Tolerating Hunger For Weight Loss

by Mary on December 18, 2009

Hunger is a tricky thing when you are talking about tolerating hunger for weight loss. Dealing with out of control appetites from years of overeating and binge eating and sugar addiction can make a person feel insane once you start to eat normal portions of food.

Appetite Control 

natural appetite suppressant to control hungerIf you find that it’s hard to deal with feeling hungry or you constantly feel hungry no matter what you do, you might need to take extra steps beyond just eating a healthy and balanced diet.

If hunger is still a problem for you then you might need to do some of the following.

Controlling appetite can be difficult and getting used to hunger is harder for some people. It’s not always a comfortable feeling and many of us want so desperately just to feel comfortable. Hopefully some of these things will help you with controlling your appetite and hunger.

Hunger & Eating 

For a lot of people hunger is a trigger that causes us to overeat or even binge because we feel deprived or can’t control the hunger.  For a lot of people it is something they avoid because they feel like it will ruin their progress because once they start they will most definitely overeat.  If it is easier for you to lose weight by never getting hungry and testing yourself, then by all means go with that method.  But for me, I’ve had to get in touch with my hungry and even *gasp* embrace it.

While I was at Green Mountain I did a lot of personal experiments in mindful eating and feeling hungry and the sort.  It wasn’t part of the program, just my own curiosity to experiment while in a controlled environment.  I figured out a lot about my body and how it works in regards to feeling hungry and feeling full (which is harder for me to recognize than hunger). I learned that I am actually great at recognizing hunger and also that I am pretty good at controlling my eating despite being hungry.

I think a lot of us don’t want to ever get hungry because when we start eating we feel like we can’t control ourselves.  We eat too much too quickly without even thinking about it, mostly because we were “hungry.”  But I’ve moved past using the excuse of being hungry to overeat quickly.  I can still eat the same controlled speed and will still be fulfilled if I stay at that pace.  Just because I reached the point where I feel hungry doesn’t mean I am allowed to stuff my face.

But more importantly for me, I’ve worked out the nighttime hunger/eating thing.  Since I came home this was the thing that most worried me.  How would I control my hunger at night?  How would I survive staying up late and not eating EVERYTHING I could find?  Honestly, when I first came home I was really worried.  Turns out it hasn’t been much of a problem at all.  I think I’ve actually got it under control.

For instance, last night I went to bed hungry.  For some people, this would not work.  But I honestly don’t mind going to bed hungry. I can tolerate it when it means I will be healthier and live better.  I’ve worked out a system where at night if I feel like I want a snack I can have one, but if I don’t want one I don’t have one.  Usually this system depends on my bedtime.  If I know I am going to stay up really late I will eat a snack a little before 10 pm.  That makes me comfortable and I don’t get to hungry if I’m still awake into the morning.  But if I’m not staying up I simply won’t eat.  And on those nights, like last night, I generally go to bed hungry.

Getting Used To Hunger

I remember reading somewhere online that a doctor told her she would have to get used to the fact that sometimes she would have to feel hungry.  She would just have to deal with it if she wanted to lose weight/maintain.  I remember when I first read that thinking that the doctor was crazy and she shouldn’t listen to him.  But the thought stuck in my head and now I’m starting to think he was right.  I will have to get used to the fact that sometimes I just have to suck it up and deal with being hungry.  Being completely full all the time would mean I was eating all the time, which although my mind might want that, it wouldn’t be good for my body.

So I’ve reached a point, I think, where I am good at recognizing and dealing with my hunger.  (I think writing about hunger has actually made me hungry, as my stomach is starting to tell me it is lunch time.)  I’m not in love with the idea of being hungry all the time or starving myself, but I no longer fear being hungry.  I’m not scared of it.  I can deal with it.  I can tolerate it in the grand scheme of things, when I know that I’ve eaten enough and gotten my nutrients throughout the day.

Do you think this way too?  Or are you scared of hunger or have trouble controlling your appetite?  Or are you good at regulating and controlling it?  How do you deal with hunger?

{ 34 comments }

1 Tara December 18, 2009 at 2:45 pm

I think I used to be scared of hungry. Like it was this THING that I had to avoid.

You know what? It’s not so bad!
.-= Tara´s last blog ..Thief in the Night =-.

2 Art December 18, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Hmm. Good stuff to think about. I have been having an issue with eating when I get home. That should disappear in January, when I start my new shift.

I hate feeling hungry. I dislike hunger more than physical pain.
.-= Art´s last blog ..Reason to Smile #6 – Ikea! =-.

