How do I stop loving food?
June 28, 2006 11:13 AM   Subscribe

I can't stop eating and my metabolism has come to a screeching halt.

I am a tiny person. All my life I've also been a high metabolism skinny person that could eat anything I wanted. A few years ago, my metabolism started to slow down and I started to gain weight. Then I got a high energy job that got my metabolism back to "normal" and I was fitting into my old pants again.

Then I went back to an office job, and that's where the trouble began. I've been steadly gaining weight for the past 8 or so months. I enjoy eating, and I lack any willpower what-so-ever. I often eat just because I think something would taste good.

I sort of got things under control a couple months ago and dropped 5 pounds. But now I gained it back again + another 10 pounds.

I seem to be binging like mad the last six weeks. I am not eating when I'm hungry, just when the urge hits me. Part of it is that I think I need to be chewing something all the time. I tried gum but that didn't help. I tried not stocking the food, but I just drive to the store to get it. I repeat, I have no will power.

Last year at this time I was approximately 30 pounds lighter than I am now. I haven't a clue what to do about it.
posted by [insert clever name here] to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Try the Shangri-La diet. I've found it very successful in controlling my appetite.
posted by kindall at 11:18 AM on June 28, 2006

Are you under a lot of stress? I find that a lot of my overeating is "emotional", and it sounds like this could be the case for you. I mostly eat uncontrollably when I'm stressed/angry/overwhelmed. If that's the case, there are a lot of books on dealing with emotional overeating, or you might want to talk to a counselor about it.

Another possibility is to look at exactly what you're eating. Some people are sensitive to sugar & sweets - it makes them crave even more sugar & sweets, way beyond a healthy caloric intake. You may want to see about meeting with a nutritionist to go over your typical diet to see if there are changes you can make that might make you more satisfied with smaller or less frequent meals & snacks.

Good luck, I know it's a really difficult thing to overcome.
posted by tastybrains at 11:20 AM on June 28, 2006

Exercise. If you exercise right before a meal, you'll actually eat less at that meal. This could be anything from a quick jog to a 45 minute aerobic workout to a long walk. Drink a lot of water during the day. If you get the urge to eat, drink or play around with silly putty instead. If you absolutely must eat when not hungry, keep a bag of baby carrots and low fat dip around. Use the dip sparingly.

Just realize that if you want to remain how you are now, it's going to require work. If you don't mind gaining 30 pounds per year, keep doing what you're doing. That realization made me realize that I needed to get some sort of routine -- and I am not fat by any means. It's just a matter of starting good habits that counteract -- and will eventually replace -- the bad. Then you can be just as bad about controlling your urges.
posted by mikeh at 11:24 AM on June 28, 2006

Then I went back to an office job, and that's where the trouble began.

Try to get some high-activity back as hard as that is to do: Walk up stairs instead of the elevator, take time off in the afternoon to hit a gym or go on a long bicycle ride. Take loong walks after or before work (as part of your commute)

Like you, I think, my weight fluctuations have always depended most on how much exercise I was getting. Diet-based solutions never worked. My appetite has always been constant and large but also offset by what I was just burning off through metabolic activities...
posted by vacapinta at 11:27 AM on June 28, 2006

If you haven't already, switch to diet soda and similar diet foods - as a skinny person, I never had any reason to pay attention to diet versions of foods, so an obvious way of cutting calories without changing eating habits was staring me in the face :)

OTOH, this doesn't address the root cause (eating for the sake of eating), which is the real problem.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:34 AM on June 28, 2006

I enjoy eating, and I lack any willpower what-so-ever

in the long run the laziest way to fix this is just to get some willpower.
posted by soma lkzx at 11:35 AM on June 28, 2006

Food cravings
Least fat yet filling foods
No initiative to get healthy

To name a few. Check out the "diet" tag, there are a lot of people with similar issues...
posted by mikeh at 11:36 AM on June 28, 2006

More exercise, fewer calories. Sorry, that's what it takes. That's the bottom line. Fads will come and go but at the end of the day you are a machine and you need to balance fuel consumption and work output.

Look at low-cal, high volume foods. There's plenty of info about this on the web and it's surprisingly easy to create truly tasty, satisfying meals that come in at around 400 - 700 calories.

Stop snacking. Keep your mind occupied. I used to find that the worst time for thinking about needless consumption was when bored. "I know, I'll go get a candy bar."

But do exercise. Get the heart rate up and make some aerobic demands on your body. It boosts your metablism, burns calories and - after the initial pain - makes you feel a hell of a lot better.

