Ah cannae' stop eatin'!!
May 29, 2008 10:00 PM   Subscribe

I'll go a long time between meals, then overeat, then continue to snack until I'm sick and dazed. What's happening?

Let's say on a given day I:
Have a buttered bagel, some juice, and some tea for breakfast at 8am.
Work or play through the day, vaguely aware that I should stop to eat, but I'm too busy or whatever. Sometimes I'll smoke cigs instead of eating.
Then I get home at 9pm, finally realize that I'm hollow inside but am too tired to cook, and proceed to eat an entire pizza. Or a whole box of cornflakes with a half-gallon of whole milk.
Then when I'm done with that, the act of eating has triggerered some poorly controlled impulse and I continue to eat even though I'm obviously full already.
Sometimes instead of lunch it will be skipping dinner the night before - and then eating the Lumberjack breakfast followed by whatever else I can continue to graze on; soon I'm full as a tick and end up lethargic and unproductive for the rest of the day. And when it finally subsides, I'm not hungry for the next 12-14 hours or so, but when I do eat again, it starts all over.

It's not belly-hunger, when you know you need fuel; it's more of a mouth-hunger/impulse to taste and chew. The overeating is most often of something I really like to eat, and just can't stop until it's all gone (see entire Chicago-style pizza). Then even though I've just consumed several pounds of food, 15, 30, 60 minutes later I'm back in the kitchen eating a box of crackers to satisfy my need to chomp with my mouth. So far the only effective staving-off mechanisms I've discovered involve alternating chain-smoking and eating entire packs of gum. I've considered a rawhide chew toy; that's how strong the impulse to chomp and NOM is.

This has been going on for months and I somehow haven't gained any weight (6'2, maybe 190-200lbs). Yay? But I worry that I'm giving myself an eating disorder or am sugar-spiking my way to diabetes or something. I know I should be eating sensible portions spaced out across the day; but sometimes the schedule just doesn't allow it. And once I do this, I get on a roll similar to when you stay up too late for a couple nights and it takes a week to get back to your regular sleep/wake schedule.

What's going on here? Do I just need to be more disciplined and quit doing this to myself, or is this a sign of some metabolic condition I should be aware of? I have noticed that "too-big meal" is generally high-protein and high-fat, followed by snack cravings that alternate between sugary and salty.
posted by penciltopper to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Smoking may have something to do with it. I know I used smoking as a substitute for eating quite a bit. Wake up, smoke and coffee, no breakfast, late lunch. I found that it seemed to depress my appetite to the point that I wouldn't really notice I was hungry until I reached the point that I was REALLY hungry, at which time I would grossly overeat to somehow compensate.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 10:29 PM on May 29, 2008

IANAD (doctor or dietitian!) but it sounds like you need to eat more filling foods, more often. You're letting your blood sugar drop so low that you overload afterwards, but on foods which aren't creating a sense of fullness. Even if you just stop to have a banana or yogurt or peanut butter sandwich or whatever quick healthy snack you enjoy, that will probably help. Just make a real effort to find a way to have more meals.

Honestly, it sounds like you've got a bunch of common ingrained habits that you need find the discipline (or right trick) to fix. Maybe you could stop buying foods you'll be tempted to eat completely - cook smaller portions, buy smaller portions, don't order whole pizzas. Don't buy crackers if you only eat them for snacks.

Simply not having a lot of accessible food around, even if it creates a hassle for real meals, is the best way to stop eating a lot of easily accessible food!
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:30 PM on May 29, 2008

Something I did to combat this is I started carrying food with me in my bookbag. My favorites are fruit leather, a ziplock of cashews or cereal, and granola bars. (Basically, stuff that travels well that I can throw in my bag at the beginning of the week and make myself munch on throughout the day.) That way, when I get home I won't be so OMGHUNGRY that I don't start eating everything in sight (and can maybe even cook something).
posted by phunniemee at 10:36 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

