ARE YOU A COMPULSIVE OVEREATER?
By William R. Kellas, Ph.D.
Many individuals gain weight over the holiday season, so we would like to provide you with some information on compulsive overeating. Sometimes by understanding the problem, it makes it easier to correct.
What is compulsive overeating?
Compulsive overeating is regularly eating for any reason other than physical hunger, although cellular hunger for certain nutrients due to poor diet or hungry fungus or bacteria can express itself as cravings. Everyone occasionally eats for reasons other than hunger, such as social occasions, boredom, comfort, and others. The problem arises when such eating becomes a regular habit. Compulsive eaters often do not know what real physical hunger feels like, and confuse it with cravings. When the weight starts piling on and you want to eat less, but can’t seem to be able to, this is compulsive eating. Eating certain foods or in a certain way then becomes an addiction like alcoholism or drug addiction.
Are you a
If you can answer “yes, I regularly do that” to several of the following statements, you are probably a compulsive overeater.
• I step on the scale in the morning to determine how I am going to feel about myself that day.
• I eat when I’m tired, bored, angry, or I feel guilty.
• I eat when the clock says it’s mealtime.
• Comfort foods are very important to me.
• I’m going on a diet on Monday / the first of the month / my birthday / New Year’s Day, and I don’t want “bad” foods around in the kitchen to tempt me, so I’ll eat them now.
• I’m going on a diet on Monday (or whenever) and I won’t be allowed to eat certain foods, so I’ll eat them now, whether I want them or not, to make up for the anticipated deprivation.
• If “bad” foods are around, I’ll eat them whether I want them or not.
• There are certain foods I simply can’t give up.
• I eat to postpone doing something I don’t want to do.
• I feel I was never allowed to eat enough - when I was a child, so I’m making up for lost time.
• I will eat everything on my plate even if I am uncomfortably full rather than throw anything away.
• I treat myself with food to make myself feel good. I use food as self-medication and consolation after a bad day.
• I eat until I’m stuffed to the point of discomfort, especially at all-you-can-eat buffets.
are some people compulsive overeaters?
There are several possible root causes of compulsive overeating. One or more of these may apply to you.
• Allergic addiction - Allergy and addiction are closely linked. In fact, if an allergist suspects a food addiction, s/he will often ask what your favorite food or food group is, the one you feel you can’t do without. That food is usually the culprit. A strong daily craving for a particular food or food group is an indication that allergy to the food may be the problem. Eating the craved food almost daily will often worsen the allergy by putting you in a daily allergic fight-or-flight reaction so you can’t digest very well, and then you react to the incompletely digested food in a vicious cycle. If you feel you have to have the food at least once in a 72-hour period (3 days), you may have an allergic addiction. It takes at least three days to clear an allergen from the body.
• Nutrient deficiencies - If you crave certain foods, this may be due to a nutrient deficiency. For example, many people are deficient in the mineral magnesium, especially women during the week before their periods. Chocolate, a source of magnesium, is a common craving. A deficiency of beneficial oils can lead to a craving for fried or fatty foods. Eat almonds if you are having a chocolate craving — they contain both magnesium and good oils.
• Emotional hunger - Food can be a substitute for love, self-esteem, meaningful activity, or sleep. It is not uncommon for people, especially women, to stuff their anger by stuffing themselves with food. Some people overeat to get even with a parent or spouse who wants them thin. Rebellion against “shoulds”, such as “I should diet” or “I should be thin” can also be a factor. A feeling of scarcity in general — that there isn’t enough love, money, time, or food to go around regardless of the actual situation — can motivate one to eat food she doesn’t want rather than waste it, or overeat to make up for the deprivation of past and future diets.
• Fungus infection - A systemic fungus infection can set up a craving for sweets, fruit, or refined flour, which feeds the fungus and sets the stage for more cravings.
• Sugar imbalance - Hypoglycemia, meaning low blood sugar, results when too much insulin or too little adrenaline is released, causing shakiness, mood swings, lack of energy, and craving for sugar. Eating sugar in any form will cause more insulin to be released in a continuous cycle.