Yes, it takes will power. How much do you want to do it? Enough? Then just do it.
posted by Decani at 11:38 AM on June 28, 2006

Your body obviously responds well to exercise, so if you don't want to stop eating you need to start exercising, or exercising more. One or the other or you'll keep gaining weight.
posted by OmieWise at 11:40 AM on June 28, 2006

Best answer: Go to the doctor. This sounds unusual. Be on the safe side.

Don't carry money.

Don't leave money at home where you can use it to go to the store.
posted by ewkpates at 11:51 AM on June 28, 2006

Take up a high-intensity workout as a hobby. Really, that's the only thing that's done it for me. I love love love eating and have no inclination to develop the ability to not eat something. So I took up the other end of the equation and I'm ecstatically happy & dropping weight even though I eat an unholy amount of food.
posted by dame at 12:02 PM on June 28, 2006

When you get into a good dieting rhythm it's really not that bad and is actually self-reinforcing in a lot of ways. You learn to enjoy the feeling of having an empty stomach, you get into a habit of counting calories and learning how much you need to keep you going, your clothes get looser and each little bit of progress on the scales motivates you to do more.

I think you probably know all this and are actually asking about how to break into that pattern in a low-willpower way. My suggestion: one evening, make a point of eating a lighter than usual evening meal (say 400 calories or so, a good chunk of which should be protein). You should be OK on this until bedtime, but if you're feeling genuinely hungry eat 100-200 cals to get you to sleep. When you wake up, you'll feel properly hungry, possibly for the first time in weeks or months, but if you're like me you'll find that you also feel pleasantly empty, and can manage with a light breakfast. My experience is that this is enough to knock me into the right pattern, it's worth a try.
posted by teleskiving at 12:07 PM on June 28, 2006

Welcome to the aging process. Stay active outside of work, stay away from simple carbohydrates, eat lots of fiber and search the archives for the many, many AskMe queries which are related. (Posts tagged diet)
posted by caddis at 12:16 PM on June 28, 2006

Response by poster:
Go to the doctor. This sounds unusual. Be on the safe side.

I've been there. She ran all sorts of blood tests because it sounded unusual to her too. I think I just hit a brick metabolism wall. Most of my peers have gained this weight a few years ago after having kids. I never had kids and was able to put off the gain an extra 5-10 years. But it came on suddenly and it sucks.

Two other parts of the equation - I hate exercise for the sake of exercise. I don't mind it if I'm DOING something, but I never seem to find the time to join classes that would give me a work out.

and I'm always tired. I've heard exercizing can help with that, but how do you get the motivation to do it to start with?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:17 PM on June 28, 2006

"I've heard exercizing can help with that, but how do you get the motivation to do it to start with?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:17 PM EST on June 28 [+fave] [!]"

This is getting perilously close to the "two AskMe questions in a week" taboo, but....
  • Find a buddy or buddies for group activities (walking, jogging, swimming). Teaching young buddies in a class, scout troup, or other group setting is a great way to do this.
  • Find something you like enough that it has intrinsic interest for you, yet carries some metabolic cost. In my case, I got a young, active dog, and that's a 10 year fitness plan of twice a day walks. Other people get a bike.
  • If you possibly can, do some errands regularly on foot, or using a combination of public transport and walking

posted by paulsc at 12:35 PM on June 28, 2006

You could get some cinderblocks and place them under your desk legs until you can comfortably use your desk standing up. Standing up all day will burn more calories and you have the benefit of not being in a chair so you'll tend to move around more.
posted by lockle at 12:36 PM on June 28, 2006

"I hate exercise for the sake of exercise. I don't mind it if I'm DOING something"

So what are some exciting things you'd like to be able to do? If you think about it, you'll find things that you want to do enough that you could be happy to make time for them.

Tango? Rock climbing? Fencing? Parkour? Burlesque? Trapeze? Fossil-hunting? Martial arts?

If finding time for classes is a problem, but you do want to go, then buy the classes up front, giving an additional financial incentive to turn up. And plenty of things don't need classes.

Think of fun things that you'd like to be the sort of person who does (or has done) those things, then "seize the day" and become that person while you're still able to :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:49 PM on June 28, 2006

Best answer: Did your doctor check your thyroid function? Specifically, did she run a free T3 and free T4 as well as a TSH level? Your symptoms - tired all the time, don't want to exercise, massive uncontrollable food cravings - are sounding some yellow alerts for me.

(The screening test for thyroid malfunction is TSH level, but it's possible to have a normal TSH and still have a wacked thyroid, which is why I ask whether you've had the other tests as well.)
posted by jaed at 1:12 PM on June 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

and I'm always tired.

I know you said she ran lots of tests, but did she check your thyroid levels?
posted by fuzzbean at 1:14 PM on June 28, 2006

The only way I ever got myself to exercise was to put my stationery bike in front of the TV. I don't watch much TV anyway, so I felt like I was getting a treat while exercising.

