The Hunger by Tony Marturano

” it’s a story that often needs the healing hands of a psychotherapist and not the size nines of a gym fanatic”

So, how’s it going?  The diet that is.

Have you managed to cling to your new year’s resolution and are you now seeing a whole ‘new’ you or have you crashed and burned and rather not talk about it?

With summer just round the corner that whole ‘weight’ thing is an ever present thought in the minds of many as they picture themselves on a beach somewhere and contemplate whether or not they’re going to be admired or harpooned.

The battle of the bulge has raged for decades and has spawned a medley of fad diets endorsed by celebrities and craved by ‘common folk’. There’s been the Atkins diet, the 17 day diet, low carb diet, 3 day diet, Acai Berry Diet, Negative Calorie Diet, Grapefruit Diet, Cabbage Diet, Hollywood Diet, The Zone Diet, Raw Food Diet, the list goes on and on and on.

But how effective are all of these diets? Well, some swear on them, others swear about them, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.  What is often true of all of them is that the moment you stop you’re at risk of piling everything back on and more. This happens because of the ‘starvation’ factor; your body isn’t receiving balanced nutrition and thus assumes you’re in starvation mode and starts to retain as many calories as it can, hence why you’ll always hear responsible people prefix the word diet with the word ‘balanced’.  Similarly, once the diet is over, the body looks to replenish what it lost during the ‘starvation’.

It remains, however, somewhat ironic that in an age of celebrity chefs, bestselling cookbooks (often by or endorsed by celebrity chef) and a media that is awash with ‘eat healthy’ messages and ‘quick healthy meals for busy lifestyles’ that many families around the world suffer from poor nutrition. And when I say poor nutrition here, I’m not talking about the lack of food, that’s a whole new post, I’m talking about ‘bad’ (processed, high sugar, high salt content) foods.  Some will say it’s because of the lack of time whilst others believe it’s because of the lack of money.

Would you like fries with that?  Many find this combo hard to resist.

Would you like fries with that? Many find this combo hard to resist.

My family and I were having a major debate about this the other day. The argument centered around whether or not you could really ‘feed the family’ for a fiver.   It was concluded the answer was yes but whether or not it was healthy was down to the particular home in question and their eating practices.  And the fact will always remain that the quickest way to get calories into your body is through the so called ‘bad foods’.  The ‘good foods’ (lean meats, fish, fruit and vegetables) remain way too expensive for many, at least on regular basis.  If ever there was evidence of this it’s in that most popular of British dishes: fish and chips. I remember a time when it was one of the most inexpensive ways to feed the family. These days, with fish reserves dwindling, it’s become one of the most expensive.

The cost of living, or more specifically, the cost of eating has become very expensive but that strictly depends on the ‘type’ of eating we’re talking about. Tim Lobstein, Director of Research at the IASO (International Association for the Study of Obesity) conducted research on how easy it was to get 100 calories from various types of food. He found that 100 calories worth of broccoli cost 0.51p (0.78$) whilst 100 calories of frozen chips cost just 2 pence (I can’t even convert that into cents!).  Good lean, meat-filled sausages, 22p whilst the cheaper fattier ones, 4p.  Fresh orange juice, 38p, whilst the cheaper, sugar rich version, just 5p.

Enough said.

But the weight issue isn’t just about money. A food standard survey found that ‘better off’ people were far more inclined to eat fast (and often bad food) on a more regular basis for one obvious reason; they can afford it. This is often the weekend ‘blow out’ or at the end of the day when people are tired, it’s late or they simply can’t be bothered to cook. This practice happens no matter what they know or what Jamie Oliver (or any of his cronies may preach) takes place on a regular basis, that  plus the fact that sugary, over salted and general processed foods often tastes bloody good!

Of course, the counter argument to the above is that the money spent on fast foods could be translated in the purchase of ‘good foods’ but these don’t carry the same psychological satisfaction and, most importantly, often require skill, energy and determination and the knowledge and understanding to care about what you really eat.  And, believe it or not all you health fanatics out there, this is not something ingrained in the general populous.

