Anyone hungry now?
Head hunger happens all the time, often with the slightest provocation. It has little to do with our body’s immediate need for fuel. It has everything to do with our sense of smell and the abundance of savory and sweet foods in our environment. It’s a habit we’ve reinforced over the years. For some of us, it contributes to obesity and other health issues. For others, it complicates mental health conditions. Head hunger promises to make us feel better, but it often delivers misery instead.
Coping with head hunger is a fact of life, even for those of us who have had weight loss surgery. Our surgery has given us a physical tool for our weight loss journey, but we need to supplement it with mental tools. I didn’t fully understand this need before my vertical sleeve gastrectomy. Yes, I believed my head hunger would magically disappear with the majority of my stomach. It didn’t. The voice still comes and goes, usually reaching top volume on stressful days. It lies to me, insisting that I want food I could not possibly digest at this point in my journey.
How do I cope with my head hunger? How do I keep it from derailing my weight loss or jeopardizing my health?
I’m going to answer with a cliche: I take it one day at a time. This is not intuitive for me because I am not a “one day at a time” kind of girl. I’ve learned, though, that the harder I fight head hunger, the harder it fights back. Brute force won’t stop the intrusive thoughts of food. This is why I must take it one day at a time, with compassionate self-care.
When head hunger hits, I have many options for taking care of myself without reaching into the refrigerator. I can exercise for half an hour to see if the cravings pass. I can spend time with my kids. I can lose myself in a good book or movie. I can learn a new crochet stitch. I can start a new art or writing project. The actual activity isn’t important, though. The important thing is to understand when hunger is mental hunger and not a physical need for food.
Understanding what head hunger means to you and what triggers it is the first step in coping with it. After you know this, you can create a personal plan for the day-to-day activities that will help you avoid overeating or eating when your body doesn’t need fuel.
Keeping a journal can help you sort out the different physical and emotional feelings associated with head hunger. Talking to other people who understand these feelings can help, too. Giving yourself time and space to deal with the feelings instead of beating yourself up for them is crucial. Above all, showing yourself kindness every day is the most effective way to minimize the influence head hunger has over you.