to low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fibre, reasonable-fat foods I very rarely have to apply anything that feels much like vigilance or willpower. 15kg down and it's already hurting less to move about, 53kg to go and looking forward to regaining the ability to stand straight up from a cross-legged floor sit with no hands. Fingers crossed.

And here's the thing: next time I genuinely want to eat brownies I am bloody well going to eat brownies - after filling my stomach with crunchy salad first. And I am going to eat the shit out of those brownies. I expect each one is going to last me at least five minutes.
posted by flabdablet at 5:59 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I bought a "sugar-free" chocolate bar from Trader Joe's and it contained tons of maltitol, an ingredient that I later found out is a sugar alcohol that allows the manufacturer to call the chocolate bar "sugar free" while gifting you with the craziest shits ever for about a week.

Here's a passionate cautionary tale on sugar alcohols (the lycasin in those gummi bears is largely maltitol).
posted by flabdablet at 6:12 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've lost about 135 pounds through diet and exercise and kept it off for 6 years now. I don't feel great all the time. I still have a weird, anxious, vigilant relationship with food. I don't think you're necessarily doing anything wrong. If maintaining weight loss were a pleasant, easy, happy experience more people would be able to do it.

But, at least for me, it has not been easy. However, it has definitely been worth it. I can now fit into airplane seats, buy "regular" sized clothing, spend a day walking around a new city without being exhausted, and there's a lot less discrimination to deal with. But I've accepted that I will always have to plan and track the calories of what I'm going to eat and I need to devote more time to exercise and preparing healthy food than most people.

The feelings of unfairness and anxiety around the lengths I have to go to to be at a "healthy" weight have lessened over time, but they're still there. I view it as sort of like managing a chronic illness now - it's a hassle and I'll never be happy about it but it's become part of my routine. And, yes, binges still make me feel good, they probably always will.

Maintaining weight loss is tough and it's not right for everyone. If it's not right for you and you feel better being heavier, that's okay. Even as someone who has decided to lose weight and maintain it, I've found a lot of comfort in fat acceptance blogs and writings. They do a great job of debunking the cultural messages we get saying that thin=happy, weight loss should make you feel better and if it's not you're doing something wrong, etc. Maybe something to look into for yourself?
posted by horizons at 6:17 AM on October 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for all the great responses. I selected as the best answers (for my own situation) the ones that pegged emotional eating. Eating has always been my "go to" for managing stress and alleviating anxiety - am trying to find better ways to do that, such as walking, but this time I guess I fell back to old habits. (Am restricting calories, around 1300/day, so I'm not depriving myself of any specific food.)
posted by jenh526 at 6:28 AM on October 23, 2013

I answer my chocolate crave with a chocolate flavored protein shake. Satisfies the stomach and the mouth. Just protein powder, milk, and a hand blender.

Some of my other sweet craves I answer with fruit. Or brushing my teeth. And plenty of water.

OK this is the dangerous part. I know it could lead to anorexia if it's abused. But that feeling of having slightly low blood sugar is not a bad thing. It's OK for your blood to go around in your body looking for a source of energy and when it sees there's no sugars handy let's convert some fat. Don't do it all the time and use MyFitnessPal to monitor your calories, but still let your blood go looking. Your anxiety might be because you're not used to having blood that can't find the easiest available sugars.
posted by surplus at 6:44 AM on October 23, 2013

1300 kcal/day sounds incredibly low. A 5' 100 lb 25-y.o. female has BMR around 1250 kcal/day; maintaining that weight at a sedentary activity level should take around 1500 kcal/day, and that doesn't factor in the ~200 kcal burn of the walking. You may actually have been undernourishing your body, and eating those brownies finally gave your body the calories for which it's been crying out for a long period of time. In essence, you've been living through a famine; your body started shutting down less essential functions and burning through fat stores (and depleting your muscle tissue, since you couldn't calorically justify it).

Maybe you need to eat more on a regular basis. And I don't know what your actual stats are, but maybe your body was better suited to the higher weight.
posted by disconnect at 7:06 AM on October 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

I lost a lot of weight this year, after being overweight for years. I tried for years to "just eat less" or "just avoid bad carbs".

One of the things I did differently this time was take waaaayy more vitamins for the first few months of my weightloss. In addition to being overweight, I'm a tall person. Plus, I was in the habit of constantly drinking water (and therefore flushing my system). So, my hypothesis was that the rda's on the vitamin bottles weren't sufficient for me in that state. (I took two multi's a day, plus extra B, C, and D3 - although, I had verified via bloodwork that I was chronically low in B's & D3).

Upping my vitamin intake allowed me to eat a little less each day without feeling completely exhausted and depleted. Not feeling exhausted and depleted helped me avoid emotional eating.

I know there are arguments against taking a higher dose of vitamins, and I'm really not here to debate those arguments. All I can tell you is that it worked for me (and now that I am down to a healthy weight I have scaled back my vitamin intake to the rda's on the bottle).
posted by vignettist at 8:14 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is 1300 calories per day your goal, or is that the amount of consuming that you are actually consuming per day?

