WHAT IS YOUR OVEREATING
Okay... let's admit it -- you're reading this
and I'm writing it because we both have a
tendency to overeat. We've blamed our metabolism,
our upbringing, our stressful jobs, but bottom
line is most of us have developed unhealthy
eating patterns. However, you and I may not
overeat in the same way or for the same reasons.
That could be why previous weight-loss attempts
have failed. The author of the program assumed
that you had the same overeating style as
the ones for whom the program worked.
This came home to me a year or so ago when
a weight loss program was being presented to
our church women's group. The program focused
largely on the spiritual issues involved in
weight loss such as patience, self-control,
deferred gratification and the sort. It wasn't
a bad idea. But as I watched the video, everyone
on it talked about having insatiable appetites
and how they couldn't go two hours without eating
and about struggling against hunger their entire
lives. I couldn't relate to any of them.
My overeating came mostly from loving the taste
of food rather than having to eat all the time.
Indeed, one of my problems was that I often
would get busy and not have breakfast or lunch
and overeat at dinner or snack all night long.
Mostly, my feeling was that if a little bit
of something tasted good, a lot of it would
taste even better. My eating style was that
of "gourmet" from the list below.
Now, a friend of mine said the program really
spoke to her because she is one who was hungry
all the time.
Understanding your overeating style can help
you find ways to tailor your weight loss program
to your individual personality. I have
identified four common overeating styles. They
are: The Bottomless Pit, The Gourmet, The Absent
Minded Digester, and The Self-Medicator. Undoubtedly
there are many others, and most of us probably
have some characteristics of more than one style,
but hopefully understanding more about our overeating
styles will help us personalize our weight loss
The Bottomless Pit
Do you just seem to have a voracious appetite?
It doesn't really matter what's on the table.
If it's there you want to eat it and then have
seconds or thirds. This is probably the image
most people have of overeating. This type of
person seems to be always hungry. They are constantly
eating. There's a bowl of candy on the desk.
It has to be replenished daily. They always
buy the extra large, super-sized meals. Often,
they eat very rapidly, hardly even tasting the
food as it goes down.
If this sounds like
you, here are a few tips:
- Slow down. If you eat more slowly, you will
feel more full. You will also enjoy the experience
of eating more.
- Get high bulk, low-fat snack foods. For
instance, low-fat popcorn like Orville Redenbacher's
Smart Pop. Half a bag is only 110 calories.
- Don't eat at buffets, smorgasbords, or any
other all-you-can-eat restaurants.
- Listen to your stomach and stop eating when
your stomach is full. A lot of us overeat
because we are continuing to eat after we
are full. You don't have to clean your plate.
- Eat more meals. Instead of eating three
large meals and lots of high calorie snacks
throughout the day, eat five smaller but balanced
meals. Have a breakfast, mid morning meal,
lunch, mid afternoon meal, and a dinner. At
each of these have a protein, a complex carbohydrate
and a vegetable. It sounds like a lot, but
a cheese sandwich with low-fat or fat-free
cheese and a leaf of lettuce would be a meal.
You won't be as hungry, and be less likely
- Eat the same amount of food, but choose
the food wisely. Read labels. Even non-diet
processed foods can vary greatly in terms
of calories and fat. Look for lower fat, lower
calorie and lower sugar content. You know,
certain "diet" meal bars actually
have more sugar than some regular candy bars.
It pays to read labels.
- If you lose control over certain foods,
only eat those foods in a restaurant where
the serving size is controlled or bring home
single serving sizes.
This person overeats because
of taste. The gourmet simply likes food. It
is a sensual pleasure in which he or she indulges
to excess. I tend to fall into this category.
While I can go many hours without ever feeling
hungry in the sense of having an empty feeling
stomach, I love the taste of certain foods.
Unfortunately, they tend to be high fat, high
calorie types of food. And, I eat a lot of them
because I want that taste sensation to continue
a long time. Here are some tips for satisfying
your taste buds while eating in a more healthy
more slowly. Same advice as for the bottomless
pit, but for a different reason. The "Gourmet"
overeats in order to make the taste last a
long time. Slowing down the process makes
the taste last longer. Tonight I had a mini
(about 5 inches in diameter) pepperoni pizza
from my favorite pizza parlor. I used to buy
a small (12 inches) and eat it all. I've discovered
that by slowing down I can make the pizza
last almost a half hour as long as it took
me eating more quickly to eat the small. I
felt as satisfied at the end of the pizza
as if I had had a small, medium or even large.
the art of substitution. Many of your favorite
foods can be made with low-fat ingredients
and taste as good or better than the originals.
For instance, you can make a banana split
with frozen yogurt, fresh strawberries and
almond slivers instead of chocolate syrup.
If you need your chocolate fix, either get
chocolate flavored frozen yogurt or grate
some dark (not milk) chocolate over the top.
Changing just one or two ingredients in a
recipe can make it healthier. For instance,
in a three egg omelet, try two whole eggs
and one egg white.   * Find healthy foods
you love to eat and keep plenty of them on
hand. The less healthy foods eat at a restaurant.
I love fruit. It satisfies my sweet tooth
and it's good for me. So I always have lots
of fruit on hand. Instead of three candy bars
a day, I have three fruits. If I decide I
really want a candy bar, I buy one small one
and eat it slowly, but I don't buy extras.
* Make only what you plan to eat at
a meal. You can't overeat, no matter how good
it tastes, if you didn't cook it. Don't make
enough for seconds and you can't eat them.
the table after you've eaten and don't keep
leftovers. It's too tempting when you open
the refrigerator door to taste a bit of the
leftover stuff if it was especially good.