I do this a lot when I'm under stress (which usually corresponds to being too busy to eat on a regular schedule). Some solutions that have worked for me:
- Eat functionally, with the goal of nutrition -- that is, protein shakes and citrus fruits sort of did the trick for me.
- Use your wallet/budget to control what you buy. Don't buy whole milk or stuff you know you'll end up eating in one sitting. My weakness is sourdough bread -- I will sometimes eat an entire loaf in a day; so, I don't buy sourdough bread anymore.
- Get past the mouth-hunger issue by chewing gum between meals. I also make my own chili-lime powder (akin to the Lucas candy, which apparently contains lead).

Really, though, I'm afraid that your first intuition is right -- a little bit of discipline will go a long way. I don't do this sort of thing when I snack on fruits and nuts in between nutritious meals.
posted by spiderskull at 10:37 PM on May 29, 2008

This happens to me when I wait to eat too long too. It helps a lot if I have some kind of hot liquid first when I do eat (especially soups) and wait a few minutes before eating more. I have to keep it handy and easy to grab though, otherwise I'll go for the high fat/protein thing first and just keep going. Fortunately cans of soup are an easy thing to keep on hand.
posted by cali at 10:59 PM on May 29, 2008

I know it would be nice to be able to blame it on something you can't control, like your metabolism, but I think the simple fact is that you eat like shit. Just because you're skinny doesn't mean you're healthy; try some discipline first. Always.
posted by rhizome at 11:06 PM on May 29, 2008

Eat lunch, your problem will go away.

Its perfectly common for people who skip meals to overeat (and eat more than 2 meals worth) at their next meal.
posted by missmagenta at 11:44 PM on May 29, 2008

The simple answer: your blood sugar is going crazy. You skip meals, your blood sugar crashes, and so your body starts craving simple carbohydrates because those will spike it right back up. So you gorge on them, and, like magic, your blood sugar spikes. Then you fast, and it crashes again. The compulsive carb-eating is your body's way of trying to fix you. But the human body is kind of dumb. Given free reign it'll generally choose the short-term fix rather than the long-term solution, even when the short-term fix is part of the problem (just ask a drug addict).

Skipping meals and eating mostly simple carbs are pretty much the worst things you can do to sensitive blood sugar. If you want to stop the spike-->crash-->spike-->crash cycle, you need to focus on a diet that will keep your blood sugar steady: regular meals + protein + complex carbohydrates (and by protein I don't mean milk or pizza.). Particularly for breakfast - honestly, a bagel after an 8+ hour fast isn't much better than a donut.

I've recommended this site like a million times here, but that's because when I follow the advice therein I feel a million times better. I think it's fabulous and will be very helpful to you, even if you don't identify with the "sugar addiction" slant. Here's an overview on blood sugar that you might find relevant. Good luck!
posted by granted at 11:56 PM on May 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

i do the exact same thing. The only thing that helps me avoid this is to "graze" throughout the day (on something low sugar and preferably with wheat or fiber - to keep the calorie and sugar content down). Whole wheat pretzels are good for that. When I graze during the day though I find I eat smaller meals but more often - and that keeps me on an even keel.
posted by jak68 at 12:18 AM on May 30, 2008

I've had this problem, and as others have said, a large part of it is that you're not eating lunch. You're body takes some time to establish your blood sugar levels after you eat, and since they're so low beforehand, it takes even longer. During this time, you still feel hungry.

It's almost impossible for you to not have time to eat lunch. If you have time to spend on metafilter posting this question and reading the answers, you have time to eat lunch. I'm not denying that you're busy at all, I'm just saying that all you really need to do is make a quick sandwich, grab some fruit and get some water, and you've got a lunch. It honestly can't take more than 15 minutes, if you spend a lot of time making the sandwich. Eating the lunch should take a similar amount of time. If you don't even have that much time (I suppose it could certainly feel that way), I would suggest finding a variety of healthier foods (things like baby carrots, whole wheat crackers, fruit, other veggies you like, etc.) and just snack on them throughout the day. If you work a desk job, you can just eat while you're working, but even if not, I imagine you're taking a lot of breaks to go smoke, so substitute some of the smoke breaks for food breaks.
posted by !Jim at 1:04 AM on May 30, 2008

This is what i connect it to.
a. Whenever I eat processed carbohyrdrates (like white rice, noodles, pasta, bread etc), I want to keep it eating.
b. the easiest/quickest food to make is processed carbohydrates (sandwhiches, mac & cheese, pizza).

