August 12th, 2011
07:40 AM ET

Why do I always think about food?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Friday, it's Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician nutrition specialist.

Question asked by Jamie K.

I have a question/problem regarding overeating. Being a college student and food science major, I am constantly thinking about food. I currently play Ultimate Frisbee and occasionally play badminton and go running. I eat extremely healthy, but the problem is I constantly think of food. Therefore, I overeat, and I gained 16 pounds in less than two years. Is there any way to control my self-will? I would like to lose 10 pounds. I am 5 feet 3 and 120 pounds, but it's not like I can cut out unhealthy food in my diet. Eating less is difficult because I do not want to go into starvation mode. Quick advice please?

Expert answer

Hi Jamie. I'm very happy that you asked this question as it brings up several important topics.

Constantly thinking about food is a challenge that many Americans face these days, according to Dr. David Kessler, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the author of "The End of Overeating."

In fact, Kessler notes that 20% of healthy weight and 50% of obese individuals score high on behaviors like loss of control over eating, lack of feeling satisfied by eating food, and preoccupation with food.

Much of this behavior, which he calls conditioned hyper-eating, is due to brain pathways that are established and reinforced by the regular consumption of highly appealing high-fat, high-sugar, salty foods.

Since this does not sound like the issue in your case since you eat extremely healthy, your overeating may be triggered by other cues such as eating environment, emotions like stress and social occasions.

Even though you don't choose unhealthy foods, you are probably consuming too much healthy food, which is leading to weight gain. The key is to identify your triggers and do your best to avoid them or manage them better.

For example, if you eat when you are stressed, try to choose foods that are very low-calorie density like air popped popcorn or vegetables and hummus to keep calories under control. If you eat too much with friends, make sure to have a high fiber or high protein snack before heading out so you aren't famished at social events.

You may also be dealing with a type of disordered eating syndrome. Most people think of eating disorders as either anorexia or bulimia (self-induced purging), but there is a less recognized clinical syndrome, disordered eating not otherwise specified, which may affect a significant portion of the population and seems to be especially prevalent in female college athletes.

According to Carolyn Coker Ross, M.D., MPH , a specialist in integrative medicine for eating disorders, addictions, obesity and mood disorders and author of "The Binge Eating and Compulsive Overeating Workbook," some people who are obsessed with food may actually suffer from disordered eating.

If you find that you are constantly thinking about food, whether you are overweight or not, and your weight and your food obsession are significantly affecting your life and even preventing you from doing things that you enjoy, Ross suggests seeing a therapist or eating disorders specialist for evaluation.

College is the best time to address disordered eating as earlier treatment leads to better outcomes long term. Most universities have a therapist with experience in the diagnosis and treatment of disordered eating on campus. You can also visit edreferral.com.

Finally, if you are not fueling your body correctly (e.g. you are restricting calories too much or cutting carbs in an attempt to control your weight), this could cause you to think about food more often than necessary due to hunger or low blood sugar levels, which trigger your body to seek out calories.

Gaining 16 pounds in two years, assuming that you are not binging, suggests an excess of just 76 calories per day intake (or that you are burning 76 fewer calories per day).

Keep a food journal and see if you can identify where these extra calories might be creeping in (or not being burned). I don't necessarily think it is a matter of self-will in your case - perhaps it is more of the "small changes add up" issue.

One last point, while BMI is not a very accurate measure of body fat, it does give an indication of weight/fat status. Your current BMI is 21.3, which is well within the normal range of 18.5-24.9.

I recommend having a body fat test done if you can to truly assess your ideal body weight and help you determine an appropriate weight goal. Check with the athletic department of your university to see if it offers body fat testing.

Follow Dr. Melina on Twitter.

soundoff (1,314 Responses)
  1. lobster near me

    I want to to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every bit of it. I have you book marked to look at new things you postÖ


    June 11, 2021 at 14:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. rv furniture outlet store near me


    June 11, 2021 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. store near me


    June 11, 2021 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. rvupgrades reviews


    June 11, 2021 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Storage Los Angeles

    You've made some decent points there. I checked on the net for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this website.


