Dealing with Hunger

Mark, a dieter that we recently began working with, reported that during the past week he’s been feeling extra hungry, which is making it more difficult for him to stay within his calorie limit for the day.  The first thing we discussed with Mark is the fact that this is completely normal.  All of our dieters have periods of time when they are hungrier than others. Although they often say, “I had such a hard week; I was hungry all the time,” it usually turns out they were only hungry for a couple of hours during a few days that week, but let the memory of that hunger color the entire week.

We told Mark that if it’s not time for one of his preplanned snacks or meals and he’s feeling hungry, there are lots of things he can say to himself.  First he can remind himself that hunger is never an emergency – it can be somewhat uncomfortable but he’s lived through much worse physical discomfort in the past (a badly broken arm, a root canal, and a popped kneecap).  Mark can also remind himself that there’s always another meal coming and that he’s going to be eating again fairly soon. Last, Mark can tell himself that just because he’s hungry doesn’t mean he should eat – if he wants to get and stay thinner, he simply can’t eat every time he feels like it. 

We also asked Mark if what he’s been feeling lately is always hunger, or whether he might be confusing it with a craving or a desire to eat (Day 11 of The Beck Diet Solution).  We urged Mark to pay attention to the physical sensations attached to his “hunger” and try to discern whether it really is true hunger.  Mark related that he had been working fewer hours this week, and it’s possible that he felt at loose ends and therefore felt like eating, as opposed to being hungry.   

We proposed an experiment for Mark to try: for one or two days this week, he’s going to spend almost all of his calories on protein and vegetables and limit carbohydrates and starches.  Many of our dieters have tried this experiment and were surprised to see how much more full and satisfied they felt when they varied their diet in this way.  We told Mark to give it a try, and if the same is true for him then at least for now, when he’s feeling more hungry, it’s probably worth his while to incorporate more protein into his diet. 

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3 comments

  1. What works for me, and might work for Mark, is instead of eating 3 meals and 2 or 3 snacks, I eat 5 smaller meals evenly spaced throughout the day and each “meal” is relatively equal in the number of calories. Aside from blood sugar levels staying more constant, mentally, I know that I’ll be having a “meal” very soon and it’s easier to wait and is more satisfying than a smaller snack. And, yes, Mark, you’re definitely not alone with having times when you’re hungrier.

  2. I loved just about everything in Dr Beck’s book except this idea that you have to learn to tolerate hunger. My solution to this problem was to switch to a low carb diet, in particular, the Atkins Diet. I am losing weight at a nice clip and never, ever feel hungry. If you have a lot of problems with hunger, maybe it’s a blood sugar/insulin problem and avoiding a lot of carbs might be the answer for you.

  3. I also feel more hungry at times. I’ve noticed this happens more often when I’m in my pre-menstrual time os the month. The thing is, it’s harder to diet in this situation. First: I know I have to tolerate hunger, and I try very hard, I know that, for me, it’s ine of the most important skills I have to learn. Second: my sabotaging thoughts, all of thme, como bursting in when I’m hungry. I feel like I’m constantly almopst loosing control. I’ve stopped to notice if it’s really hunger or a craving, but it is REALLY hunger, I feel my stomach growling…but I keep on trying, and I’m getting much better at it. I feel I get stronger every single time I tolerate hunger and don’t give in to my sabotyaging thoughts!

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