And one obvious reason is because people simply don’t enjoy being preached at or told what to do regardless of whether or not it’s ‘for their own good’. In fact, this is exactly one of the problems. Over the years, ‘being naughty’ (in context with food) is synonymous with eating bad food and has inevitable psychological effects; rebellion, abandonment, guilt, freedom.  All big markers on the human psyche.  Eating a carrot doesn’t yield the same boost.

Although one could say the same for those infamous endorphins.  You know those little orgasmic mites that live inside our body and make us feel goooooood.  Oh, okay, scientifically speaking: Endorphins are neurotransmitters, chemicals that pass along signals from one neuron to the next. Neurotransmitters play a key role in the function of the central nervous system and can either prompt or suppress the further signalling of nearby neurons (with me so far?) Endorphins are produced as a response to certain stimuli, especially stress, fear or pain. They originate in various parts of the body; the pituitary gland, the spinal cord and other parts of the brain and nervous system, and interact mainly with receptors in cells found in regions of the brain responsible for blocking pain and controlling emotion. New imaging methods have allowed researchers to study the endorphins as they interact with human brain cells, verifying their role in the so called ‘endorphin rush’ that exercise, and other triggers, sometimes prompts.

Well, truth be told, that despite my research, every time I exercise I only remember lots of sweat with a nice accompaniment of fatigue and perhaps a smidgen of pain; my endorphins obviously choose to sleep through my exercise. Lazy gits!

My biggest rush was journeying to the back of my closet to find those old shirt whose two parts were as wide across my belly as the Grand Canyon now actually meet. However, to get to that stage took a look of sacrifice, an armada of dedication and a truck load of will power.

For over a year I woke up literally at the crack of dawn so I could spend an hour on the cross trainer before commuting to the office where I’d also make a point of climbing and descending the three flights of stairs as regularly as I could. The wonderful result was a weight loss of nearly 3 stone (19.05 kg or 42lbs). It was a major achievement. I was so much slimmer and so much smugger.

That’s right, smug.

Whilst I can’t actually describe it, because it creeps up on you, there’s a certain sense of ‘if I can do it then everybody else can’ and if they can’t, well… I guess this isn’t so uncommon when you spend most of your life dreaming of being able to change your weight and then finally making the time and applying the commitment to make it happen.  But I had to sacrifice a lot to make that change. I had to turn down social events and I had to eat conservatively at the ones I did attend and when dining out. I had to stick to water and cut out a lot of the foods I loved. That’s not to say that I denied myself completely because that would be untrue and ‘denial’ is, in my opinion, the number one nemesis when trying to control your weight because it only brings on cravings that coerce you into giving into them later.  I simply believed that rather than eat the whole tub of ice cream in one sitting, I’d stagger this in portions once a week. There’s no doubt it can be done.  I did it and I know millions of others are ever year.

But it takes a certain mind set and it isn’t for everyone.

Now, I just opted to shed some pounds. There are some guys (and dolls) out there who are totally devoted to their fitness regime. It is their life. They live, eat and breathe healthy food and exercise and weight training. They’ll The perfect body? The perfect body?

spend a minimum of 1 hour in the gym every day, sometimes twice a day.  And the result of such a military lifestyle are to behold; chiseled bodies, rippling (or ripped) muscles and buns so tight they could bounce of the walls. They are a marvel of physical fitness and you’d have to be a complete hater not to admire the dedication that these individuals plough into their ‘craft’.    I, for one, am in awe. Primarily, because I too am somewhat fanatical about everything I do. Every project I work on has to get the best of my attention and my ability and I’ll be totally committed until I have delivered the best that I can.  So I can respect and understand those who adopt the same philosophy when it comes to their bodies.

Sadly, I’ll never be able to apply the same level of commitment to my physique.  I simply do not have the time or the inclination, I simply love my food way too much to be denied.  I have to accept this limitation because to not do so is to live in constant conflicted turmoil.

This is my choice.

Yet I know that, for some, the diehard dieters my-body-is-a-temple gym rats the aforementioned smugness turns to outright arrogance with a good dose of condescension. Many of them are prompted to design a whole barrage of propaganda imagery sporting condescending slogans aimed at humiliating, guilt smothering and deriding those who perhaps haven’t quite found the ‘passion’ to put their bodies through a frenzied workout routine. I believe this to be nothing short of bullying besides the fact that’s it’s extremely irritating. Worse still is the fact that like seeks like so not only do we get the arrogant sweat busters designing the imagery but their like minded cronies feel compelled to share and share and share this stuff through social media.

