Make “hunger pangs” a plus for weight loss

 

Many of us struggling with our weight can face some common daily fears:

  • A fear of feeling hungry
  • Anxiety at the thought of feeling hungry
  • Eating just in case we might be hungry in a couple of hours

If this reflects your experience, then you are not alone! Over the last 4 years, whilst working with clients I have found that a lot of their eating behaviours have been driven by a need to avoid hunger. People often don’t even recognise the problem.  

Sure, feeling hungry isn’t the most comfortable of sensations, while many dietary programs are often sold on the promise that you will lose weight whilst keeping cravings and hunger at bay. However, if you are seeking weight loss, it is inevitable you are going to feel hungry.

This is not a call to starve yourself or to suggest you miss meals as either path will only make longer term adherence and success very difficult, if not impossible. However, dealing with the gentle hunger that comes from not overeating, or waiting 30 minutes for a meal rather than reaching for a snack, is something I believe we can all learn if we can approach the challenge with a little curiosity.

Why curiosity?

Because once you start to understand and recognise a sensation, without any judgement, you can better manage how you respond to it. It might be that for you, hunger brings back unpleasant memories, or that you start to feel anxious because last time you got really hungry you ended up arguing with your colleague or spouse. The physical sensation of hunger doesn’t actually last very long, as it tends to come in waves and once you start eating, disappears quite quickly; it is the emotion we attach to it which makes it have more of an impact and to be seen as something which needs to be avoided.

When you next start to feel the gentle rumble of hunger, pause and ask yourself:

– How uncomfortable does this feel? Can I sit with it a little longer?
– Does this hunger make me feel anxious, if so, why?
– Can I reframe this hunger away from discomfort to just a natural process.

Learning to live alongside hunger is a skill which takes practice and will make weight loss much more manageable. Of course, hunger, or a general sense of emptiness and dissatisfaction can also stem from not eating a variety of food. Eating tasty, satisfying food will also help you manage your hunger levels. This is where the Just Routine App is a great help. as it allows you to monitor the balance of foods you are eating without focusing on calories. If what you eat never seems to satisfy your hunger or appetite, ask yourself:

  • Am I missing out on any major food groups in my meals?
  • Is the food I’m eating bland and visually unappealing.
  • Is it really food that I am craving, could this sensation be related to anything else?

Sometimes the desire to eat or the sensation of hunger is not even related to food at all but more of an emotional sense of emptiness. If you have taken the time to look at your diet and ensure it is balanced and satisfying yet you still experience intense hunger then perhaps examining another area of your life; areas such as sleep, routine, relationships or stress may shed some light on your sensations. Use your curiosity to help and you will discover the benefits.

 

Key points to take away
  • Hunger is a natural sensation which comes and goes and never lasts long.
  • If weight loss is your aim, then hunger is part of the process.
  • View hunger for what it is, rather than the emotions that come with it.
  • A balanced diet of tasty food will help to make you feel satisfied and reduce the desire to eat.
  • You can feel hungry for more than just food.
  • Become curious for your health!

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Ian is a Registered Dietitian specialising in weight loss coaching, using mindfulness and behaviour science for sustainable improvements to health.

 
 

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