I Was Guilty of Using The Hunger Excuse

“All the time,” would have been my answer if you had asked me how often I was hungry when I weighed 305 pounds. It really felt like I felt hungry from morning to night when I was morbidly obese.

My days often flowed like this:

7:30 a.m. Sweet treat like cookies or brownies

9:00 a.m. Oreo or Cocoa Puffs cereal by the handfuls, a piece or two of fruit, and a diet soda.

10:30 a.m. Snack time*

12:00 p.m. Fast food lunch with a milkshake, a sandwich or two with a dozen cookies, leftover cake and spaghetti from the night before, or some other high calorie meal.

1:30 p.m. Snack time number two

3:30 p.m. Snack time number three

5:00 p.m. Snack time number four (while cooking dinner)

6:30 p.m. Dinner time – sometimes I cooked, but a lot of times we went out to a restaurant.

9:30 p.m. Snack time number five (in front of the television)

*Snack time was never filled with health choices. Snacks were chips, cookies, ice cream, chocolate bars, or other junk food.

Why did I eat so much and so frequently? I would have told you I was hungry.

However, I really wasn’t that hungry. Although I weighed over 300 pounds, I did not need to consume 4,000 to 5,000 calories to stay healthy, nor was I choosing foods that were nutrient dense.

I was in the throes of what I now call the “hunger excuse.” Do you ever find yourself relying on this excuse when eating foods that are way off your plan?

I used to say things like, “I need this box of cheese-its crackers because I’m totally starving. I “need” this extra biscuit slathered with butter because I’m hungry.  I “need” this King Sized Snickers bar because I’ve had a bad day.”

I justified my overeating using this excuse for years. I used the hunger excuse instead of really examining what factors were behind my extreme overeating. I had to learn to identify and deal with the “behind-the-scenes” emotions that were contributing to my obesity and my choices.

As difficult as that journey was, I know that it would have been harder to stay as a morbidly obese woman than to deal with the emotions of overeating.

Please hear me when I say that physical hunger is an important signal. While we shouldn’t wait until we are faint with hunger to eat, neither should we be filling our entire day with unhealthy food like I was.

It’s wise to learn the difference between the feeling of true physical hunger and the feeling of the emotional hunger.

Here are three tips to help you put away the “hunger excuse.”

1.  Gave yourself permission to “feel” both happy and sad emotions when you think you are hungry.  I learned that turning to food was my first response when I was upset. As I trained myself feel the emotions, I also trained myself to think before I ate by telling myself, “Yes, I am upset, but I do not need to try and make those upset feelings go away by eating three biscuits and a chocolate bar. I

2. Wait before eating between meals. I literally ate all day long. If I started to graze mindlessly between meals I put the timer on for 15 minutes and made myself wait. I really thought about whether I was really physical hungry or not. If I was honestly hungry, then I had something healthy to eat.

3. Carefully plan your food.  Planning is such an important part of our lives, and it is doubly important in this weight loss journey. When I was obese, I just ate whatever and whenever I wanted. Learning to plan meals and snacks helped me manage my calorie intake and have healthy foods on hand when it was time to eat.

I pulled out the hunger excuse as a reason to fill any emotions I didn’t like with food. You may use the hunger excuse in a different way, or if you are lucky, this isn’t even a problem for you. But in my experience, most of us who are weight challenged often struggle with eating when we are not really hungry.

Do you relate to the “hunger excuse?” How have you overcome it?  Diane

22 thoughts on “I Was Guilty of Using The Hunger Excuse

  1. Miz says:

    YES!
    it’s what you said about permission to feel the emotions.
    I finally learned it took EMBRACING AND FEELING as only then could I move through and beyond.

  2. KarenJ says:

    At one time in my life, I don’t know that I ever felt hungry because I ate so often and so much. I also ate if there was food around, even if I wasn’t hungry. I also ate because of so-called negative emotions, particularly anger. It took me quite a while to learn to tune in to my hunger signals. Even after I initially lost my weight, I battled with eating emotionally or resisting trigger foods that were in my environment. I guess one of the most advanced skills in maintenance is learning to eat mindfully. I believe I’ve accomplished that, and it helps me tune into my body signals.

  3. Jody - Fit at 54 says:

    Diane – you know I am with you on this! Like you, even now I make myself wait that 10-15 minutes to think things thru if I am wanting to eat for non hunger reasons or things I really don’t need! Also we don’t want to eat till we are stuffed – then it is too far. Also, if one has been eating too many calories, well, you are going to feel hungry when you start to cut back to the accurate amount for your weight loss…

  4. Emergefit says:

    I have been able to overcome humnger with a simple thought process using my strength training as an analogy: I would never quit a set of leg extensions or shoulder presses due to a little burning sensation. Such a sensation is part of change.

    As fat-loss goes, I rarely cave in to the sensation of hunger. Hunger is a part of the fat-loss process, as burning is to the muscle building process.

