The benefits of being a normal and healthy weight are countless. Of course, going about weight loss the proper way, and not “dieting” is essential to keeping your weight off. One of the downfalls of dieting is that many fad diets or calorie restrictive diets can leave a person feeling hungry. Hunger and deprivation are known to sabotage any weight loss effort. One of the iron-clad rules in my clinic that my staff of dieticians follow, is to make sure that people aren’t hungry. If clients complain that they are, we adjust their program so they aren’t. One of the reasons that we advise our clients to eat small meals and snacks 5-6 times per day, is specifically so they don’t feel hunger. Nevertheless, some people do feel hunger even when they really aren’t physiologically hungry. This was the case of Mindy, age 44, who came to us for weight loss a few months ago.
Mindy received a food plan that should have allowed her to lose weight and at the same time feel satiated. At the 4th session her weight had not dropped. It wasn’t going up which had been the case, but according to our calculations, it should have been going down. Even though her choices were healthy, her food logs indicated that she was eating too much. When I pointed this out, her response was that she can’t help it, she’s hungry. What is real hunger as opposed to eating for desire, cravings and emotions? Real hunger occurs when your stomach is empty and there is a gnawing feeling in the pit of your empty stomach. Non-hunger is the desire to eat when your stomach isn’t empty. People eat for all kinds of reasons outside of hunger. People use food for comfort when upset. Sometimes when we are tired we eat in an effort to stay awake. And more often than not, when you are on a new weight loss program, you have to get used to not eating as much as you did. It really can just be a matter of habit. If you’ve been eating 3 grilled breasts of chicken at meals, then cutting that portion in half (1 ½) becomes difficult.
Not an emergency
People fear being hungry but there is no emergency. Hunger passes! Everyone reading this has fasted on Yom Kippur. Sometime mid-morning or toward noon you get a hunger pang. You feel hunger but then it goes away. We try never to be hungry but sometimes it happens. You were on the road and got home late or didn’t prepare your food to take with you. Try to drink some water and eat when you get home. Just be careful NOT to overeat.
An important 20 minutes
Hunger and Satiation are controlled by two hormones; ghrelin and leptin. Leptin is a hormone, made by fat cells, that decreases your appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite, and also plays a role in body weight. One of the biggest problems that we have discovered that leptin is delayed in kicking in to tell you that you are indeed full. It now takes about 20 minutes for that to happen.
Here are some tips to fight being hungry and be successful in your weight loss quest:
- Plan your 3 meals and 2 or 3 snacks in advance. Plan what to eat and when to eat
- Leave the kitchen or dining room when your meal is done and wait 20 minutes even if hungry. After the 20 minutes, you should not feel hungry.
- Your “hunger” may be boredom or emotions. Occupy yourself otherwise and remember that eating will not solve any problem other than hunger—it may, however cause many new problems.
- Drink water before each meal and snack and after each meal
- Free yourself from the fear of hunger and remember that it passes—nothing terrible will happen and keep Yom Kippur in mind.
Keeping hunger under control will “add hours to our day, days to your year and years to our life”.