Why Do We Overeat?

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The great thing about Medifast is that it’s so simple. It’s almost mathematical. If you follow the program precisely, it WILL work.

I am possibly the worlds worst Medifast-er, but somehow even I have managed to lose over 60 pounds on the program. However, this has been over a year and with several lengthy breaks. I am a 100% believer, but I also wonder why it’s taken me so long to get to the finish line. I still have 20 pounds to go.

I am most successful on the program when I think of myself like a machine. I think of my body as a machine that needs precise amounts of fuel. I refuel 6 times a day. If I refuel on a regular and consistent basis the machine does what it needs to do. If I can keep myself in this mindset and stay focused, Medifast works — and it works remarkably well.

There’s a funny thing about humans, though. We’re not machines. We have brains, hearts and emotions. And as logical as we would like to me, sometimes our emotions work against the logical part of our brains.

As I get closer to my goal, I realize that I am getting closer to the root of why I got fat in the first place.

The thing that Medifast doesn’t cover is the emotional reasons that got us into this trouble in the first place. I didn’t get fat because it was convenient. I got fat because I use eating as a way of dealing (or avoiding) something else that’s going on.

I’m an over-eater.

And I have been for a long time.

Getting To The Root of the Problem

I hope this doesn’t come across as indulgent… But I’ve been reflecting back on my life and my relationship with food in hopes of figuring out why I eat the way I do. I am not making any excuses for myself or blaming anybody. This is as much a journal entry as anything else.

When I was in second grade my parents got divorced and a lot of things changed in my life. My mom had to get a job so she wasn’t home when my brother and I got out of school. But she was a good mom and she always made sure we had plenty of after-school snacks. So after school we had a couple of hours when we didn’t have to worry about anything but snacks and reruns of old sitcoms. After a couple weeks of this, I started really looking forward to the Little Debbie Swiss Cakes that I knew were waiting for me at home.

As part of the divorce settlement, I started spending every other weekend with my dad. I didn’t like this. I didn’t have a problem with my dad, but I did have a problem with being away from home twice a month. I was away from my room, my things, my friends, my mom, etc. But there were always plenty of snacks at my dads place.

This is where I remember eating my first full bag of Cheetoh’s. This wasn’t a personal-sized bag, either. It was a full-sized family bag from the grocery store. And I ate it in one go while watching TV. I remember my little brother told on me later. Apparently, he wanted Cheetoh’s, too.

When you’re zig-zagging between two single parents, one of the first things to go is regular, healthy sit-down family meals. In our case, we suddenly started getting to eat all the food we really liked. Conveniently, this was also around the time the Happy Meal was first introduced. Once I got my hands on that brightly colored box (with a toy inside), I was hooked.

Two years later I was a fat kid.

Junk Food Junkie

Looking back, I can see I was obviously eating to cope with certain emotions and anxiety that I was experiencing. Food was a drug. And Fast Food quickly became my emotional crack.

I still have connections between certain foods and certain emotions. Some of them are pretty embarrassing.

I still get a rush when I eat a cheeseburger and fries from McDonalds. I don’t think it’s even about the taste. But, the greasy food – so densely packed with salt, sugar and carbohydrates – definitely gives me a buzz. For a few minutes, it really DOES make me feel better.

Years of eating this junk have created some unhealthy emotional wiring in my brain. It is not a matter of willpower. I have accomplished some pretty amazing things and a lot of these things required extreme willpower. But my emotional issues with food have a sneaky way of slipping under the radar and sabotaging my progress.

Time To Upgrade The Operating System

If my body is a machine, then my brain is the computer that runs it.

I know the computer is in good shape. The problem is with the operating system.

So I am going to upgrade it.

In the weeks to come, I will be exploring the emotional component of overeating and weight loss – particularly as it relates to those of us on the Medifast diet.

Top Photo by Essk. McDonalds Photo by RichieC.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacie April 29, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Thank you for your honesty in this- the emotional issue is something I’m starting to grapple with as well on my journey. I think for real, lasting change these heart issues really need to be dealt with.

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Christopher April 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Hi Stacie – You are right-on when you describe it as “heart issues.” Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading.

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Tracy July 7, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Chris I agree with you I eat not because I am hungry but because I am trying to fill a void in my life. I have always had a weight issue when I turned 40 I wanted a change I wanted to live longer and be around for my kids so I lost 75 pounds. I felt great I looked great and I was healthy. Five months ago I lost my mother and the weight is coming back and I dont know how to stop it.