Also, you might look into DDR. My husband loves it.
posted by sugarfish at 1:19 PM on June 28, 2006

Go to the doctor. This sounds unusual. It sounds incredibly usual to me - get older, metabolism slows down.
posted by Amizu at 1:27 PM on June 28, 2006

Best answer: Tired? Did your doctor test your blood sugar? Was it slightly elevated but perhaps not so high as to be considered diabetes? Sugar issues can give you whopping appetites (hence the popularity of low glycemic index diets) and can cause fatigue as sugars drop. (thyroid issues might also be relevant but are discussed above)
posted by caddis at 2:10 PM on June 28, 2006

There is no such thing as your "metabolism slowing down" or "speeding up", excepyt in the context of an underactive thyroid, whichcan cause weight gain, and it's also associated with being tired. Problem is, both weight gain and fatigue can also be caused by lots of other things.

The best thing for weight loss is calorie reduction combined with cardiovascular exercise. If you don't like exercising, try builidng more walking into your daily routines. Walk farther from the car to the mall, etc. Buy a pedometer and try to increase your weekly steps incrementally. 10,000 steps a week is a good goal at first, although later that might be a good daily goal.
posted by cahlers at 3:47 PM on June 28, 2006

In terms of the eating and not the diet/exercise stuff, if you are going to eat when it's not a meal time, eat fruits and vegetables. I find that cucumbers and celery are really good because they are crunchy, and I am all about crunchy foods. Since most fruit and vegetables are relatively low in calories and high in water and fiber, it's a good way to satisfy the urge to eat without getting a lot of calories and it's good for you too.

The exercise stuff is important and will help a lot, but choosing what you eat when you eat between actual meals will also be helpful.
posted by chrisroberts at 5:16 PM on June 28, 2006

There is no such thing as your "metabolism slowing down" or "speeding up", excepyt in the context of an underactive thyroid

I believe you are not correct. Exercise certainly seems to raise metabolism, even after the exercise is complete.
posted by caddis at 5:33 PM on June 28, 2006

Listen to ewkpates. It's good advice.
posted by rinkjustice at 5:49 PM on June 28, 2006

Get hold of a book called "Fit or Fat."

The premise is that if you are unfit your body does not burn fat as it should...I can vouch for it as by following the primciples I have lost-and kept off-35 pounds.
posted by konolia at 6:11 PM on June 28, 2006

If your health is worth that much to you, you could try to change back to the job that made you fit.
posted by msittig at 6:13 PM on June 28, 2006

Overcoming Overeating
posted by radioamy at 6:45 PM on June 28, 2006

I've had the same problem. I have yo-yoed between a size 4 and a size 14 over the past two years.

I lost the first 20 pounds of my dramatic weight gain through exercise and allowing myself to eat whenever, but not whatever I wanted. Food was ok, but I tried to fill up my stomach with as much fruit and vegetables as possible and save both fat and carbohydrates for actual meals. I can't stick to a diet and I didn't want to make myself insane by hyper-analyzing my food choices.

Exercise, exercise, exercise. Where do you live? How do you get to work? Is there any place near your house (1-2 miles) that you frequent that you can walk to? When I started trying to lose the extra weight I had gained, I made myself swim every single day whether I liked it or not. It was rough, but it worked. My routine now is simply to walk the last mile or two on the way home from work rather than continuing on the bus. I can't stand walking for the sake of walking around, but I try to walk as a form of transportation as much as possible. YMMV.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:58 PM on June 28, 2006

Have the thyroid things checked thoroughly. It's always possible. (Hashimoto's thyroiditis, like the poor, is ever with us.)

If you have stairs at work, make a habit of taking them regularly. Fit this into the things you do anyway, whether you make a lot of short trips or two or three longer trips a day. You're more likely to do this sort of thing than get any real use out of a membership to the gym, and you can always do that after you stick to this a while if you want to.
Find a buddy to do the stairs with, there's always someone who will happily visit with you while you both hike up (or down, if it's easier on your knees or something), and you're more likely to do it with company. If you have a parking garage, walk up or down a few floors and take the elevator back.

We call that "eating for entertainment", and we do it from stress. Unfortunately, the calories still count. Keep a stash of things in your desk that are terribly convenient, and relatively low cal and good for you, whatever that is for you. We pass out baby carrots at regular intervals, and every one knows when that is, and mostly we try to wait a while on the snacking, because "the carrots are coming at 3" or whatever. If you absolutely have to have something very filling, bring in a wedge of lettuce and a bottle of low fat dressing (or better yet, that salad foolishness you spray on) and you can eat that over a paper towel and throw away the dirty dishes. It will keep in the fridge a while until you're desperate.

