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Is Overeating Natural?

I hate to see ads with skinny models telling about how they went to the beach, a school reunion or a friend's wedding, looked in a mirror, and "I was fat!"  Fatness, even slight overweight, has become a dirty word in our society, especially the "Anglo" American culture.  Forget the encouragements to  "Eat, eat!   Enjoy!  Mangia!" and so on.   Those who are "fat" are criticized, looked down upon, and considered as unattractive, weak-willed or somehow defective.  

"Whoa," you say.  "Obesity isn't healthy, is it?"  No, of course  I'm not suggesting fatness is "ok" or healthy.  (By the way, if you are diabetic, morbidly obese, have joint, lung or heart problems which require you to strictly control your diet and weight, this whole piece doesn't apply to you.)    What I'm just saying is simply that overeating is natural, and we who indulge in it or constantly want to eat everything in sight, should quit beating ourselves up, recognize it as a natural-- and in previous times, healthy-- instinct, and deal with it and control it on that basis.

Up until I was thirty-five, I ate constantly.  Not only at mealtime, but I ate all day long.  When I hear comments about "bad" or "sick" people who would eat a half gallon of ice cream, I cringe.  I could do that!   How about a two pound box of chocolates in 24 hours?  Or an entire fruitcake in one day?  How about a whole pound of cheese as a snack?  Or an entire "family size" package of food in one sitting.  How about cleaning up all the leftovers at the end of a meal. Or getting up in the middle of the night to nibble, unable to sleep because of hunger!  (You can tell I like food!)

In defense from those who will throw up their hands in horror:

  • I was much younger,
     
  • The effects of cholesterol and excess sugar weren't as well known back then,
     
  • I was skinny,  really skinny,
     
  • If I got a bad cold or some illness that put me off my feed, I would immediately drop weight like a stone, until I'd resemble an anorexic,
     
  • I was somewhat muscular and very active physically,
     
  • I mostly ate quantities of good food; loads of veggies, fresh fruit, whole grains, eggs, etc.  I just ate a lot of it.  For whatever metabolic reason, I had to.
     

My dad would bemoan his inability to eat like he did when he was young.  He was another skinny food-hound until he passed  thirty-five.  I didn't pay attention to his complaining until I, too, started putting on the pounds with age and had to cut back severely.   When one is used to eating like a maniac for years, this is hard.

I firmly believe that overeating is simply a natural instinct that has, in many societies, outlived its usefulness.  Sure, a lot of people overeat when they're stressed!  The greatest source of stress to early humans was (1) not having enough to eat,  (2) facing natural disaster, traveling or warfare what would probably result in not having enough to eat, (3) not having enough food to keep one's children nourished.  The response?  Eat anything in sight while possible.  Store up some fat.  Those that did were more likely to survive.  Those that didn't, either died or at least failed to reproduce as successfully.  Result?  This reinforced our "gobble it all up" instinct.

People who eat to excess are often labeled neurotic.  In most cases I don't think this is the case.  Did you ever see your dog turn down food?  Are all dogs neurotic?  No, they just have good instincts-- eat while you can!

Note that persons from backgrounds or cultures where food is  scarce, or was in short supply in recent memory, rarely condemn plumpness or even obesity, and in fact often prize it.   Food shortages completely change one's point of view.  See Hunger & Food Shortages.

Whether you've ever known a food shortage or not, don't beat yourself up if you want to eat all the time.  You just have good instincts.   Deal with it by substituting healthier and lower-calorie foods for fattening ones.  Drink more water.  Eat more vegetables.  Exercise enough to burn the calories off.  Can't resist ice cream?  It's your choice-- try 1 scoop instead of two and load it with fruit and nuts.   Want cheeseburgers?  Buy very lean beef; slap on a couple slices of fat free cheese and a bunch of lettuce and tomato.  Fill up on low-calorie healthy snacks.  You get the idea.

If you've tried and failed several times to lose weight by denying yourself food and counting calories, stop already and concentrate on improving your diet instead.  Set goals of becoming physically fit.  Do positive things for yourself, enjoying good, healthy food and exercising or engaging in vigorous activities.  Forget the negative thought, "I'm fat!"  Think "Gotta side-rail my natural instincts!" instead.   Most important, enjoy! 

See Ten Commandments for Shaping Up (for women).web tool

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