The Greatest Challenge: Dealing with Head Hunger

By: Susan Epstein, MS, RD, CDN

Statistically, the greatest concern of pre-op bariatric patients is dealing with hunger. “Will I feel hungry after surgery?” “Will I be able to keep hunger pangs at bay?” This article will address these issues and will give you a few suggestions on how to deal if hunger strikes.

For our purposes, let’s divide hunger into two categories, head hunger and physical hunger. Head hunger is a desire to eat even when you don’t physically need food. Head hunger may come from triggers such as boredom, stress, loneliness or may be caused by the environment you’re in. For example, if everyone around you is eating, you want to eat too.
Physical hunger is when your body is telling you that you are actually hungry. One of the sources of physical hunger is the hormone called “Grehlin”. This hormone is secreted in the stomach and increases our appetite. After the Sleeve Gastrectomy, the part of the stomach that secretes this hormone is removed. As a result, significant amounts of grehlin are removed as well. The less grehlin in your system, the less hungry you feel.

If you start to feel hungrier, the first step would be to try to determine which type of hunger it is. If you decide that it is physical hunger, here are a few points to consider:

  1. Remember to eat proteins first: Proteins help us to feel satisfied. After weight loss surgery, the amount of food a person consumes is greatly reduced. It can be challenging to eat enough protein. Include chicken, turkey, fish, egg whites, and Greek yogurt to help reduce hunger.
  2. Have a set eating schedule: Do not graze throughout the day. A consistent meal pattern will help control hunger and will ensure that enough protein is consumed. Don’t skip meals and try to eat every 3-4 hours. Eating 3 meals and 1 snack per day will help you from feeling hungry.
  3. Drink enough water: Sipping water throughout the day will prevent dehydration and will also help control hunger. Many times if your body isn’t getting enough fluids, you may feel as though you are hungry. This in turn leads to snacking. Try drinking water instead. Water is also important to prevent constipation and it is needed to deliver nutrients to cells. Although sugar free beverages are acceptable as well, water is really your best choice.
    If you’re feeling hunger, don’t panic. Try to get back to basics by focusing on scheduled meals and snacks, eating adequate protein, and staying well hydrated.

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