Do you ever wake up with ravenous hunger that doesn’t seem to go away, no matter what you do or eat?! Those days when you can’t get food off your brain and it seems to take captive your thoughts? Maybe you eat a meal only to find you are hungry shortly thereafter. I get those days too and they are NOT FUN! But, not only are they dreadful, they can be downright scary, especially to anyone that is losing weight or has lost weight and is trying to keep it off. Our ‘security gland’ is triggered and we can easily feel out of control because we may not know HOW to turn off the hunger signal.
For some, these days might occur periodically, around or during their menstrual cycle and for others, it might blindside them and happen without any forewarning or signals- when they least expect it. The most frustrating part I find is that these days of endless hunger have the potential to knock us out of some healthy self-talk and thought patterns and back into a cycle of dieting. That is because when this happens, we can automatically begin thinking about what we have to do to self-control the situation and go back to what we used to do when we felt out of control. For most of us, that means tellings ourselves “No”, restricting and trying to barter with ourselves that if we can go a specific amount of time, then we can reward ourselves with eating.
Let me honest and real- I don’t like these days any more than you do. Sometimes I am incredibly frustrated and other times even mad that what I am eating is not satisfying my grumbling stomach. I don’t want to think about food all day long and on some of these days, I do.
But in reality, I believe that trying to reign in our hunger, pretend it’s not there, ignore it or just get mad at its lingering presence is not only ineffective but actually the opposite approach we should have. I believe our bodies are complex and amazing! They give us signals all the time, but we can abuse them by ignoring these signals or overriding them. Instead of getting mad at the feeling of hunger, give thanks that your body communicates information to you! Have you ever thought that they are not wrong but right? Maybe they are reminders to nourish your body, feed it wholesome foods and beverages and celebrate the beauty and amazing systems that work intrinsically in a beautiful dance.
When we consider other body signals like pain, inflammation, dizziness, swelling, lethargy and more, we want to be aware of these so we can take appropriate action. But when hunger comes, if it is not predictable or what we want to feel, it is so very easy to demonize it, like it is the bad guy that comes to steal our victory. But not so!
Hunger can feel like an unwelcome house guest that has moved into your abode and you can’t kick out, but the truth is that it is simply a signal, a physiological signal, and we, yes, you and I, get to determine the response. Will you choose to allow it to ruin your day, develop a bad attitude or get mad? I have. But as I have continued to learn more about the true meaning of mindfulness and valuing my beautifully imperfect body, I have begun to be more kind to myself and change my self-talk.
Here are a few things I do on my “hunger days” and how I turn an event that has the potential to derail my healthful habits into an opportunity to strengthen them:
O1. Drink Plenty of Water
02. Include Lean Protein At All Meals and Snacks
Sometimes hunger is fueled by inadequate protein at meals. You can include lean animal protein (fish, poultry, beef), low-fat dairy (greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, milk, kefir) OR plant protein (beans, edamame/soy beans, tofu, tempeh, nuts). If I grab a snack of whole grain crackers, I am bound to get hungry within a few minutes without the protein. Protein takes longer for digestion as opposed to carbohydrate and therefore has the potential to keep you satisfied much longer. So, make protein a priority! For more than a dozen healthy snack ideas, check out this post and download the FREE PRINTABLE at the end- No more boring snacks!
03. Increase the Veggies
While crunchy carbs (pretzels, crackers, cereal, chips) are easy and convenient snacks, the calories add up quickly, even those that are whole grain or made with beans and lentils. Instead, allow yourself endless veggies (raw or cooked). If you like dip, try adding some dry ranch or herb and spice blend into low-fat yogurt for a low-calorie dip that is rich in protein, calcium and vitamin D. I also like to make a big salad for at least 1 meal each day and load it up with a variety of colorful vegetables. There is no guilt or shame in supplying the body with nourishing vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients from veggies. These are some super easy ways to add veggies to meals your family already loves. I remember working with a patient that talked about eating a big bowl of spaghetti squash with low-fat marinara sauce on her hungry days. She felt incredibly satisfied at the end of the meal! Eat up!
04. Get Out of the House
If seeing the kitchen or lunchbox is a trigger for you, after eating a nourishing meal, go for a walk, run errands, clean out a closet or focus your attention on others. There is something incredibly satisfying in serving and loving on people. Maybe your soul and spirit need some nourishing too!
05. Speak Truth
Find a scripture, verse, phrase, poem, song or quote that you want to meditate on that reminds you that you are valuable, have an incredible body and are one-of-a-kind. Maybe you need to write or type out this encouragement and put it in spot (or several spots) that you will see often to remind you of your worth.
06. Remind Yourself that this is Only a Day
Tomorrow will be different. Next week will not be the same. Your hunger is not your enemy. You don’t have to fight back. It is simply a signal. You choose your response.
Make a commitment to respond to your body with love and kindness, for it is only one you will have.
TRUTH: “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it.” –Psalm 139:14 (TLB)