Dealing with Hunger after Surgery
After having weight loss surgery, you may still find that you deal with hunger from time to time. This may be surprising since gastric banding is designed to help you feel less hungry between your meals. Why then, are you still dealing with hunger?
The gastric band addresses one type of hunger: physical hunger. Physical hunger is based on your body’s need for nutrition. However, most of us find ourselves eating for many other reasons that have nothing to do with nutrition, including stress or boredom. One of the biggest changes you’ll need to make after surgery is learning to make nutrition the number one factor in deciding when and what to eat.
The desire to eat when your body doesn’t physically need food is often referred to as “head hunger.” You may be thinking about eating because you’re bored, stressed, or sad, among other emotional reasons. The problem is that “head hunger” and “physical hunger” often feel the exact same way at first. Being able to distinguish between real hunger and head hunger is often a new skill for people to learn after bariatric surgery.
Are You Really Hungry?
When you feel the familiar pangs of hunger, the first thing to ask yourself is if you should be experiencing physical hunger right now. When was the last time you ate? Ask yourself if you’re feeling bored or stressed and if that might be triggering your desire for food.
After gastric banding surgery, you’re probably eating a small meal every four hours or so. If it has been less than four hours since your last meal, you may be experiencing head hunger. Try to hold off until it’s time for your next meal. If you skipped a meal or it’s been a while since your last adjustment and you think you may be having physical hunger, make a point of choosing a healthy, low-calorie snack.
Make sure that you’re eating slowly and getting enough food at your meal times to avoid getting hungry between meals. You may also want to talk to your surgeon at your next follow-up appointment if you find yourself constantly needing a snack between meals.
How to Handle Head Hunger
When you’re experiencing head hunger, you may find that you’re craving specific foods. Our emotional cravings for food often attract us to sugary, salty, or fatty foods, which is a helpful sign that you might be dealing with head hunger. When this happens, try to see if you can distract yourself from your hunger until the craving passes.
Instead of eating, consider:
- Going for a walk
- Playing a game
- Calling a friend
- Drinking water
If you find that you’re constantly dealing with head hunger, you may have an underlying issue that needs to be resolved. For example, maybe you have an exceptional amount of stress in your life and you need to learn some stress-management techniques. If you find you often turn to food because you’re feeling lonely, now is a good time to actively seek out ways to expand your support system. By identifying common triggers that lead you to food, you can plan ways to avoid or minimize those triggers in the future.