Home Emotional issues Mindless eating, and weight obsessions.

Mindless eating, and weight obsessions.

Me, April 2003

It all started on Easter weekend, when I went to the Gold Coast for my niece’s wedding.

You see I have a thing about not putting on weight. I like to look a certain slimness, and I maintain some discipline with how I eat so I don’t put on weight – or more importantly size. I like having muscle too, and I’d never want that skinny fat look, or a middle aged, no muscle, thick around the waist look. (You see I’m really quietly vain, and I have a certain image to maintain, with being a nutritionist and all, you might notice I only post photos of me I like.)

Me, April 2003, age 43

In reality I’d like to look like this all the time:

No – this picture is not now – this was 8 years ago, after one of those 3 month challenges. I was starving at this point and once the 3 months was over I had no motivation to maintain the hours of gym and low cal body builder type diet I was on to maintain it. Pretty normal post challenge behaviour really.

I put a bit of weight back on after this – not piles, I wouldn’t let myself do that… I stuck to what worked – a zone-ish diet, because it kept my blood sugar stable and it kept me at an okay weight. When I discovered Paleo eating and CrossFit about 2 years ago, I dropped size, and stayed there – almost back to this but not quite (about 3 – 4 pounds more, and not more than just 1 cm more on waist and hips). That’s okay, I fit into all the clothes I want to (and my usually DD chest stays at around a D; I know there are those that think I’m lucky, but me – I’d rather be a standard C).

I eat paleo, and keep an eye on portion size, but I’m not starving to stay slim. I skip meals occasionally, but never get that nasty low blood sugar I used to get. I CrossFit twice a week, I’m no athlete, but it feels good and keeps me strong.

Recently though, my weight and size has sneaked back up, and I have to admit, I don’t like it, I’m never happy about putting on weight, as I said I have a thing about it – always have.

I could blame my thyroid – which probably has something to do with it, I have sky high thyroid anti-bodies, i.e auto-immune thyroid disease. Despite this, I have no symptoms, I had a thorough checkup with the endocrinologist. (It’s improved since I’ve been on a strict gluten free paleo diet)

I could blame peri-menopause, this too I’m sure is contributing. Again I have no symptoms, the only time I got hot flushes was before I cut gluten out strictly about 18 months ago.

(I could cheat and get liposuction I guess, but I’m not like that, I don’t like short cuts, anyway, it doesn’t solve the problem)

But actually, it all started when I traveled to Australia for the family wedding. I ate more – especially the yummy macaroons one of my nieces made. I got back on the snacking and sugar bandwagon, I started mindless eating. I ate crappy carbs and didn’t balance my meals with protein. My blood sugar swung up and down and I lost my sense of appetite control. I finished off my kids fruit salad from breakfast, after they’d raced out the door to school without finishing it. I grabbed bits of food every time I went past the kitchen. I’ve been drinking more wine and this led to – helping myself to an extra helping of (paleo) dinner when I wasn’t even hungry. The occasional icecream desert became regular. I’ve been mindless eating (and drinking).

I’m back on track as of yesterday. Back to what I know works. I guess really its mindful eating that works. I know the portion size, and food quality that works for me; being mindful is sticking to what works. I’ve caught myself several times over the last couple of days being mindless, and I’ve put food back down before it disappears into my mouth.

I’ll keep you posted. Maybe I’ll discover it is my thyroid playing up or my girly hormones (or testosterone) leaving me. But first I’ll try mindful eating with meals that start with protein, as this controls my blood sugar and appetite, and stops me overeating. Read this article from J Stanton, he’s got the cool graphs that show blood sugar and hormonal consequences of different meals. The study compares a high carbohydrate grain meal to a balanced meal with protein. How heart healthy whole grains make us fat. And I’ll stop snacking!

Comments? What is your experience?


  1. Yowza! It’s perfectly understandable not to want to lose that body. That and not wanting a thyroid condition, of course.

    I’m like that too, more than an inch of pinch fat and I feel icky. I’m fairly lean and have a bit of trouble building a substantial amount of muscle due to thin bones so if I lose the leanness then I really have nothing left.

    Have you heard anything about week-long fasting for Hashimoto’s? It’s hard to say with the alternative medicine crowd what is for real and what isn’t but there are -stories- of people improving with fasting. That and heavy dosing of good forms of iodine like iosol or Lugol’s, although I’m a little suspicious of that if there are antibodies, perhaps those people weren’t actually suffering from Hashimoto’s.

    Lady hormones makes sense too. That’s probably the better outcome.

    At least autoimmunity is manageable with the right diet. The task of resisting blueberry pie…not so much!

  2. I’ve found that simply eating breakfast puts me on the blood sugar rollercoaster, whereas I’m happy to fast through the morning. Apparently eating makes me hungry! Going “off the wagon” is a vicious cycle.


    • I’m fine as long as I get the protein carb fat ratio right – that’s the only thing that works for my body with blood sugar control, like the boys in that study.

  3. Hi Julianne,

    Very interesting. I’ll look into your Paleo diet. Last year I finally discovered that if I skipped lunch and didn’t snack that I could lose weight which was great. Just 10 lbs but it made me feel better after years of feeling disappointed in myself for my lack of will power. But I slowly put it back on after the summer. This year I’d like to do it again, but I’ve been working hard and not getting very far and I just don’t have the will power to commit to keep off the snacks. I think it’s a clear case of comfort eating. To me it all seems in the mind rather than physical influences. Tough I have noticed that bread and cereals do seem to have a negative effect on my whole metabolism, so the first thing I need to do is get off the bread – which is harder than it seems because I get a feeling bread is mildly addictive.

    Great post though Julianne. Thanks. Will let you know how I get on.

