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Becoming an Under Eater
How I Let Go of Compulsive Overeating
My fear of over eating has left me.
My fear of being over weight has left me.
My shame is ready to follow close behind my fear, in a bold ‘Kiss My Ample Ass’ curtsy.
In this past year, I have lost more than 30 pounds. I have been here before, about a dozen times for a total of around 250 lost and found pounds.
I see beauty in fat, thin, tall, short and different bodies. I am only talking about giving up fat that I did not need, that was indeed weighing me down.
All my life, I have been plagued by falling into the abyss of overeating, of some weird gremlins driving me to stuff myself, past the point of comfort to a distorted place of brain fog, sluggishness and self loathing.
I learned early how to eat shamefully. My mother, father and two sisters were also overweight and we habitually stuffed down our familial dysfunction with food. I filled a perceived hole in myself with processed, gross sweets that made me feel drugged and numb.
Its been decades of struggle.The fear and shame about over eating has burdened and weighed down my internal mental landscape, choking and slashing my sense of well-being. I could have invented the cure for cancer with all that effort I expended on this nonsense.
But this time, for the first time, I am not afraid of going back to over eating. I finally, after decades of self-work on the issue, don’t need to hurt myself with the wrong types of food or too much food. The change happened incrementally over a long time but I crossed over into freedom recently.
I finally got -really got to the core of my being- that my convoluted body image obsession, compulsive overeating, and a body that attracts fat like moths to light, is MY THING. It is not my fault but it is my responsibility. It will always be my thing until I resolve it.
It used to be that merely writing such a story as this would trigger a major binge. Today I can write about it without fear, but with confidence, joy and gratitude.
My internal food compulsions left me during the last weight loss. My metabolism was reset by my pituitary and hypothalmus glands, a by-product of the hCG protocol (more on this in my story here). Even though I had adjusted to eating less and had lost weight on this protocol six years earlier, I slowly skewed back to my norm. This time, because I did it for so much longer, I felt my body reset to a much deeper degree.
My body resisted for weeks and then something kicked in. I just stuck with the protocol week after week until I was different. My taste buds changed. My need for a lot of food melted away. My cravings for sweets dissipated greatly. My body was using the simple food I fed it- mostly chicken, fish and vegetables- as fuel.
Now I choose not to over-indulge. I know the cost of falling into the food coma abyss. I know the addictive cycle that gets set up when I fall off the proverbial wagon. I don’t want to start down that hole that the sugar, the carbs, the weight gain brings. The downward spiral. The incessant loud banging in my head. Goodbye fear! So long shame!
Now I am in charge. I can wait for that weird switch turns off, the one that screams at me to overeat - about 20–60 minutes after dinner. I own this weird physiological conspiracy where my genes, my under-functioning thyroid, my hormones, my microbiome -and the critters in there that feed on sugar- bump into each other gracelessly and wreak havoc on my entire system. It turns out these were the real gremlins I had feared for so many years!
Having been off gluten, soy, processed foods and most sugar and dairy for years now, my body cannot handle the assault of these inflammatory foods and especially sugar- as addictive as heroin is to some. I cannot handle many carbs either. I need lots of protein. I need healthy organic chicken, wild fish, eggs, coconut, fruit and lots of green vegetables, plus a touch here and there of nuts and yogurt. No, keto does not work for me. Neither do the dozens of other food plans I tried. The difference now is that I trust myself to know what I need and let this be enough.
I have given up the final level of mental food attachment to foods I want to eat, that I think of as treats and that trigger my body’s stability (think sweet potato fries and homemade ‘healthy’ cookies and all the added sugar in the tom kha soup from your favorite Thai restaurant). They are no longer too much to give up. I know what it will do to me and how I will feel. So I choose out of it. One bite is like one snort of cocaine, one hit of heroin. Did you know white sugar is 8X more addictive than cocaine? I choose not to start that vicious cycle again. Besides, I have found some fun foods that don’t trigger me.
I adhered so valiantly to the Fat is A Feminist Issue dogma for years, even leading discussion groups on the book, and attending too many Geneen Roth workshops. I have to admit that ultimately it made me worse, not better. I became locked in to an identify of myself as having a psychological sickness. And even though I did overeat, the root cause of that compulsion just may have had more to do with the effects of sugar in my body than my emotional state. I was so invested in my feelings of deprivation that I could not give up the attachment I had to partaking in the food ‘normal’ people ate.
Now I strive to under eat. I try to stop before I am full. I notice that I am becoming sated and then have another bite or two. My goal is to stop at around 80% full, although often I stop at 100% still. I know I can have more food later or tomorrow. I gave up the need to feel groggy from too much food. I remind myself of the punishing despair of the addictive spiral. I don’t want to jeopardize or lose this hard earned willingness. I have gone from being an over eater to an under eater.
Being an under eater means freedom to me. I peacefully coexist with the internal body switch, with the need to eat for fuel, with my past dysfunction, with my well-being, and with a sense of ease and spaciousness. It can happen for you too.
P.S. The Ten Noble Truths of Under Eating
- If you have a long pattern of overeating compulsively and have a distorted relationship with food, you are not alone. Because It Really Is A Thing.
2. Compulsive overeating is a result of emotional and physical imbalances. Its not your fault but it is your responsibility.
3. Overeating will always be Your Thing until you make peace with it on informed terms that you choose.
4. The key to NOT overeating is not necessarily to work out your shame and self hatred and psychological trauma. A good deal of it may just be in your body (i.e. blood sugar swings, leaky gut, etc.), not your head.
5. Healing your gut and balancing your hormones and lowering your inflammation levels solve many overeating and weight-related problems.
6. Getting free of overeating is a lifelong journey. Its okay if it takes a good long while. It is waiting for you until you are ready.
7. You can find peace with eating food.You will get there faster with kindness than punishing and shaming yourself.
8. You can co-exist with cravings and compulsions. You can have those desires without acting on them. You can notice them and give them space.
9. As per Michael Pallin’s mantra: Eat real food. Not too much, mostly plants, and whole, nutrient-dense, unprocessed food.
10. Don’t live to eat. Eat to live your own precious life. With ease.
Becoming an under eater* for life is the path forward.
Rhy Halpern is a Functional Medicine Health Coach and hospice volunteer who loves writing and blogs on FB at Third Act Coaching and at ThirdActCoaching.org . To find more of her essays, they can be found on Medium at @rhyhalpern or click here.
Special thanks to Robin Woodall for the term ‘under eater’.