“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