3 Barbi December 18, 2009 at 3:06 pm

I think we’ve all been fed a line listening to all the informercials saying “lose weight without being hungry.” To lose weight we have to work at a deficit so that means hunger. We can eat protein, fiber, drink water, etc to help but in the end, you are eating less than your body needs to maintain its current weight and that is gonna make your tummy growl.

4 Mary December 18, 2009 at 6:10 pm

Very, very good point. All the diets tell you to lose weightout feeling hungry. They even create little “hunger monsters” you get to crush so you feel better. But honestly, hunger NEEDS to happen and you know how to deal with it to make this work.

5 Tony December 18, 2009 at 3:14 pm

You are going to be hungry if you are losing weight – there is no getting past it. It is logical because you are in a calorie deficit. Tom Venuto said it best, think of the hunger as your fat cells shrinking.
.-= Tony´s last blog ..Why You Aren’t Losing Weight =-.

6 Krissie December 18, 2009 at 3:15 pm

I’m okay with hungry. And I’ve learned that hungry can be silenced with an apple or a spoonful of peanut butter if it’s not at a time that’s convenient or planned to really eat.

I have a bigger problem with the munchies. Not when I’m physically hungry, but when I want something to eat. Seeing the difference between the two has changed everything for me. I ask myself, and sometimes my husband asks me, if I’m hungry or munchy and let that be the deciding factor. If I’m munchy, I really try not to eat.

7 Mary December 18, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Yeah, when I figured out that I could stop myself with being hungry with just a few bites of food if it was inbetween meal times, it was like a huge lightbulb went off for me.

I have a problem with that too. When I’m bored at least. Since it only happens when I’m bored I just try to keep myself busy and distract myself from food. So far it is working.

8 Andrea@WellnessNotes December 18, 2009 at 4:09 pm

I think hunger can be very tricky. I certainly have viewed it differently over the years. When I was very young and not eating enough, I was proud that I could “beat” hunger. Then there were quite a few years when I had a good relationship with hunger. However, when life got really tough, I could not tolerate being hungry, and I “had to” constantly eat. Instead of every feeling hunger, I felt constantly full, and often uncomfortably so. And I gained a lot of weight…

When I lost the weight, I had to deal with the fact that I couldn’t always be full. I had to feel hunger sometimes. I also had a hard time with nighttime eating. I actually realized after a few months that what I was experiencing at night wasn’t actually hunger but just not feeling stuffed…

9 Jody - Fit at 52 December 18, 2009 at 4:41 pm

What a great post Mary!!!! It really speaks to the way so many feel & maybe they can learn from what you have found works for you. Sounds like you have a great plan that works!

Like many of us bloggers say, one has to find something that works for them. I am like you. I know there will be times that I feel hungry but not crazed hungry which means you either have not eaten enough OR you may be thirsty. Hunger pains are sometimes just really that you have not had enough water or fluids.

Also like you, I have learned to listen & pat attention to my body & how it feels. I try to slow down so that my stomach registers fullness but even when I don’t do this (OH NO!) I am aware of what I am eating & when to stop. Mindful eating works for me! Just paying attention instead of just stuffing some stuff down & not even realizing how good or bad it tastes.

Great post Mary!
.-= Jody – Fit at 52´s last blog ..Kickboxing Update; Healthier Gingerbread Cookie =-.

10 Bella December 18, 2009 at 4:48 pm

I am often hungry when I go to bed. Simply because sometimes I am still up for 8 hours after having dinner. And unless I still have points left (most of the time I don’t) I just go to bed hungry.
During the day I usually don’t wait till I am starving to eat but every now and then it happens. And unless I feel really shaky (like my blood sugar is too low) which only happens if something kept me from eating for a while while I was already hungry, I will just eat what I was going to eat anyway. If I am shaky I will often eat something small while I am cooking dinner, like a yogurt or fruit.
.-= Bella´s last blog ..WW Weigh-in #2 =-.

11 Mary December 18, 2009 at 6:21 pm

That’s why I go to bed hungry. I just stay up late after eating. ;)

I never wait until I’m that hungry during the day. I definitely wait until I am physically hungry, but I try not to eat then and not let it get to point where I am shaky or anything like that.

12 Bella December 18, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Yeah I hate when that happens. To me it only happens when I have to run errands and simply don’t get around to eating (unless I want to grab a burger at McDonald’s on the go and I don’t).
I do wait till I’m hungry most of the time, unless I know I won’t have time when I am actually hungry, then I will eat before I am so I am not starving later.
.-= Bella´s last blog ..WW Weigh-in #2 =-.

