General Diet Plans and Questions - Dealing with hunger: without food

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02-13-2013, 08:15 AM
I've been thinking a lot about hunger. I've been searching the web a bit to find out more about hunger. I fall on a lot of advice about how to curb hunger, keep hunger at bay, offset hunger. But I am more interested in the concept of facing hunger and accepting that the road to true health (for me) will lead me to making peace with hunger. All my life I've bee running away from hunger, battling hunger, making war with hunger. I'm scared of hunger and I don't know why. This is not so much an emotional need, this is a physiological need for me to come to terms with something very scary - HUNGER. I ask myself these questions:

- Why am I so scared of being hungry?
- What's the worst that will happen to me if I experience hunger?
- What am I trying to not feel by eating?

Just yesterday I was preparing dinner, hubby was out on errands and was expected home at a certain time. He was late and at that time I was hungry. But as I waited for him to get home I started getting angry. He wasn't late to dinner, in fact I was trying to push dinner a bit earlier because I was so hungry. When he came home I was seething and saying hurtful things to him although he really did nothing wrong. He knows I've been struggling lately with my diet and sugar detox so he's very understanding. But as I think back on it now I see that my hunger drove me to anger. I know it's bad but I'm glad I held off eating and didn't munch on crackers. I think I need to feel more of this, I need to address hunger and the issues that arise with it. I can't keep burying how I feel with food.

If anyone knows any good sites or books about dealing with the issue of hunger I'd be appreciative. Not just "drink lots of water" and "don't skip breakfast" because those are technical things to ward off hunger, not the issue here. So far I found this, which seems interesting although a little bodybuilding/men specific.

02-13-2013, 09:57 AM
Your poor husband! Living with a woman who doesn't eat when she's hungry! :?: Call me crazy, but I'd look for a different plan. Something that lets you eat yogurt, or fruit, or a cup of soup when you're hungry.

I'm not trying to sound like a smart aleck, but you shouldn't be going hugry - because you'll end up binging and feeling like a failure.

Good luck.

02-13-2013, 10:17 AM
There are chapters in The Beck Diet Solution dealing with hunger, recognizing that hunger is not an emergency, that there will be other times to eat. It's a cognitive behavior therapy approach to dieting, so hunger is just one of the covered issues.

One of the exercises is to skip lunch--not eat from breakfast to dinner, and keep track of how much discomfort you're really in each hour from not having eaten, where you've developed a discomfort scale. My "no discomfort" level was surfing the web and my #10 level was "the week before and after back surgery". It helps put discomfort into perspective.

I have to admit that I did not do the hunger exercise (I'm diabetic and can't go that long without eating), but it still made a lot of sense to me, and I use the concept of "hunger is not an emergency" when I get hungry when it really isn't time to eat yet--when I've eaten recently, when I'm going to eat soon, and limit "must eat NOW" to when I can tell I'm about to get the shakes.

I definitely use the "how much discomfort am I in" process to put hunger into perspective, as in "This is about a 3--I can wait this out and distract myself with some other activity."

Also, from a physical point of view, when I was super hungry before DH made it home from work, I ate and he heated his up when he got home. I had to incorporate a 3:00 pm snack into my day in order to make it through to 6:30 when he gets home from work. So, you might want to think about whether you actually are getting enough food--is your lunch enough to get you through to dinner time or do you need to adjust your afternoon eating in some way?

Note: The Beck Diet Solution is not a "read a chapter here and there" book--it's a day by day learn new skills book.

Good luck!

the shiv
02-13-2013, 10:24 AM
Yes! This! Exactly!!

I seem to talk about the hunger thing a lot on the Intuitive Eating thread, and on my blog. I do go on a bit, so I'll give you as short a version as I can... ;)

When I started IE, I was ravenously hungry... All. The. Time. Before I cut down on the processed sugar, I thought this was normal. It's not! If it makes you feel sick, makes you want to pass out, and makes you irritable, staring at your body screaming "but I just FED you!!! What do you want from me??!?!" That is hunger gone wrong.

What I'm doing now: I crave protein & veggies, so I eat those. I can go HOURS without even thinking about food. After about 5 hrs, I get the idea that I need to eat, about an hour later my stomach catches up and starts complaining. But it's a nice, gentle hunger. I can live with it. I'm hungry now, and I don't feel like killing anyone. Previously that would be unheard of. I'm convinced my hormones where out of whack, I was probably pre-diabetic. Who knows. Another thing I noticed:

Crazy hunger originates above the waist. Real hunger originates below the waist. Maybe that's specific to me, but look out for where exactly your hunger is coming from after you eat certain foods. You might experience the same thing.