I ask because I have been losing weight as well over the past year or so, and I found that when I would set my calorie budget at 1200, I would actually wind up eating 900-1000 calories some days, which is too low. Any more than a couple days of that has me feeling crabby and tired and like I have a headache.

It sounds like you went from calming your anxiety with food, to having anxiety about eating food. If you're having anxiety that is overwhelming and you're having trouble sleeping, it's time to talk to a doctor or a therapist.

Make sure you are eating enough calories, fat and protein. Forgive yourself for eating too many brownies, I don't think there's anyone who has ever attempted to lose weight who hasn't done the exact same thing.

Your mental health is important, just as important, if not more so, than your physical health. I would argue that treating your anxiety that has begun to significantly impact your life is much more important for your overall health than losing the last ten pounds.
posted by inertia at 8:41 AM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

The anxiety not being alleviated is surely part of it, but for a low grade headache, especially if you're walking that much and exercising 1300 does not seem like enough to maintain your blood sugar. Here is some math to figure out your body's caloric need.
posted by itsonreserve at 8:42 AM on October 23, 2013

I agree that you probably need to be eating more of those healthy calories - I've struggled with my weight since puberty, and am currently almost down to the bottom of the obese BMI again (\o/)... thanks to not restricting my eating, eating More healthy foods, and not eating my feelings.

Journals have helped. Therapy has helped. A dietician has helped. But mostly, my current ongoing success is due to doing my best to never feel deprived, always feel Well fed. That nurtured feeling has helped my anxiety a lot.
posted by ldthomps at 8:46 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've lost about the same amount of weight. I binged on one particular day, but so far I'm pretty good about sticking to my diet.

I use for tracking food and exercise. I currently weigh 205 and to lose one pound a week it allows me to consume 1860 calories daily. I exercise quite a bit (bicycle riding, average of 2 hours three times a week roughly) and don't fully replace those calories and I'm losing significantly faster than the one pound per week rate.

I guess maybe what I'm saying is that perhaps your calorie intake is too low. You may be able to tolerate a higher calorie intake, especially if you mix in (and take credit for) some exercise.
posted by Doohickie at 9:36 AM on October 23, 2013

Are you finding enough healthy foods to enjoy and indulge in? One thing I found with dieting is that when I was good about it and found things to indulge in that were on the diet, I simply started to crave "diet" food rather than french fries and brownies. My palate changed. If all you are doing is depriving yourself of anything enjoyable and then breaking every week or whatever in a cycle, it's no wonder it's such a struggle.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:59 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Carbohydrates have always had a huge positive effect on my mood. Lately I've had to cut way back on carbohydrates in order to keep blood sugar levels in check, and I'm losing weight slowly as a result. Since I started eating this way about 2 months ago, my mood has been consistently better, and I have less trouble concentrating and remembering things -- those two have been problems for me for a long time. I'll say a few over-simplified things, but get the real facts by googling "ketogenic diet and mood".

My psychiatrist suggested that ketones might be causing these changes, and mentioned studies in which half of the subjects had experienced similar improvements while substituting protein and fat for a percentage of carbs. Ketones are produced when the body burns fat. The ketones in the blood can affect the brain in positive ways, in both mood stabilization and cognitive performance. In order to get some ketones going, you need to be eating few enough carbs so the body will turn to other sources for energy. And you need to eat enough fat to provide that alternate source. For me, this doesn't mean binging on bacon and sausages, like what you may have heard about Atkins diet followers. I don't eat white pasta, white bread, potatoes, rice. I do have a lot of vegetables, and a piece of fruit every day, and sometimes two. The fat I use comes from meat, oily fish, cheese, and eggs. I stay away from sugar unless it's accompanied by fiber. I don't have "ketone breath" that comes from a more extreme diet.

I'm losing weight, but you don't have to; you'd just need to eat in such a way that your body is running more on fat than on carbs. It doesn't feel like deprivation and it doesn't require a lot of thought or control. Eating none of the "white stuff" feels easier than just eating less.

I'm very sad about not having pasta and bread except as an occasional treat; it's an important loss for me. I do miss the immediate comfort that I used to get from those wonderful foods. But if I had known that the lower-carb eating would ease my depression and sharpen my mind, I'd have done it earlier, despite the loss of my favorite foods.
posted by wryly at 12:33 PM on October 23, 2013

I'm sorry, but I stand by my original comment. I don't think you're eating enough and I think you need to talk to a doctor or dietician to re-evaluate your caloric intake FIRST and then address any emotional eating issues SECOND.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:55 PM on October 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to add that I took an Epsom salt bath recently before bed and couldn't believe how relaxed I was the next morning. It's the magnesium in the Epsom salts that helps as it is quite common to be low in magnesium but it doesn't show up in regular tests. B-complex vitamins like stress tabs are good too. Seeing a dietitian would probably be a good idea as there is much that you can do to alleviate anxiety through healthy measures. Congrats on losing so much weight and it's ok to splurge now and then.
posted by wildflower at 7:18 PM on October 23, 2013

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