13 Leila December 18, 2009 at 4:55 pm

To be VERY honest, I think I don’t like feeling hunger because it reminds me of feeling, period. FEELING!!!!!!!! I have mastered the art of living a life where I didn’t have to feel. now that i’m choosing to FEEL again, after reading this post, I have realized that when I FEEL hunger, I think I’m feeling pain… and it is “pain”, a physical one. But I used to not know the difference between physical hunger pains and emotional anxiety pains. I LITERALLY used to think that emotional anxiety WAS hunger. the moment I was anxious, I really, genuinely thought I was hungry. AAAAAAAAAAAHHH!! that is NOT good.

I had to Learn all over again what HUNGER was like. and now, I can’t STAND being hungry bc I feel anxious. Because to FEEL HUNGER is… probably confused with feeling anxiety. I think I just figured that out as I typed right now.
:)

That makes me happy that I just tapped into the root of the issue.
Hunger, to me, is equivalent to anxiety. So subdue the hunger and I’ll subdue the anxiety because, they used to mean the same exact thing. WHOA!!!! This is huge!! I’m going to go to my blog and blog my own comment!!! :)

Thank you so much for this post!! it helped me get in touch with myself.
.-= Leila´s last blog ..12 hours of sleep does a body good when healing… =-.

14 Mary December 18, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Wow, your comment just made me really happy. I think it definitely helps to write/type/think about stuff like this. Sometimes just thinking about it can be how we figure out things like you did. I am soo happy you figured something out because of what I wrote. I can’t wait to read your blog post about it.

15 Michelle @ Eatingjourney December 18, 2009 at 6:29 pm

that’s totally it. when we are struggling to lost weight…it’s more about losing the emtional need to feel full. so much of over-eating is about avoiding. avoiding anything uncomfortable. feeling full is a mask for the emotional hunger that we’re trying to surpress with food.

keep working on that.
.-= Michelle @ Eatingjourney´s last blog ..Bottled H-two-O–It’s POISON! =-.

16 iwishiwas December 18, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Reading this Mary made me realise that I don’t remember when I last felt any hunger pangs, and that is not good. I must be eating far too much. I will be experimenting in the coming days before Christmas with what it takes to really feel hungry and if I’m lucky, I made shed a few pounds in the process. Thanks for the timely reminder.

17 Harry December 18, 2009 at 5:42 pm

I rarely notice that I’m hungry, other than when it’s feeding time.

This is a pretty good read about blood-sugar levels and how it can affect hunger: http://www.bupa.co.uk/health_information/html/healthy_living/lifestyle/diet/burn.html

My breakfast is porridge+banana. Lunch is a sandwich from the deli. Dinner is a cooked meal. If I snack then it’s dried apricots and almonds, and I’ll often have another piece of fruit in the evening. My workout is before my evening meal and I don’t eat after 8pm.

Something else that I’m sure also helps is that I’m busy in between meals – I don’t have time to get hungry! My routine means I eat the same food at the same time each day and I think my body has just adapted to it.
.-= Harry´s last blog ..Enjoying the weight training =-.

18 Michelle @ Eatingjourney December 18, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Hunger is a normal bodily reaction to a state of needing food to fuel itself. I don’t think that it should be something that just people who are losing weight should embrace. It should be anyone and everyone. It’s not NORMAL to be ‘full’ all day long. That means that you’re eating all day long and not letting your body digest/rest etc.

I actually LOVE waking up with a tinge of ‘feed me’ it makes me want to eat what I am eating. What I’ve had to balance out is not letting myself get too hungry and not snakcing before meals because I may be hungry. It’s amazing what 8-10 almonds, a carrot or 1/2 an apple can do to ‘tie you over’ til your meal.

Hunger..for those struggling with weight..is mostly a reminder of the emotional garbage, anchors, triggers that many of us were/are trying to surpress. I have struggled with binging for the past year. It started out as a one night a week thing after weighing in and then spiraled into 6-7 nights per week after a break-up and living alone.

Here are some thing which have made me over-eat:
Baking–need of validation
Being alone–don’t like to feel lonely
Tired–I am exhausted and need a ‘pick me up’
Stressed–need an escape
Changes–loss of control

Hope that makes sense. So now when I know what things are coming up I sit with the emotion for however long and work that shit out.

If I feel a binge coming on or am binging I try and stop. What am I feeding? I ask myself..and then try and process there. Or afterwards.

It’s ok to be hungry. It’s actually a sign of emtional well-being if fueled properly.

~M
.-= Michelle @ Eatingjourney´s last blog ..Bottled H-two-O–It’s POISON! =-.