Something else I thought, is that we have all totally internalised the "hunger is bad" message. Crazy hunger IS bad, but maybe that's down to how our bodies react to our screwed up diet, where unless you cook from scratch, your food is likely full of **** as well as food (ps: I can eat processed food now, just not in enormous quantities. Thankfully I no longer want to, usually). Real hunger isn't bad, it's just a hormonal signal telling your brain to eat. Just like tiredness is a hormonal signal telling your brain to sleep. I'm not saying starving yourself is a brilliant thing to do, not by a long shot. Your body and your brain need nutrients to function effectively. Just plain not eating is not worth it. What I mean is... You can go hungry for a short time without committing homicide, if you learn what foods your body likes, processes easily, and eat them most of the time. As in, at least one meal. If you're getting the psychotic hunger it's not because you haven't eaten ENOUGH food, it's because you haven't eaten THE FOOD YOUR BODY NEEDS. And I can bet you my left leg it doesn't "need" a box of donuts.

So in short (once again I tried and failed at writing a short post...) I like the link, I have bookmarked it. All the talk of hormones is interesting and echoes what my experiences are. Being hungry isn't life-threatening. It's not a perpetual state you want to be in, but temporarily? It's nothing to be afraid of. See how your body reacts to different foods. Pay attention to where your hunger is coming from in your body. There may be tweaks you can make to your diet according to how your body reacts to different foods. It is possible to be temporarily hungry without being angry about it. It might just take a little experimentation.

Thanks for bringing this up, and I hope you find the answers you need! :)

02-13-2013, 10:26 AM
There is bored hunger and true hunger. If I'm hungry I eat. The anger you felt just wasn't emotional. it was chemical. your body was sending signals that it needed fuel.

My way of combatting it is to eat when my body wants to eat. It means that 50% of the time I eat dinner before my family is ready for dinner. I just cannot wait until 6:30 pm to eat dinner. I get snappy, I eat snacks - all in trying to avoid eating. Well, why am I avoiding eating when I'm hungry? So, I eat my dinner about 50% of the time around 4 pm. I'm not hungry later and I just sit with the family when they eat at 6:30 pm. They are happy. I'm happy and all is good.

02-13-2013, 10:28 AM
Oh, and when I'm hopped up on carbs? not eating could mean some pretty nasty physiological stuff happening - shakes, sweating, etc. I MUST EAT if my blood sugar crashes - but eat protein/fat.

Once I detox the sugars, I don't get that way - ever.

02-13-2013, 10:39 AM
I found this book very interesting and very helpful in putting hunger in perspective for me...

02-14-2013, 05:25 AM
When gaining, I never felt hunger or only rarely. I ate before I was hungry, I ate past satiety. I ate and ate and ate. I ate because I was bored and unhappy. I was afraid of hunger.

On old diets, I used to tell myself to 'embrace' the hunger and I starved myself. I was hungry ALL THE TIME. Truly physically hungry, ravenous. I was punishing my fatness with hunger.

Now I'm trying to do intuitive eating. I'm still learning. But I'm not afraid of hunger anymore. I'm hungry now. I'm feeling a bit lazy so don't want to fix myself something, but I will and I will eat. One of the things that Paul McKenna teaches is a hunger scale. You want to never get above "at or below pleasantly full" and you never want to get into "ravenously hungry". Stay in that middle bit. This doesn't mean that you'll never be hungry, it just means you'll never be hungry for long. And once you know you can eat, hunger becomes much easier to deal with.

02-14-2013, 08:01 AM
Thank you for your responses, they are all fascinating. I am beginning to realize that hunger affects us all in various ways. Some of us are more scared of hunger than others, I've always been extremely scared of hunger and like the shiv mentioned, we are programmed to think that hunger is BAD. Look up "dealing with hunger" on the internet and you'll get suggestions about how to curb hunger, drink water, eat an apple, carry a protein snack with you etc. I don't think those suggestions are wrong - they've actually helped me greatly! But I'm looking deeper into hunger, trying to understand my hunger more, and trying to live in sync with it, not in fear of it.

I've had BED for 20yrs. I know the risks associated with hunger. But I've read so many books, visited so many therapists, and delved into nutrition for so long that I think I'm finally learning to understand that my binging and over eating is brought on by a few factors - triggers, habits, and hormonal responses to processed food. Now that I understand that I feel like I have the tools to help me combat that.