The solution: plan a little. Buy some nice soups(not the crap packet stuff) that aren't based on pasta and eat that while you make something more substantial with protein and veges, like omolette, salad and meat, a nice stew that you froze when did your bulk cooking the weekend before.

Oh and start with eggs or a protein shake maybe rather than cereal or bagels for breakfast.

I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. I have lost 40 pounds. I do deal with a carbohydrate hunger that I've only been able to satisfy by avoiding. Oh and that lethargy, it puts me to sleep. Basically, it sucks but yes, I feel driven to do it too, because I like noodles.

Or what granted said.

Oh and quit smoking. Really. The younger you do it, the easier it will be to deal with the post-quit pounds that you'll collect, eating to satisfy that oral thing.
posted by b33j at 1:20 AM on May 30, 2008

NOM NOM NOM = the last thing I ate was salty.
posted by flabdablet at 3:37 AM on May 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cigarettes are not a healthy alternative to lunch.

Get a nicotine replacement therapy. Gum worked for me. Smoke a cigarette in good circumstances and then never smoke again. Eat lunch. Eat fiber-rich food. Even something like English muffins enriched with soy fiber is good. Put peppers etc on your pizza. Weigh yourself once a week. If you're putting on weight, eat less or exercise more.

Treating your body somewhat responsibly feels great.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:56 AM on May 30, 2008

By the way, a Slim-Fast shake is a healthy lunch which takes like zero nanoseconds out of your busy day.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 7:04 AM on May 30, 2008

Protein and whole grains will fill you up and keep you from getting so hungry that your judgment becomes terrible. Eat before you get silly! Steel cut oats in the morning with a couple slices of bacon could do your day a world of good. A chicken or tuna salad sandwich on wheat for lunch can keep you going. If you have a snack like a piece of fruit and a hunk of jerky or a piece of string cheese, you'll satisfy your sweet/salt/fat appetites before they get out of control, and it'll give your stomach something to do til dinnertime.

I've found that the only thing that will work consistently is to have the healthy foods be just as convenient and attractive as the junky foods. And, if you MUST crunch, how about celery, carrots, or the wheat pretzels suggested above.

If you have to prepare portions beforehand, do so, so you're finishing a sanely-selected serving instead of devouring an entire pan. Not that you couldn't go back and eat ALL the portions if you were determined, but having to open each separate one might hopefully give you pause.
posted by Lou Stuells at 9:28 AM on May 30, 2008

Yeah, I like carbs as much as the next person, but you've got way too much processed white stuff going into your system (bagel, pizza, corn flakes). Smoking is the big health red flag. You may be young and skinny now, but a few years on, you will be putting on pounds, your blood pressure could start creeping up, or you could, as you fear, develop type 2 diabetes. Or not. But why take that chance? Develop some healthy eating habits now and give your body a break.

Sub whole wheat versions of your favorite carbs, which are very filling when topped with protein and fat (for example, a tuna salad sandwich on a dense whole-wheat bread). Eat a ton of fruits and veggies. Organic is best, but base that decision on your budget. Drink lots of water, and stay away from carbonated beverages (bad for your bones). And exercise!
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:55 AM on May 31, 2008

A SlimFast shake is not a healthy meal. Eat food.
posted by libraryhead at 6:24 PM on May 31, 2008

« Older Frozen chicken breasts: Treasure or poison?   |   How do I get an MFA without a BFA? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.