19 Kerry December 18, 2009 at 7:35 pm

I agree, this is a great topic. I really dislike being hungry, which is certainly a part of my struggle to maintain a healthy weight. The lightbulb that went off for me this year is how much more I enjoy a meal when I am truly hungry. So rather than continually top off the tank, it’s much better for me to work towards eating until satisfied, and then waiting until I am truly hungry before I eat again.
.-= Kerry´s last blog ..Coffee Toffee =-.

20 The Merry December 18, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Feeling hungry is good or bad depending on WHEN in the day I’m hungry.

If I ignore hunger first thing in the morning, I can go the whole day eating less than 800 calories. But my whole metabolism closes the door, hangs a ‘closed’ sign in the window, and lounges in the back room, putting its feet up & reading a good book. In other words, I have No Energy. I don’t want to do anything. Total Slug Mode. To get anything done, I have to whip my body with several cups of caffeine, until I’m jittery but energized.
Screw that, I’d rather eat.

Ignoring hunger last thing at night — no problem. I don’t enjoy it, but since I’m trying to persuade the body to wind down and head towards Sleepysville, it’s not a bad thing.
.-= The Merry´s last blog ..Jogging to stand still =-.

21 chris December 18, 2009 at 11:16 pm

I just wrote about this…
I ‘let’ myself be hungry in the afternoon. I make sure I am full from dinner. I won’t let myself be hungry at night…so I suck it up in the afternoon.
hearty breakfast, light lunch hearty dinner….1500 calories.
it works for me.
.-= chris´s last blog ..Is it worth it? =-.

22 South Beach Steve December 19, 2009 at 8:07 am

Hunger is a funny thing. There is real hunger, then there is this other hunger. The other hunger is what we experience most often, IMHO. It feels like the real thing though, it really does. I have sometimes gotten past the fake hunger, then I find the real hunger doesn’t kick in for several more hours. Of course, I don’t succeed with this all the time, but it is undeniable when I do.
.-= South Beach Steve´s last blog ..Quick Friday Night Update =-.

23 Fran December 19, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Usually when I’m hungry between two meals I don’t eat anything or just some fruit. And I also go to bed hungry sometimes but that doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind feeling hungry for an hour or so but I don’t want to feel hungry constantly because that means I’m not eating enough. I have to chose between hungry till lunchtime or eat something f.e. for me it’s a choice between losing weight or don’t.
.-= Fran´s last blog ..A day in my life: Saturday December 19th 2009 =-.

24 Tricia December 19, 2009 at 6:37 pm

I’ve had to learn to differentiate between my body being hungry and my mind telling me I am. If my body is truly hungry then I eat. But sometimes eating is just routine, you think youre hungry because youre used to eating at that time, or when that type of food is around. Thats the “hungry” that I don’t feed.
.-= Tricia´s last blog ..WINNER =-.

25 Shelly December 19, 2009 at 10:19 pm

I’m working on it. Not sure if humger is my main issue though. I think my main problem is wanting instant gratification.

Shelly
.-= Shelly´s last blog ..New Beginings =-.

26 Lose Weight with Subliminal Messages December 20, 2009 at 7:20 am

I am not so scared of hunger – only at extreme cases it may actually be harmful to your body.

However I found that when I am sad for some reason I tend to eat more (its common, I know), so when I’m hungry I just look for something enjoyable to do – go out with my girlfriend, meet some people outside. I find that to be a great distraction.

27 merri December 20, 2009 at 2:03 pm

i suppose if youre going to bed anyway you might as well just not eat if youre hungry, so long as it doesnt keep you from sleeping… i do that sometimes if i’m too lazy to make something to eat or there isnt anything around to eat, sometimes i could have some milk and that helps. otherwise, i always eat if im hungry. yrs ago when i used to ignore it, and make myself think i was full when i was actually hungry, that led to lots of problems. i kinda understand what you’re saying, but just be careful. i feel like if my body’s hungry, there must be a reason. and with that said, i’m gonna go make some breakfast. :)
.-= merri´s last blog ..Holiday time goals =-.

28 Anele December 21, 2009 at 8:21 am

Hunger is a tricky little fella. I think so many of us are used to eating for the wrong reasons and confusing emotional hunger with actual hunger. I’m not a fan of going to bed with physical hunger pangs. (I’m talking the kind that feels like an alien is about to burst forth like the end of Spaceballs!) We usually have a snack about 9pm (we go to bed about 11:30-midnight) but only if we want it. It will be one of the first things to go when we have to cut back calories but it can be anywhere from a 70 calorie sugar free pudding to a Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwich (140). But while I don’t like going to bed hungry hungry it’s worse going to bed full. Ugh, there’s nothing worse than feeling bloated and uncomfortable.