The point here is to do things you'll stick with, have a friend who'll do it with you, or several, and pick things that are easy and convenient for you. These are just things that have worked at our office, only suggestions.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 9:12 PM on June 28, 2006

I repeat, I have no will power.

Will power is not some inherent physical quality, determined by DNA or locked in by the end of your developmental years. It's taking ownership for the choices you make. Saying "I would do X but I don't have the will power" is an excuse for not doing X that blames your missteps on an imaginary deficiency supposedly beyond your control. What if instead of telling people you didn't have much will power, you had to tell them you're weak and lazy? You'd probably be more motivated just so you didn't have to admit to being weak and lazy all the time. (I'm not saying you're weak or lazy. I'm saying people get it in their heads that "will power" is holding them back, when really they're not lacking anything but the realization that the choice is theirs.)

People act like they can't change their lives, they can't just start going to the gym or working out regularly or eating nutriously, but you've already told us that you have the capacity to make an abrupt change in your daily life that dramatically affects your metabolic input and output. What was this change? You did it twice: "Then I got a high energy job" and "Then I went back to an office job."

People go from not working to working 40 hours a week in a snap. They go from working in an office on one side of town every day, to working outdoors on their feet all day, to staying at home and raising a family. People completely change what they spend most of their waking hours doing almost instantaneously, but ask the same people about picking up an exercise routine that might take 3 hours a week, and all of a sudden they're handicapped by will-power and motivation issues.

Finding ways to distract yourself from food can help, but knowing that food doesn't have some power over you is key.

Metabolism is almost entirely determined by activity and muscle mass. If you eat properly and stay active, and your thyroid behaves, then no metabolic boogeyman is out there waiting to make you fat.

Take control, accept responsibility, make the right choices, own your actions and habits, be consistent, and do not blame your lifestyle on other people or things.
posted by techgnollogic at 9:33 PM on June 28, 2006 [2 favorites]

Metabolism and Efficiency
1. Your "rate of burn" changes throughout the day, particularly during and after exercise. (Fact)

2. There is a little understood mechanism that alters the efficiency of caloric metabolization. You can metabolize between 35% and 95% of what you eat. We don't know why some people don't metabolize 65% of what they eat, and other people metabolize 95% of what they eat. We don't know how this works, and we don't know why this efficiency curve changes in individuals... (Fact-ish, but mostly speculation).
posted by ewkpates at 5:53 AM on June 29, 2006

+1 to techgnollogic -- very well put, and bang on the money.
posted by modernnomad at 6:41 AM on June 29, 2006

techgnollogic is so right. "I have no willpower" is nonsense. It's weak. It's fabricating an excuse to try to make it sound like there's some ailment you have which prevents you from doing what you damned well know is necessary to lose weight: exercise and dietary balance. You're selling yourself a line of bullshit, we ain't buying it, and neither should you. As long as you keep buying it you're going to be a fatass. Decide how bad you feel about that and if you feel bad enough, stop whining about lack of willpower and do the necessary. Because here's the killer: nothing else will work. Except, of course, becoming one of those ho ho ho jolly lardarses who kid themselves they're happy that way, no really.
posted by Decani at 5:42 PM on June 29, 2006

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
Just to follow up in case anyone else should find this thread in the future. I did eventually figure it out, and it wasn't a willpower issue at all. I had extremely low iron stores (specifically serum ferritin). It was 13ng/ml at the time it was diagnosed, with 12ng/ml considered deficient (my doctor said I would have started seeing anemia at that point had it gotten that low.). Even though 12ng/ml is the official level of iron deficiency, it's considered that because that is where anemia will start. However, a whole host of symptoms are associated with serum ferritin below 50ng/ml, and those include fatigue, hair loss, restless leg syndrome, and for some people, hunger.

Once I was on iron supplements and the levels got restored to above 50ng/ml, the overwhelming cravings stopped, like a switch. I was literally pounding whole boxes of food at the time, sometimes several in a row. I also had a wild craving for pickles the whole time, eating 2-3 jars a week. I don't know why, but I've heard this from a number of people who were iron deficient. I've not been able to completely lose that weight, but I don't feel the need to nosh constantly.

I don't know medically what the problem was, but I suspect my body knew it was deficient in something major, and it was craving getting iron any way it could; in this case it was iron. This has also been self reported by people with low serum ferritin levels. Some people will even be diagnosed with pica before discovering that the cause is low iron stores.

It took a year and a half to get sorted. My doctor did look at iron levels, but serum ferritin was the secret one she didn't look at. It took a sleep doctor to suggest it, and that's how I found the problem.

Good luck to those out there. If you discover this thread because of a sudden onset of a complete lack of willpower when it comes to food, be sure to have this checked out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:38 AM on October 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

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