    • Hi Graham,
      Thanks for dropping by, nice to hear from you!
      I’ve noticed changing my food choices makes a huge difference to cravings and snacking. When I cut grains, legumes and sugar completely and just stuck to protein, veggies, a little fruit and good fats, my whole appetite is so much more in control. I sometimes go 6 or more hours and then realise I haven’t eaten. It’s definitely helped me keep weight off.

      And yes grains, especially wheat can be addictive
      “Opioid peptides are short amino acid sequences that can cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate opioid receptors in the brain. What substances do we know that do this as well? Well, heroin and morphine are the most commonly known, along with natural opioid peptides like endorphins that the brain releases after activities like exercise.

      When wheat is broken down by enzymes, it forms four types of opioid peptides: A4, A5, B4 and B5 . These substances are believed to be able to cross the digestive tract, in to the blood, across the blood brain barrier to get to the brain and stimulate opiate receptors there, making us addicted to wheat.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1309704

      I’m really interested to see how you go eating paleo, if you already notice bread doesn’t agree with you – you’ll probably get great results and notice a huge difference.

  4. I think it has been easier for me to transition to this way of eating because I was already pretty much grainfree (with this coeliac thing).
    However, alcohol is my weakness. I have a faulty ‘stop’ button when it comes to white wine. I’ve decided to give it up for the time being.
    My goal – a body like yours (I’ll even accept my DD’s to have the rest of me look a bit like you!)
    I think I have carb flu at the moment – headachy, foggy brain and tired – but otherwise feeling good (lol)
    Hot flushes have been a HUGE challenge this summer, but I’ve noticed them drop off this week (first week off the wine…) – or maybe it’s just that it’s cooler now?? (I’m 52 and have been in menopause for 6 years)
    May I also say, that it is HUGELY encouraging that you have eating issues too. In a world where youth and perfection are presented as an ideal – you are SUCH an inspiration. Thank you.

    • Thankyou.
      My body does not look quite like that right now, I’m about 3 – 4kg heavier (ick for me). I’m still quite strong though – can lift the same weights as I did then. When I was younger my eating was kind of disordered, nutty diets, diet pills, starving etc. So while I care about putting on weight, I don’t do nutty stuff anymore to lose it. I know what you mean about the “off” switch with white wine, my current favourite is Pino Gris – I was finding that hard to stop at one glass.
      I find a good dose of omega 3 helps with the carb flu with many – as it helps dampen the inflammation that goes with it.

  5. Julianne, I hope you’re checking out Stephan Guyenet’s blog. The podcast he posted today is particularly awesome. Those macaroons may have been a gateway to food cravings via your food reward system!

  6. I’ve been through a similar kind of thing this past week. I’ve been paleo for 3 months, entirely focused on sorting some horrible gut issues and wildly swinging blood sugars. I know now that just one taste of something sweet is enough to start the mindless eating, and that once I’m on that particular runaway train I’m likely to consider any food (or non-food) to be fair game. It’s a really powerful process to be swept up in, and it’s lots more than emotional eating or lack of willpower. Triggers can seem so harmless!! Persimmons have done it recently, coke zero (a very longstanding habit I think I’ve finally broken), orange juice too. It takes about 2-3 days of enduring cravings and being ‘hungry’ all the time to get past it. I just have to condition myself to stay clear of those tastes.

    The benefit is that blueberries, which once tasted bitter to me, are now delightful!

  7. Thanks for your candor! Women can really relate to this. I’m too disciplined ever to gain any real weight but I definitely have my issues with those 4 or 5 extra lbs that creep up when I eat stupid stuff, mindlessly.

    I haven’t got any problems with eating breakfast as JS mentioned. I usually don’t get around to it for a few hours after waking but I pretty much always eat it. I CANNOT eat carbs in the mornings, though, or the cycle of thinking about food all day will start.

    I think those annoying extra lbs are kind of cool in a way because they only ever come when I’m eating foods that make me feel bad in other ways. At least for me, I’ve never gained weight while simultaneously being happy, clear headed, energetic, and calm. It’s just one of many things that go wrong when I eat foods that don’t work for my body.

    • That is interesting. I believe there are probably only a percentage of people (or women) that do actively work at keeping their weight to where they want it. I think that this is probably an underestimated way that some women keep slim. Are we more obsessed, or do we care more, and are therefore more disciplined?
      I have always put on weight really easily. Just going on holiday for 2 weeks and I add several pounds if I’m not careful. My mindless eating led to 4 pounds weight gain in 3 weeks, and all my clothes getting tight. I’m just glad I don’t have to resort to the nutty measures I did when younger. When older 20’s and early 30’s I was heavier than now, discovering the zone diet helped, paleo – even better. For me the type of diet matters, the mindset matters, the discipline matters.
      Despite this post being about weight, the health benefits of paleo eating are what really make the biggest difference. Now that they are gone, there is only the annoying weight gain to deal with.

  8. Julianne: “I skip meals occasionally, but never get that nasty low blood sugar I used to get.”

    how about trying to eat once a day? I do that regularly, I eat all of my food in a 2-3 hours window at the end of the day.

    Sometimes I overeat fat (2 or 3 coconut milk cans) and I don’t feel any hunger until 36 hours later. When I know I’m going to be busy a certain day I overeat fat the day before and that enables me to forget about eating for a whole day.

    • I could try. I don’t like eating a lot of food at once though. I sometimes delay breakfast til late morning, and eat between 11 am – 7pm. Just 3 meals, not big ones. I think men and women handle food differently? Anecdotally I’ve heard women say they find IFing hard. I find skipping lunch is the easiest, and sometimes don’t even notice hunger until 6 or so hours after breakfast. (Except on mornings I do CrossFit and then I do get hungry at lunch time)

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