It sounds like you’ve gotten in touch with your true sense of hunger and that’s a big thing. There are many people who don’t.

29 Hanlie December 22, 2009 at 3:21 am

Very insightful post!

One of the most helpful things I learned these last few months is to wait until I’m hungry before I eat. That might mean that lunch will only be at 3pm, but in turn supper will be smaller. We generally eat supper before 7pm, so if I stay up late I might feel a pang before going to bed. A banana easily takes care of that!

I think what you ate for your previous meal has a huge bearing on how soon you’ll feel hungry. If it was processed, or addictive, you may feel withdrawal symptoms after a while, which are often confused for hunger.
.-= Hanlie´s last blog ..The role of food in our lives =-.

30 asithi December 22, 2009 at 12:12 pm

I always done to bed slightly hungry. But my husband always snack in the evening after dinner. I notice that if I stay up with him, he would start whipping fries or some kind of sanwich for the both of us. I always gain weight when I adopt any of his eating habits. Now to say that it is necessary a good thing for him to be eating that late.

But the scary thing is that I now cannot stand hunger during the day. I used to ignore my hunger until it is a meal time. I run to the vending machine more often than I would like. I think it is the cold winter days.
.-= asithi´s last blog ..Wii Fit vs. Wii Fit Plus Review =-.

31 Kat December 22, 2009 at 1:45 pm

I’m starting to learn better, too. It used to be that I’d get a teensy hungry and vastly overeat, causing a terrible stomachache. I’d go through those peaks and valleys and brutally mess up my system. I think I agree with that “need to feel a bit hungry all the time” assessment. That doesn’t mean that we’re starving ourselves or always have gnawing, stomach-growling hunger. It means stopping just short of being FULL and it means always keeping those fires burning, so to speak, instead of cramming the entire engine full of fuel and then letting it run out to empty. It’s always a continuum, and if it means there’s a hint of hunger back there (behind a bigger feeling of satiety), then that’s just something I’ll have to live with. Kudos for being honest with yourself and experimenting and keeping track of how you feel – I’m learning, too, that it’s a huge learning curve to re-teach yourself how to eat!
.-= Kat´s last blog ..Rebelling against sugar =-.

32 julie December 30, 2009 at 9:39 am

I think the thing that has most helped me lose my weight is waiting until I get hungry to eat. Mildly hungry. It’s kind of a necessity, it seems, if one likes to practice intuitive eating. I like to hike, and sometimes I misjudge steepness, and won’t have enough food to last. Hungry enough to consider chewing on my shoelaces is something I like to avoid, and used to cause strange eating behavior, but now, even if I’m that hungry, I wait and just eat how I always eat anyway. I tolerate it better. I will go to bed slightly hungry, but if my stomach is growling, I’ll eat a little. Not a meal, but a fruit, date, carrot, handful of cereal, 2-3 cashews, glass of milk. I am never hungry in the morning, but eat anyway because otherwise the Splenda in my coffee irritates my stomach.
.-= julie´s last blog ..On the cusp =-.

33 Todd29 January 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Over eating is a modern day affliction. The only way to lose weight is to take responsibility for yourself! Our health is our most important asset. For many people, being overweight is associated with being uncomfortable in their own skin. To assist with weight control; keep a daily food journal and every time the urge to snack is felt, first drink a large glass of clear water. This simple act will help you to eat less. Water will soon become one of your best friends. The major reason so many people in America are overweight is because we eat too much for comfort! It does not hurt to treat ourselves with something special once in a while, what is necessary is that we limit our portions and do not overeat! It is also necessary to keep our body properly hydrated, so drink a full glass of water with each meal or snack. Being overweight ******, but after reading a book, I lost 85 pounds! Words can not express how good I feel! This is a comment which I recently received about the book Lose Weight Using Four Easy Steps

34 letty January 30, 2010 at 12:32 am

there seems to be so many definitions of hunger!! to me, hunger is when my insides feel like they’re being chopped up in a blender and i feel dizzy. sounds extreme, but it’s the only way i can tell if i’m hungry. i’ve always wondered if there’s some other way of knowing? because my friends always claim that they’re hungry but they never seem to be in any kind of pain. and if i ever mention how in pain i am when i’m hungry, they seem surprised. weird! so these days, i try to eat only when i am hungry…which is pretty often haha. but, of course, in my preteen years i spent a great deal of time sitting on my butt in front of the TV, mindlessly shoving food into my mouth and consistently going back for more even though i was nowhere near hungry. and that, i believe, is why i have my weight problem today. aah!! i’m glad i’ve finally learned to differentiate between hunger and boredom.

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