Making Peace with Hunger

Over the holidays, I indulged. I’m going to put that out there right now.

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I had cake, cookies, truffles, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, candy… I had it all. A little of everything. I didn’t track these things. For about 5 days, I did not track at all. And then, on December 26th, I picked up where I left off and began tracking again.

 

I admit, I am proud of this; I am proud that I was able to let loose and then pick right back up where I left off. But, I am also telling you all of this because I am mentally struggling with myself about getting back on track.

Why?

Because I’m hungry.

sharkme

(This is me when I’m hungry. Truth.)

Right now, while I write this, I am hungry. My stomach is twinge-ing and twisting; I feel a rumble coming on. I’m thinking of lunch, which is still over an hour away. I’m thinking of dinner…of dessert…of food. I’m hungry, and hungry isn’t something I do very well.

The first days back on track are always the hardest and hungriest for me. When I first begin any “new diet venture,” I am able to endure this hunger out of the excitement and possibility of losing weight. The motivation for drastic change overrules the hunger. But now, over 2 years into Weight Watchers, that motivation and honeymoon-type excitement is essentially gone. So, I find myself having to look at hunger differently. I’m realizing that not only is my weight loss journey about my relationship with food and myself…it’s also about my relationship with hunger.

When I was a teenager, someone once told me that my stomach growling was the sound of fat being burned. That mindset led me to embrace hunger; it was comforting to me.

I don’t consider that to be a healthy way of looking at hunger.

When I was in college, I ate so much and so frequently that I went about 4 years without ever feeling hunger pains. Then, when I did finally feel hunger again, it was unbearably painful.

I don’t consider that to be a healthy relationship with hunger either.

Now, I see hunger pains as a line of communication between my mind and body.

Hunger pain is a sign that my body is still working. It’s a sign that I haven’t overeaten; it’s also a sign that I need to eat something. Hunger is my body saying “I’m ready for some fuel!”

Hunger can also be an emotion. I can get angry or resentful hunger when I think that I deserve an indulgence that I am not allowing myself right now. I can get sad hunger when I think that I deserve an indulgence to help me feel better about a loss in my life. Because, let’s face it, cake always makes things a little better.

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Hunger can be a mental awareness that “yesterday, I would be eating something at this time.” It can be an awareness of change in quantity, quality, or type of food.

“This orange is not chocolate. I’m hungry for chocolate!”

“This salad may be huge, but I’m still hungry for a burger.”

“This soup may fill me up, but I’m still not too full for candy.”

Hunger can be overwhelming. Sometimes I let it control me; I’ll reach for the easiest food to access the moment I get home from work.

Hunger is uncomfortable. Hunger is a sign of life. Hunger is a call for action. Hunger is a shared experience.

Hunger is so many things to me. In times like this, when I’m getting myself back on plan, I debate with myself about my hunger. All of those thoughts I discussed above…they all bounce around in my head. I think, in the end, it is important to feel hunger and it is important to deal with hunger appropriately. This means not letting myself get overwhelmed by hunger to the point where the hunger is making the decisions.

Whenever I feel hunger now, I ask myself where it is coming from. On days like today, the hunger is genuine. I’m hungry because my stomach is adjusting to less food. This type of hunger is hard to deal with, but basically what I’ve chosen to do is keep my body on a healthy schedule. As long as I am giving my body what it needs each day, it’s ok for me to be hungry sometimes.

My Weight Watchers leader also gave me a great way of analyzing my hunger. She suggested that, when I feel hunger, I ask myself “would I like an apple right now?” If the answer to that question is “yes,” then I am probably feeling genuine hunger. If an apple (or whatever fruit/vegetable you choose) is not appealing, then that hunger is probably emotional.

So, I’m going to give that trick a try as I get myself back on plan.

Yep.

An apple sounds pretty darn appealing right now 😉

Guess it’s time for lunch!

Apple

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When Feelings Aren’t Enough

Grump

Sometimes I find myself very frustrated in my weight loss journey because I feel like I’ve invested so much into this journey, but I’m not getting the results I want. For example, I’ve been a paying member of Weight Watchers for over 2 years. I have paid over $1,000 to Weight Watchers, which is, by far, the most money I’ve ever paid to any weight loss program EVER.

 

Uhm, excuse me, Weight Watchers… but isn’t it about time that I met my goal weight? You claim to work. I mean, your tagline is “because it works.” So, why aren’t you working?! I’m certainly paying you enough to work!

 

Before you answer that question, let me tell you another story.


When I was around 8 years old, my Sunday school studied the verse in Matthew 17 of the bible that says “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Don’t run away, I’m not about to get all preachy on you.)

 

That night around bedtime, I sneaked into my bathroom with a pen, closed and locked the door, and sat down full of determination. I placed the pen on the bathroom counter, closed my eyes, and concentrated very hard. “God,” I said, “I believe in you, and I have faith. I have so much faith!” (trust me, I could feel the faith. It was enormous. At LEAST walnut-sized). I opened my eyes and said with such authority “Pen… MOVE!”

 

The pen did not move.

 

Shocker, right?

 

I tried again. I concentrated harder, and I told God how much faith I had, and I felt this watermelon-sized faith in God, and I commanded the pen to move again! And, of course, it didn’t move.

 

This was a frustrating night for me, and I ended the night believing that I didn’t have enough faith to move the pen. Not even a mustard seed portion of faith. Eventually, I gave up, picked up the pen, and went to bed.

 

Sometimes I think that I view my weight loss journey the same way that I viewed moving that pen back when I was 8 years old: thinking faith alone will move the scale just because I feel so motivated. Here I am, investing money, time, and faith in a program, and then not understanding when that investment doesn’t lead to the scale moving DOWNward.

 

This is a pattern I’ve followed time and time again: I get super emotionally pumped and motivated, I commit excitedly to a new weight loss program, and then I run out of faith in the program, get frustrated, and quit. Sound familiar?

 

The truth of the matter is that faith is not all that is required to move mountains, including the mountain of weight I’m trying to lose. No amount of money, motivation, or emotion is going to move the scale down. Only action, following the plan’s rules, and applying it to my life 100% will make this weight move.

 

Likewise, lack of motivation does not mean that I have to stop losing weight. I can feel super awesome about my weight loss journey or I can feel completely crummy, irritated, and like giving up… it’s whether or not I choose to follow the rules of the plan that determine whether or not the journey continues downward.

 

So, I guess it’s time to remind myself that I’m a grownup now and can’t expect things to move when I tell them to move. Here’s to committing to follow the plan even when I don’t want to… even when I have no motivation. If I can do that, I know that I will eventually reach my goal.