Anyone who has ever been on a diet knows that emotional Hunger can be the death-knell of your glorious, mighty, awe-inspiring weight loss ambitions.
Understanding and harnessing your Hunger allows you to get control back from the raging monster.
At the beginning of your weight loss plan, Hunger looks and acts like a cute, cuddly dependent, much like a pet (maybe like a goldfish you won at the county fair), who just needs to be fed once in a great while. You’re riding high on your first weeks of fast, dare-I-say, easy weight loss, and your Hunger can be satisfied by the occasional light snack: an apple, greek yogurt, carrot sticks, or 100-calorie packs. You feel like a BOSS. You feel completely in control of your eating choices. You are 100% convinced that people who complain about being hungry are just “not doing it right.”
Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, Hunger explodes like your belligerent drunk uncle at the family reunion. You eat a regular breakfast first thing in the morning, but you’re starving by 10:00 AM. You’re finding it nearly impossible to stop thinking about food. You start fantasizing about your next meal. You either give in and eat more than you should, or you seriously consider it. Either way, something is different. Hunger is showing you its other face: the scary face. The one that would eat you whole if given half a chance. This side of Hunger is challenging to reason with.
You try throwing an apple at your Hunger, and it just laughs right in your face. Ouch. What Hunger wants is to see you stuff your pie-hole at an all-you-can-eat buffet of candy, cookies, chips, soda, and deep-fried-anything until you can’t feel your face anymore. He wants you to give him anything and everything you can get your hands on, and he will not shut up. Hunger will NOT shut the hell up.
The wall is starting to look like the most delicious snack you’ve ever seen, and if no one were looking, you might chew through your pencil to see if that helps stave off the Hunger monster a tiny bit longer.
It is ultimately a losing battle with Hunger. Since we must eat to live, we cannot just STOP eating altogether. We have to feed our Hunger eventually.
Hunger is your body’s way of sending you a message; “I need something! I need food! I need calories! I need protein! I need vitamins! I need lipids!” If you’re not listening for the first time, your body will use Hunger to scream right in your ear, loud and proud, until you finally give in and eat. And eat. And eat.
When you’re trying to lose weight, this can become a severe problem. Operating at a calorie deficit during a weight loss program causes stress on your body, and it tries to compensate. Often, the body sends us signals in the form of Hunger that overcompensates for the calorie deficit we’re living in. Bodies are complex living organisms that respond to stimuli; the food we eat, the environment we’re in, and even our thoughts affect our bodies.
A winning strategy for weight loss MUST incorporate your body’s signals, including the raging Hunger beast, to succeed and achieve your goals. Fighting against it will not work in the long run. Trust me; I’ve tried!
To win with Hunger, you have three strategies to consider:
- Wait it out
- Sacrifice a meal
- Nuke it!
Strategy 1: Wait It Out
If you find yourself facing the Hunger monster at a point when you’ve already used up your calories for the day, you can try to wait it out. Suppose you haven’t used up your calories for the day. In that case, you should eat them. (You should not be eating under your calorie goal regularly, but that’s another post for another time.)
Waiting out the first signs of the Hunger beast involves distraction. Go to bed early. Brush your teeth. Nothing tastes good in a toothpaste-flavored mouth. Try to outlast the Hunger and see if it goes away. Nine times out of ten, this strategy is the best option while you’re trying to lose weight. Most of the time, what we think is the monster is just a craving because we’re bored/tired/lonely/stressed/etc.
I often get snack cravings in the evening while I’m relaxing after work. I recognize it as a craving most of the time, but sometimes it starts to act like the Hunger monster. Usually, this Hunger monster will chill-the-fuck-out by morning. If I can stay out of the pantry/fridge until morning, and the Hunger monster is still screaming at me, I’ll feed it. It leads to…
Strategy 2: Sacrifice a Meal
If waiting it out didn’t make the Hunger monster take a hike, have a big luxurious breakfast, logging the calories no matter how much you eat, and see if that works to satiate the beast. Eight times out of ten, this will work. The big meal is a sacrifice to the Hunger monster, so he’ll leave you the hell alone. Most of the time, this strategy also allows you to get back on track by the end of the day. You can finish out the day with a lighter dinner and stay within your calorie goals.
If you eat a big ass breakfast and the Hunger monster will still not leave you alone, you’re going to need to keep feeding it. It leads to…
Strategy 3: Nuke It!
That is the nuclear option, the strategy for defeating Hunger that you turn to after exhausting the last two options (waiting it out & sacrificial meal). When nothing else is placating your Hunger monster, and you are starving, can’t think straight, have no energy, and are chewing on the walls (I see you! Stop that!), it’s time to feed the beast.
Take a full day to feed your Hunger. Eat large meals and regular snacks. If there’s something you’ve been craving, make sure to have it. There is no need to stuff yourself to the point of feeling sick. But regularly eating throughout the day will help deliver the message to Hunger and your body that you will not starve, even though you will lose weight. In the fitness community, these are often referred to as “cheat days.” I prefer not to use this term because cheating implies a failure of some kind. In reality, feeding your Hunger and your body is not a failure. It is a winning strategy.
Log your nuke-it-calories if you can, and when you wake up the next morning, get back on your plan. After a day of regular eating, you’ll feel better, more focused, and the Hunger monster will be reduced to its cute and cuddly side once again. Until you meet the monster again, that is…
Now that you know my three strategies (Wait it out, Sacrificial meal, and Nuke it!) for dealing with the Hunger monster, you’ll be ready and in control when he shows his ugly face next time. ?