    June 11, 2021 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Utility Van Repair Shop Near Me


    June 11, 2021 at 18:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Sprinter Blower Fan Repair Near Me

    Very good article. I'm experiencing a few of these issues as well..


    June 11, 2021 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Authorized Repair Shop

    The very next time I read a blog, Hopefully it does not disappoint me as much as this particular one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read, nonetheless I genuinely thought you would probably have something interesting to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something you could fix if you were not too busy looking for attention.


    June 11, 2021 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. fleet repair near me


    June 11, 2021 at 21:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RV Alignment Orange County


    June 11, 2021 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Mercedes Cargo Van Repair Shop Near Me

    Everything is very open with a very clear clarification of the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!


    June 11, 2021 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Freightliner Sprinter Repair Near Me


    June 11, 2021 at 23:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RV Technician


    June 12, 2021 at 00:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. rv repair parts near me

    I'd like to thank you for the efforts you've put in writing this website. I really hope to view the same high-grade content by you in the future as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own blog now 😉


    June 12, 2021 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. rv plumbing parts near me


    June 12, 2021 at 05:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Generator Near Me


    June 12, 2021 at 05:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. 32955 Sprinter Repair

    Having read this I believed it was very informative. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this short article together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!


    June 12, 2021 at 06:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Closest Trailer Repair Shop

    I was pretty pleased to find this website. I need to to thank you for ones time due to this wonderful read!! I definitely savored every little bit of it and i also have you book marked to check out new things on your blog.


    June 12, 2021 at 06:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. camper furniture replacement

    That is a good tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Short but very precise informationÖ Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!


    June 12, 2021 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. RV Interior Designer California


    June 12, 2021 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Rv Body Shop


    June 12, 2021 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. RV Paint Shop


    June 12, 2021 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Repair Body Rust On Sprinter Van


    June 12, 2021 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Berry Austin

    Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Thank you for providing this information.


    June 12, 2021 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Raymonde Neeld

    After looking at a handful of the articles on your web page, I honestly like your way of writing a blog. I saved as a favorite it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back in the near future. Please visit my web site too and let me know what you think.


    June 12, 2021 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. gas station near me

    Everything is very open with a very clear description of the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is very useful. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 12, 2021 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. food near me open now


    June 12, 2021 at 15:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. http://darienbank-trust.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=Cheapejuice.com

    Incredible! This blog looks just like my old one! It's on a completely different subject but it has
    pretty much the same layout and design. Great choice of

    June 12, 2021 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. bookstore near me

    Good post! We are linking to this great article on our website. Keep up the good writing.


    June 12, 2021 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. vet near me

    Great web site you have got here.. Itís hard to find excellent writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    June 12, 2021 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. corona testing near me

    Your style is really unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I'll just book mark this blog.


    June 12, 2021 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. trails near me


    June 12, 2021 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. domino's near me


    June 12, 2021 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. drive in theater near me

    I couldnít refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!


    June 12, 2021 at 22:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. barbecue near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I seriously feel this web site needs far more attention. Iíll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the advice!


    June 12, 2021 at 23:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. chipotle near me


    June 12, 2021 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. notary public near me


    June 13, 2021 at 00:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. vegan restaurants near me


    June 13, 2021 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. tattoo shops near me


    June 13, 2021 at 01:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. tanning near me


    June 13, 2021 at 01:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. plumbers near me

    bookmarked!!, I love your web site!


    June 13, 2021 at 02:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. speedway near me


    June 13, 2021 at 02:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. movers near me

    There is definately a great deal to learn about this subject. I like all the points you made.


    June 13, 2021 at 02:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. massages near me


    June 13, 2021 at 02:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. wing stop near me

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thanks, However I am experiencing problems with your RSS. I donít know why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anybody else having identical RSS issues? Anybody who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    June 13, 2021 at 02:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. go karts near me


    June 13, 2021 at 03:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. subaru dealership near me


    June 13, 2021 at 04:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. att near me

    This web site truly has all of the information and facts I wanted about this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 13, 2021 at 05:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. bb&t near me


    June 13, 2021 at 05:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. mall near me

    When I originally commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment. Is there a way you can remove me from that service? Cheers!


    June 13, 2021 at 06:14 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.