Enough already.

Is it not enough that the gym kings have managed to master their muscles as well as the bench press that they feel that have to dominate those who do not have the time or the inclination also?  Ok, so for some ‘the time’ thing may be an excuse but it’s their excuse and they’re entitled to it but not because they have to answer to you lords of muscle but because it helps them to justify their own inaction. How about you guys wait to be ask your opinion before you shove it down someone’s throat?

Live and let live.

Just because you choose a lifestyle and perhaps a life that revolves around the dank sweat infused locker rooms this is not necessarily how somebody else may choose to spend their life. Moreover, you don’t know anything about these people and why exactly they live the life they lead.

A while ago I wrote about the fact that it really does take all sorts in this world.  When I wrote WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE I talked about how our experiences shape who we are. How the psychological imprints made on our minds affect who we are thus how we see and are seen in the world. Similarly, our state of mind not only affects the relationships we have with other people but also that we have with food.  It’s a common story, seen and told the world over every day and it’s a story that often needs the healing hands of a psychotherapist and not the size nines of a gym fanatic.

Granted, there are many people who can’t be asked to get off their sofa or simply change their mind set for a healthier lifestyle, and that’s their choice, but there are also others out there who are suffering from a psychological disorder that is binding them from making a difference, binge eating is just one of them.

Binge eating is not an uncommon disorder and, unlike other eating disorders, such as bulimia (which affects primarily females), binge eating affects men as well as women. It’s more prevalent in middle age people and is often the result of low self-esteem, depression and or anxiety. Binge eaters use food to control their emotions, they’ll often binge alone so that they are not discovered and will continue to gorge until they’re almost sick. They struggle with feelings of guilt and disgust because they hate themselves for the lack of self-control and they worry about the effects that the compulsive eating will have on their bodies, and yet they are helpless to act despite the fact that they’re hunger to stop binge eating is equal only to the event itself.

We all overeat from time to time, especially on holidays or special occasions.  Binge eating sufferers are often in denial of their condition and thus are slow to have it officially diagnosed by a doctor. The good news is that the condition can be treated, sometimes even with a self-help plan, but often with psychotherapy. It needs only a visit to a local GP for a diagnosis and referral to a specialist.

Now, don’t get me wrong, any regular reader of this blog will know that I don’t believe in therapy to justify behaviour. These days, it’s all too simple to blame something or someone rather than accept responsibility for who we are and how we comport ourselves.  But I’m a realist who also understands that real headaches are seldom cured by drill sergeants.

When researching WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE one of the things that became clearer to me is that we may not necessarily agree with the actions or are able to jump on the thought train of others (especially when compared to our own) but that if we want to enjoy a certain synergy with those the others that orbit our world then we have to learn acceptance; for those things we cannot control or change.

The fatter you are the more you are putting your body at risk of disease.  This is a fact as is the reality that the only person who can change that is you.

“I’m not overweight. I just have a heavy halo” – Me.

Have a healthy Sunday! 🙂


  1. Anonymous says:

    Well researched Article,what can you say it’s” Horses for courses,” often in Life we wish to aspire or conform to what we believe what society thinks we should be .in the process of doing that we run the risk of not enjoying our own self .but rather trying to mould ourselves into what we believe we should look,talk ,or act like.
    Big mistake as this equals confliction which results in unhappy person .long as you are healthy enjoy life a
    out the preachers.if you are not healthy then you will
    to find the time to make the Healthy eating and cooking happen .simple as that.

  2. Tammy says:

    My, you have done your homework 😉 A great blog, packed full of facts, thoughts & good advice. I’m with you all the way in reference to the health issues…Obviously being overweight can make you poorly if carrying just that extra few pounds; however, there’s nothing more wonderful to see than a person who is comfortable within themselves, or more sexy. A person who is happy & content with whom they are, no matter what shape or weight they are. Being happy & at peace with who you are is the key. Live & let live exactly! Who says we have to be a certain shape or size? Be happy, & if you are not, make the decision to change for yourself, & nobody else.

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