    Sounds trite maybe, but I fnd it usefull

  5. Marc says:

    Well i’m glad that when you had cookies, brownies and oreo’s, cocoa puffs and fruit for breakfast, that at least you drank diet soda otherwise you would have blown the whole day;)

  6. Caron says:

    I was one who mistook thirst for hunger. I never drank enough fluids my whole life until ten years ago. I thought I never got thirsty but I just didn’t recognize the signal. I kind of like getting the “I’m hungry” sensation now. I don’t want to stay hungry, of course, but at least I now can say truthfully that I’m hungry. 🙂

  7. Babbalou says:

    I’m trying to train myself to believe along the lines of Emergefit – feeling hungry means I’m on track. A little hunger isn’t a bad thing, it doesn’t mean I have to eat immediately. I am not in any danger of starving to death here! I’ve let my eating creep up a bit so I’m dialing it back. I expect I’ll be hungry now and then over the next few days. Then I’ll adjust to eating less and the hunger will be far less frequent. It sometimes helps to calculate the dollar savings of eating less and either put that money aside for something or make a donation to an organization that feeds the truly hungry….

  8. Siobhan says:

    I fight the “head” hunger versus the real hunger when I have too much sugar in my diet. Once I get the sugar under control I rarely have “head” hunger.

  9. Taryl says:

    It is important to distinguish head hunger and thirst from actual hunger. But I also don’t underestimate the effect of certain foods on my hunger. Eating sugar all day I’d have felt much hungrier at the same calorie level than eating more nutritionally dense food – the blood sugar roller coaster is no joke! It’s not simply eating less of the junk food, but changing tastes in general, that helped me succeed. I still splurge occasionally (more these days than before, I’ve been more relaxed on my intake during pregnancy) but overall I am cogent of portion, food quality, and meal frequency much more than before. That is important to losing and maintaining for me, definitely.

  10. vickie says:

    Good post.

    maybe you have done this and I just don’t remember. But have you crunched the numbers to take your years of weight gain and project them forward at the same pace (if you had not changed your ways, what you would weigh now)?

  11. Dr. J says:

    As always, good advice, Diane!

    Eating warrior style, I can avoid this problem, but none the less, being hungry has become more habit and less real for most people. Hunger does not mean we have to eat. Make a plan, make a schedule, stick to it. It works.

  12. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    GREAT post…and yes I’ve been there done that when it comes to eating my emotions rather than feeling them, although I have come a long way in that department. That said, I daresay you probably WERE hungry! Hungry for real food! When our diets are full of “food” that has little or no nutrients…and when we eat it too fast or under stress (and being in a constant state of low-level stress is not uncommon for someone who is overweight) we don’t take the nutrients from our food that we would under more relaxed conditions and so we are indeed hungry. We go from one food to the next looking for satisfaction (and yes, to fill an emotional need). I’ve often heard it said that those who subsist on “junk” food, no matter what they weigh, are malnourished. Crap food does not provide a sense of satiety, which encompasses many aspects of being fully satisfied by food. In any case, I can relate to having that constant feeling of hunger (although I don’t have it any more) and I understand it for what it is.

  13. Joe says:

    I think in retrospect I ate so much throughout the day because of boredom. It was just something to do. When I decided to make a change is when planning became really important.

  14. Sandy says:

    “I’m hungry all the time” I was just saying that to a co-worker last week. I weigh 290 lbs. I don’t plan my meals, I shop when I’m hungry and end up bying a whole bunch of crap that has no nutritional value at all, but does fill the “hole” in the moment. I so need to get control.

  15. Lauren says:

    Thanks so much for being so honest, and giving helpful tips to curve the “i’m hungry” excuse when in reality it’s emotional hunger. I especially like the wait 15 minutes rule. I’ve been losing weight for a bit now, but this is a good tip cause I still find myself struggling a bit between lunch and dinner.

  16. pamela says:

    I’m learning to overcome this myself. I even predict my hunger such as, “Oh, it’s 11:30, I better go ahead and eat something or I’m going to get hungry.” I like Emergefit’s comment about the “sensation”. It IS ok to feel that hunger sensation without allowing it to go into starving, belly grumble mode.

  17. Joy says:

    Thanks so much for this post. It is something I am dealing with right now and I am trying to establish if I am hungry or if am feeling stress, sad or hurt those are the time when I really want to eat. I know at least that when I am happy or anxious I do not over eat. It is still a learning process for me and I hoping one day when I really want to binge I will be able divert this buy doing something healthy.

  18. blackhuff says:

    I too have justified the extra snacks and bad food like you did. That I “needed” them. That my body “need” food to keep working. Who did I fool? Sigh!

  19. Lindsay says:

    I can absolutely relate! For the longest time I denied the fact that I was an emotional eater. I would say “I’m starving! I need to eat something right now!” (That “something” was never healthy or nutritious) when really I was eating because I was happy, sad, nervous, bored, etc… It took a lot of self reflection on my part to realize that I was eating to suppress uncomfortable feelings or increase positive one. I’m currently working on giving myself permission to feel, rather than stuffing my feelings back down with some french fries.

  20. Lisa says:

    Just based on the foods you listed… it is possible that you were feeling something like hunger. Your blood sugar must have been on an extreme roller coaster ride!!! This is why I avoid sugar like the devil. It has me convinced that I’m “starving!” lol.

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