Am I Really Hungry

One of the most common concerns of patients prior to surgery is, “will I still be hungry after surgery”? After years of struggling with diets and always feeling hungry, people just want to gain control of their eating habits. Will weight loss surgery resolve the issue of feeling hungry all the time?

The good news is that most patients find that their hunger will be diminished after surgery. What complicates the issue is that it’s often difficult to distinguish between “hunger” and “cravings”.

“Hunger” is a physiological feeling. It is the body’s way of telling you that it needs food and it is not particular as to what type of food the body needs to satisfy the hunger. A “craving” on the other hand, is a “desire” to eat and is often linked to a particular food.

Have you ever gone food shopping when you’re hungry? The “hunger” will encourage you to buy food, however, the “craving” will encourage you to go down the cookie or ice cream isle of the grocery store.

Distinguishing between hunger and cravings is crucial for success after weight loss surgery.

The best way to control cravings is to learn new ways of thinking in order to break the link between a particular situation and eating.

For example, if a person watches television when he’s bored and munches on potato chips while watching, the link between boredom, watching, and eating must be broken.

In order to do so, try documenting your cravings in a journal. Write down when and where you had the craving and what food you craved. Sometimes just recognizing that you are experiencing a craving rather than feeling hunger is helpful in enabling you to control or resist the urge to eat. Remind yourself that you “want” to eat; you don’t “need” to eat.

Once you identify what situation triggers a craving, you then need to decide how to handle the situation in the future.

The following are some examples:

  • If depression triggers cravings, lean on family and friends, join a support group, and if possible consult with a therapist.
  • If watching television triggers cravings, look for other activities that are incompatible with eating rather than watching television. Try exercising, knitting, working on a puzzle.
  • If boredom triggers cravings, take up a hobby, join an exercise class, walk your dog, read, play a game, do house chores.
  • If loneliness triggers cravings, call a friend, go online, volunteer, look for opportunities for social activities.

The goal is to weaken the associations between the specific triggers and the behavior of eating allowing one to finally gain control of his/her eating habits.

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