Whywe

Nearly half of us are over­weight, and the obe­sity cri­sis is grow­ing. Why do so many of us eat when we’re sim­ply not hun­gry? asks if our prob­lem is all in the mind

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - DIET -

OVER the past two years, Ann Marie O’Dono­van has lost an as­ton­ish­ing 9 stone, 3lbs. The Cork woman has al­ways been over­weight and ad­mit­ted to overeat­ing for many years un­til she fi­nally found the support to re­duce her food in­take.

“I have al­ways been heavy and most of my fam­ily strug­gled with weight is­sues,” says the 29-year-old. “When I was about eight or nine years old, I started to put weight on and it got more and more prob­lem­atic the closer I got to pu­berty.

“The is­sue was of course that I ate too much — my mother had the ‘Ir­ish Mammy’ thing of mak­ing sure we all ate ev­ery­thing off our plates and while it was drummed into me in the be­gin­ning, af­ter a while, if it was put in front of me, I would eat it, re­gard­less of whether I was hun­gry or not. I was also ‘spoilt’ by my granny who al­ways had cook­ies and sweets for me when I went to see her — so it was a case of my eyes be­ing big­ger than my belly — un­til that got big­ger too.”

Ann Marie, who runs a beauty sa­lon in Ban­don, Co Cork, says her early child­hood habits car­ried on through­out her teens as she con­tin­ued to eat far more food than was nec­es­sary.

“I think once you start overeat­ing as a child, it be­comes a pat­tern that is re­ally hard to get out of,” she says. “Your mind and body get used to hav­ing lots of food and it be­comes a com­fort. And when I was a teenager, it seemed like there was a hole in­side me that I just couldn’t fill. I started each day with a big break­fast and then would have some­thing like crisps and a choco­late bar at my small break in school, fol­lowed by a big lunch and then a huge din­ner.

“I stud­ied home eco­nom­ics, so would of­ten cook at home, fol­low­ing a recipe for six or eight peo­ple — there were only four of us in the house but we would al­ways eat the lot as there was never any thought of wast­ing it or even putting it in the freezer.”

Although she knew she was overeat­ing, Ann Marie found it very dif­fi­cult to stop.

“I knew I had a prob­lem but tried to ig­nore it,” she ad­mits. “When­ever I went to the doc­tor for any­thing, I would be told I needed to lose weight so I stopped go­ing there un­less I re­ally had to.

“I had so much weight to lose that the thought of do­ing it was so hard to imag­ine, so I kept putting it off. Ev­ery Jan­uary I would start try­ing to cut down, but af­ter a cou­ple of weeks, I would be back where I started.

“Then one day two years ago, I had a light­bulb mo­ment and said ‘enough is enough’ and reg­is­tered with my local Weight Watch­ers. The team leader, who had lost loads of weight her­self, was bril­liant and told me just to try los­ing half a pound at a time and keep chip­ping away at it un­til I was happy.

“Over time, with her support, I learned to curb my eat­ing and have lost over nine stone — I feel amaz­ing. I al­ways joke that while my body has got smaller, my head has def­i­nitely got big­ger.”

AR­LENE HARRIS

Ann Marie O’Dono­van had a trou­bled re­la­tion­ship with food

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