What can be done about compulsive overeating?
First identify the cause, then treat the problem. To identify and treat the above causes, explore the following:
• Allergic addiction - Go on a detoxification diet, and then add back foods one food group at a time, monitoring your symptoms. Those foods which cause symptoms (e.g. fatigue, cravings, bloat, headaches, mood swings) are probably the allergens. Alternatively, get tested by an allergist, preferably a clinical ecologist who will give you only dilute amounts of the allergen (some allergists give huge amounts, which can cause a severe reaction). NAET allergy testing and treatment, developed by Dr. Devi Nambudripad can also help to identify and eliminate allergic addiction.
• Nutritional deficiency - Get tested for nutrient status (blood, hair, or saliva testing). Some of these tests include albumen, glucose, triglycerides, and mineral tests. These are not necessarily on a standard blood panel. When looking at these and any blood test results, look for deviations from the midpoint, not just out-of-range values.
• Emotional hunger — When you want food, first ask yourself “What am I feeling” — bored, angry, etc. Deal more appropriately with these feelings. Ask yourself: what does the food buy you versus the cost to your well-being? Better yet, write down cost vs. benefit in two columns to make the issue more visual and clearer.
• Hypoglycemia - The sugar craving is similar to the craving for alcohol experienced by an alcoholic when the blood alcohol level drops. The alcoholic needs to quit using alcohol, and the hypoglycemic needs to quit using sugar. The first few days are the hardest, and then the craving usually subsides.
• Fungus infection - Treat the fungus, and the sweets cravings should diminish. A good detoxification diet (below) can reduce the numbers of fungi because all forms of sugar, its food, are eliminated, and enzymes used eat up the roots of the fungus.
Can anything else be done?
A detoxification diet helps to eliminate and detoxify allergens and fungus feeders from the body. The diet is a strict one for this reason. A knowledgeable health practitioner or clinical ecologist should monitor any diet like this. The basic eight-day detox diet involves:
• For the first four days, eat only non-sweet vegetables, good oils, hypoallergenic protein powder, and supplements. Enzyme tablets assist digestion and help digest and kill microorganisms. Colon cleansing powder absorbs toxins and cleans out the colon.
• For days 5-8, add non-gluten or low-gluten grains, which are less likely to be allergenic, one per day: brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, or buckwheat. Start with the grains eaten the least frequently.
• Oral use of aloe vera with potassium sorbate helps to change pH and kill yeast and pathogenic bacteria in the mouth and digestive tract and helps prevent upper respiratory infections. It may taste unpleasant at first due to microorganism die-off, but if you persevere the taste will usually improve and you will lose your sweets cravings.
After the eight days, certain foods are carefully added back into the diet on a five day rotation basis to monitor for and lessen the chance of allergic reactions. Due to the possibility of die-off reactions this diet program should be done under the care of a qualified professional. The program is good only for problems in the small intestine and large intestine, where 65% of problems exist. The diet is a strict one and is not meant to be followed for more than eight days.
One of our patients, a woman who was overweight and had heavy cellulite on her thighs, tried many diets and up to two hours a day of exercise with no success. The detoxification diet helped her get rid of both the excess weight and the cellulite. Treatment for allergies and microorganisms allowed her to keep the weight off.
The Toxic Immune Syndrome Cookbook, gives nutritional information and recipes useful to those who want to eliminate allergenic and yeast-feeding foods.
Dr. Kellas is the co-founder for The Center for Advanced Medicine in Encinitas, CA. He hosts a weekly radio show “Health Talk A Second Opinion” that is heard Saturdays from 11:00 to noon on KPRZ in San Diego, 12:10am and 99.5 in Los Angeles, Orange County. He is the co-author of “Thriving In A Toxic World” and “Surviving The Toxic Crisis” and author of “The Toxic Immune Syndrome Cookbook”. For more information call (888) 244-4420, or check www.drkellas.com or www.ctradvmed.com .
Return to the January/February Index page