Dealing with hunger and the discomfort that can come with trying to lower our weight.
There’s a discomfort that comes with intentional weight loss. It’s something that is rarely (never?) talked about, but a fact of the matter.
…and for good reason- we’re fighting biology when we’re losing weight.
We’ve asked our body (inadvertently) to hover at the weight we’re at…even if it’s higher than we want it to be.
As we intentionally start eating less to reduce our weight, our body screams at us to “stay put!” The process can be very complicated, but we’ll condense it down to the very basics by saying It does this by stimulating the hunger hormone and suppressing the fullness hormone. That, of course, drives us to want to eat more. As such, we become very, very alert and keen to the idea that “I’m hungry!”. A feeling that definitely isn’t a comfortable one.
We’d normally eat to remedy this issue- and that’s a great solution if we’re at a weight we're happy with, isn't causing us health issues, and allows us to do the things we enjoy in life. However, if any of those aren't true, it’s a response we have to deal as we make an effort to make a change- a response we have to learn how to deal with and manage, rather than fix.
Confronting the Issue vs Resisting or Ignoring It.
The more we embrace the fact that feeling hunger during the day is a natural part of the process (vs pushing it away), the easier it is to deal with it. (It should be noted there's a difference in the hunger we're talking about here and the sensation of a gnawing pit in your stomach all day long. The latter isn't what we're referring to and shouldn't be present).
We often associate the sensation of being hungry with something “wrong”- almost like it’s the panic button on a jet that has lost its engine. The very presence of the sensation gives us anxiety.
If we learn to acknowledge what it is- a sensation (rather than true life and death)- the easier it is to deal with.
it’s also important to remind yourself it's not a sensation you’ll have to deal with forever. It's a part of the process to help us get what we want, but once the goal is reached, you eventually should be bringing calories UP from it’s lowest point to fix this issue. This is the third phase of the Valley to Peak program and one we appropriately call “maintenance and management”.
In short, I’m saying embrace the discomfort knowing it’s normal and take away the emotion by simply remembering that nothing is actually wrong. It’s part of the process and a part that is short-lived.
Strategies to deal with hunger.
While some hunger at certain time intervals during the day is part of the deal, there are strategies we can employ to make it less dramatic and easier to deal with.
Some of these strategies are mare in the meal components themselves and some are outlying strategies to deal with it that I personally used in my own journey.
Learn to ride the wave. The sensation of hunger leaves about as fast it comes. If we can learn to “ride the hunger” wave until our next meal (likely just around the corner), we’re able to manage our emotion and meet our desired outcome.
Get enough protein.
Make sure there’s fiber at each meal and snack .
Don’t skimp too much on the fat.
Space the nutrition out even over the day. Below is an example where you can see someone has had very little mid-day, but more later in the day. This lead to them being hungry mid-day.
Breakfast: 650kcal, 32g protein
Lunch: 390kcal, 26g protein
Dinner: 700kcal, 42g protein
Snacks: 310kcal, 36g protein.
The protein split looks great, but if they were noticing some hunger early-to-mid afternoon and that was likely because of how skimpy the lunch was. What I would change in that scenario is “borrowing” 50-75kcal from breakfast and dinner to bring lunch up higher. That would make the split more along the lines of 575, 525, 625kcal (B, L, D) and may help control that hunger.
A few other things I've seen to help curb cravings during the day is: drink black coffee, decaf cinnamon tea, and sugar-free Powerade, and chewing gum.
Last, but not least- even IF the numbers are met, the choices we make to GET those numbers can have a dramatic role on our hunger because of volume. Here’s what I mean:
Though the numbers were “met”, jerky, crackers, a scoop of yogurt, and the like are hardly very filling when compared to their high protein counterparts.
It doesn’t make these foods wrong- they’re not. BUT, it could make you more hungry than other foods with a higher volume but the same number of calories have.
Furthermore, protein powder is the most rapidly digested of all proteins- especially whey. So, it’s in the gut and out in FAR less time than say a piece of steak would be. That naturally can lead to earlier feelings of hunger even though your protein numbers look good on paper.
Though uncomfortable, acknowledging some hunger will show up during the day significantly reduces anxiety when the feeling does come on.
It should be noted, however, these feelings should not be extreme and likely coming on several hours after your last meal and JUST before you're about ready to eat again. If you're living in a state of perpetual hunger that causes you to obsess about food, lose sleep, etc., your calories are far too low and that needs to be fixed as priority number 1.
However, if you're simply battling twinges that come hours after a meal and trying to prevent reaching for the chip bag until dinner in 30-minutes, there are great things to keep in mind.
By remembering this is a normal part of the process, riding the wave, and ensuring certain meal strategies are carried out during the day, the process of moving from where you're at to where you want to be becomes a much easier process to do with.