But no matter what, hunger will be part of this process. If I respond differently to my triggers I will feel discomfort (hunger), if I change my habits I will feel discomfort (hunger), if I eliminate processed food I will feel imabalanced (hunger). I will have to address the issue, and part of my failures in the past is because of hunger and my unwillingness to address it. I'm not saying I'm going to go hungry or that I'm going to be fasting. But I need to experience it in a conscious way.

For example, I've been recently doing a little yoga and one of the principles is to embrace a posture even if it feels uncomfortable. There is a great sense of humanity and maturity in embracing hunger, of connecting to my most primal self. Even if it causes anger, or discomfort, or crying or whatever it brings. Bring it on. I'm ready to face my enemy. And like you all say, hunger is not an emergency. It's just a signal. My signals are mixed up right now, I don't even know what real hunger feels like. I don't know if it's emotional or physical or mental or what. Right now it just feels like torture but unless I feel it I won't know what I'm dealing with.

I learn so much from observing my husband. He has a normal relationship with food. If I tell him that dinner will be a littler later than usual he doesn't sweat it. He just says ok and he waits, even if he feels hungry. He doesn't get angry, or ravenous, or upset or pick a fight with me. I want to face hunger the same way. I want to find it bearable like he does. That's what will make me a normal person rather than a disordered eater.

02-16-2013, 08:33 AM
Dealing with my hunger is getting easier. It's been only a few days but I can already feel like the monster is being tamed. What's helping me a lot is having meals and snacks planned. I know exactly what I'm going to eat for lunch, exactly what's for dinner, and I have nutritious snacks available. The only nutrition rules I follow is to eat raw foods every day at every meal, avoid wheat products (for now), and control portions of carby things like rice, potatoes or corn. For sure I'm getting hunger pangs but I try not to give them too much thought, I find that by keeping myself busy they do subside. It's helping me learn that it's just craving, not real hunger.

When it does turn into real hunger I say to myself "Let's deal with this hunger like an adult and give my body something it could use" instead of turning into a petulant child who must have cheetos. I wouldn't give in to my son if he demanded cheetos, so I won't do it to myself.

I am also pushing my limit on eating, I'm trying to avoid constant snacking even if it is on apples or carrots. I've been going on periods of 6hrs without eating between lunch and dinner, intentionally avoiding snacking during the dreaded 3pm-4pm period which usually messes up whatever eating plan I'm following. I'm getting better at it.

After dinner is usually a bad time for me too. Hubby goes to bed early and I stay up watching the Housewives (lol) and I've spent plenty of evenings curled up with junk food. Now I've been treating myself with one serving of gummy vitamins or one piece of dark chocolate instead. A girl's gotta have her chocolate!

02-16-2013, 08:32 PM
You could try the Beck Diet Solution which focuses on using CBT techniques to assist people whoa are dieting. There is a current thread on the forum from people currently using it. It does have a focus on challenging our relationship with food including learning to accept hunger as natural and not to be feared or avoided, just listened to.

Great question and great responses, well done!

02-17-2013, 08:46 AM
Thanks, I have the Beck book, been about halfway through it and stopped I can't remember why. I'm trying to diet but not diet, think about food but not give it too much thought. More than anything I'm just pretending to eat like a normal person does or how I envision a normal woman of my age to eat. I suspect that most women my age who are naturally thin watch their weight but don't give it too much thought. They've learned to live on less food and naturally gravitate towards healthier options and love those healthier foods. Last night for example I was visiting a friend who has 2 young toddlers. As I was leaving to go home she got on the phone to order dinner for herself from a local restaurant. I overheard her asking for a spinach salad without the bacon. A big salad has never been my idea of take out (more like fried rice or a big pizza) but by opening my ears and realizing that normal people eat more healthily I can start to make those changes for myself.

I just know that whichever diet plan or philosophy I adopt that there is no way to avoid hunger or the perception of hunger. I'm facing my fear head on. I'm learning to cope with that fear, dealing with the emotions and physical pangs it brings with it and then satisfying whatever it needs rather than indulging in it. It's like when you have a whiny crying child who is begging for a toy. Rather than giving in and buying them the toy (which spoils them) I'm letting him cry it out and work it until he comes to his senses and gets over it.

Misti in Seattle
02-17-2013, 09:26 AM
Well, I will go out on a limb here and say something different than most others. :) But I have learned that I do NOT always need to eat when I am hungry. Instant gratification has become so much of a part of our culture that most of us pretty much expect it.

However, it sounds as if you are waiting until you are so hungry that you do need to eat something. When I first started this, I would always keep a bowl of chopped fresh veggies or fruit out on my kitchen counter. That was the "free bowl" and I could eat it any time I wanted. It was very helpful because if I was genuinely hungry, there was something to eat. If I was just wanting food, I would pass.