Also, unless you have a dog, don't take home
a doggy bag. Same reason Too easy to nibble.
Have you ever been nibbling on
something for some time before you realize that
you are actually eating? Have you had someone
ask you, "Hey what are you eating or what
did you have for dinner", and you couldn't
tell them? Do you find yourself nibbling on
food constantly while you are working, driving,
talking on the phone, or watching TV without
even thinking about what you are eating. You
could be an Absent-Minded Digester.
My Dad used to say that my Mom and I ate more
accidentally than he did on purpose. That was
fairly truthful. Sometimes you just pick up
food and eat it without ever really tasting
it. If this is you, here are a few suggestions:
Journal, Journal. Research shows that writing
down everything you eat reduces the amount
of food you eat. I think this happens because
it forces you to think about what you eat
eliminating absent minded eating.
Eating when you Stop Tasting the Food. Many
of us keep nibbling at a bag of chips or stuffing
our mouths with dinner long after we really
taste what we are eating. When your taste
and hunger leave, put away the chips and push
away your plate.
the table when you have finished eating. If
you can't actually take the plate to the sink,
then at least push it away from directly in
front of you and put the silverware on the
plate. This will keep you from continuing
to nibble and pick at your food after you
have actually finished eating.
eat standing up or in front of the refrigerator.
eat and work. A friend of mine mentioned that
she would take a bag of animal crackers to
work with her and nibble on them all night
long. One day she counted how many she ate.
It was over 100. At 7.5 calories each, she
was consuming nearly 800 empty calories a
night that she didn't even taste. She finally
started counting out 30 crackers and took
some cut veggies with her to work instead.
She began losing weight almost immediately
just making this one change. So, if you must
eat at work, control your access to food.
Don't keep a well stocked fridge in your office
or a bowl of candy on the desk.
to plates and not in bowls. It's too easy
to keep dipping your spoon into the serving
bowl on the table for just another taste while
chatting after dinner. Place individual servings
on each plate. If you want to keep seconds
for others, then keep them on the stove or
in the oven. So you have to go there to get
the extra serving.
Many of us use food for therapy.
If we are sad, anxious, tired, or bored, we
eat. Some of us even talk about "comfort
food." Chocolate is usually at the top
of the list. This is natural. As babies we were
often closest to our mothers when nursing. We
felt safe and protected while we were being
fed. As adults, we often feel this same sense
of well-being while we eat.
alone, I find that I often eat things that I'm
not even hungry for out of loneliness and boredom.
You possibly have your own patterns for using
food as self-medication.
eating for comfort often leads to overeating.
So, here are some tips if your "comfort
food" is expanding your horizons in more
ways than one.
the Question. Before you stroll to the fridge
for that piece of cheesecake, ask yourself,
"Am I eating this cheesecake because
I'm really craving cheesecake or because I________"
You can fill in the blank with whatever emotional
issue you are facing at the time: depression,
anxiety, loss, boredom, loneliness, etc. Then
ask yourself, "Will this really help?"
Will you feel any differently after you eat
the cheesecake? If you aren't hungry and aren't
actually craving cheesecake and you won't
feel any better after eating the cheesecake,
you might as well have a carrot stick, right?.
out your Distress. Research has shown that
exercise, especially aerobic exercise, releases
endorphins in the brain. These are sometimes
called nature's tranquilizers. Vigorous exercise
actually helps alleviate depression and puts
life's stressors into perspective.
a friend. If you are bored or lonely, instead
of eating call a friend and talk about the
day. Share joys and sorrows. Talking about
things really does help.
- Check the time. Do you find that you seem
to always get bored or lonely or "antsy"
at about the same time each day. It might
have nothing to do with any outside forces
or internal emotions. You might simply have
gotten into a habit of depression, loneliness
or anxiety at a certain time of day. It may
also be a biochemical cycle. Or there could
be specific triggers at that time of day.
For instance, if you and your ex-husband used
to snuggle on the couch and watch Touched
by an Angel at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday nights,
you might feel depression or loneliness most
strongly then, even though he is gone and
TBA moved to Saturdays. Understanding this
can help you cope. Also, you can simply get
busy about that time.
out of the House. I think my exercise classes
help my emotional health as much as my physical
health. They get me out of the house for about
an hour a day three days a week. Otherwise,
my life tends to go a small cycle of work,
church and home. But getting out, meeting
other people, even if we are just exercising
together, and doing something which improves
my sense of self worth not only diverts my
attention from eating for that hour, but I
feel less likely to seek out comfort food
for the rest of the evening.
Professional Help with your Emotional Problems.
It's a strange thing, but if someone falls
off a ladder and breaks a leg, he or she will
rush to a doctor to have the leg treated.
They won't feel any shame about it at all.
But if we have an emotional accident, family
crisis, loss of a loved one, or other stressful
situation in our lives which cause us great
emotional pain, we rarely seek the help of
a professional in dealing with those problems.
And if we do, we look over our shoulders to
make sure no one sees us going to a psychologist
or counselor. There is no more shame seeking
emotional counseling than there is seeking
medical treatment. If you are facing serious
emotional problems, you don't have to deal
with them alone. Most insurance plans and
employee assistance plans cover the costs
of professional counseling. You'd be surprised
how much it can help and you might notice
that you don't need to turn to chocolate for
your overeating style will help you create a
personalized approach to weight loss which you
can live with.
Copyright 2002 Terri Main