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Christopher July 8, 2010 at 7:07 am

Tracy – Thanks for writing. I think it’s really difficult to get to the root of some of these psychological/emotional aspects of being overweight. Although things are going pretty well for me right now – as far as eating, etc. – I know that my problem is still there lurking. I wish I had better advice for you. But, if you lost 75 pounds before, you definitely have the internal strength to maintain a healthy weight. Very sorry to hear about the loss of your mother.

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Janet April 29, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Since January 4th my husband and I have lost almost 100 lbs. He was never fat as a kid but he quit smoking and drinking and fed his face. I’m an emotional eater and lately have been craving a big old hamburger and french fries. Or a pizza. But I have been faithful even going out to eat. It’s not easy but somehow we are doing it.

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Charlotte August 23, 2010 at 11:14 pm

wow Janet that is the day I started and I have lost 102 lbs as of today. I also have been struggling with the head things. Its not the program at all it is great, but I struggle with fear of gaining it back.

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Becky June 2, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Your words are so true and so inspiring. How are you doing? I just started on the plan 2.5 weeks ago. First week was great – felt amazing. Now the emotional issues are beginning to take hold and I find each and every day a battle between my impulsive reflex to stuff my feelings down with 3 medifast bars and the “machine” in me that says “no, you only get 5 a day!”

Would love to hear how you are – you are such an inspiration!

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Bazza July 2, 2010 at 2:02 pm

i am on day 1.5 my head hurts and my stomach woke me up at 2:00am and kept hurting. i wonder if i am doing something wrong? This is certainly no walk in the park. The food already looks unyummy to me. i am feeling a little screwed if this is how i feel after 36 hours. Tell me it gets better.

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Christopher July 6, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Yes, it gets better! How are you doing now?

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skeeziks July 7, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Hang in there! Drink water or even have 6 medifast meals instead of 5. At the end of the week, weigh in. I lost over 10 pounds the first week! Also take something for the headach.

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Destinee July 12, 2010 at 3:18 pm

This REALLY gave me a differen’t outlook, it’s good to hear from others what were going thru as well so we don’t feel as alone, thank you.

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Valerie July 26, 2010 at 7:18 am

Istarted the medifast program back in November of 2009. By the end of January I had lost 35 lbs. Now, I have gained 10 lbs back. I have my appt again today to restart the program. But I am afraid to fail like I Have in the past. Wish me luck! Any ideas to keep me motivated on the program? Please help :(

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Christopher July 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Well, as I will reveal tomorrow, I didn’t succeed in losing 20 pounds in a month. However, I am still feeling pretty great about July. My personal weight loss journey has been to lose a significant amount of weight, gain back a little and then lose more. The ultimate number is always moving downwards and when I look back at the big picture, I am happy with it. I will get to my goal weight. It’s just taken me a little longer than I had planned. My advice: Don’t be afraid of failing. Don’t even think about the outcome. Just do it. We all know that it works. You will totally get the 10 pounds off + probably a lot more. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You can totally do this and you know it! Let us know how it goes.

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Ellen Riffenburgh October 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Today is my first day with medifast and I have heard of all these symptoms that come in a day or two and I am a little scared. I also do martial arts and don’t want to stop training…..but my doctor suggested I do this to lower my blood pressure so here I am. Thank you for the recipes and the cool website.
Ellen

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Shane Doll July 1, 2011 at 11:25 am

Christopher, this is a great post and you hit on some really key issues that I think a lot of people struggle with. I’ve been a fitness trainer that specializes in weight loss for over 20 years and if I’ve learned anything it’s that successful long term weight loss happens when thoughts and behaviors change. The battle per say is won from the neck up. The exercise part of the equation is not rocket science and doesn’t need to be complicated. Regular resistance training and cardio done with progressive intensity. The diet part of the equation, although not complicated either, is often harder to make changes with due to the mental-emotional components. You’re helping a lot of people I’m sure with your writing so I commend you. I encourage people to get a coach or a mentor to help them and be patient with the journey. Little and often over the long haul is what gets it done. Nobody will be perfect and that’s never the goal. It’s all about getting better every day and simply working on building new lifestyle habits and routines. That’s my two cents for what it’s worth. – Shane

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Lorraine Flores January 7, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Hi Chris, you sounded like you were talking about me and my problem only i would eat anything chocolate plus i am a compulsive eater. My grandma was a
ALLen – do you think we got out FAT GENES FROM THE ALLENS?

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Margaret M. June 26, 2012 at 6:53 am

When I get emotional, I also come to the fridge for food or make a delivery for pizza or will buy some ice cream for myself to ignore whatever frustrations, disappointments or any negative feelings that I have. I know that this is a very bad habit and it’s not healthy at all, but sometimes you really just want to eat to ignore the pain.

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