say no to head hunger

5 Ways To Say NO To Head Hunger After WLS

September 22, 2017

There are times when you could be bored, angry, scared, lonely, or experience a whole range of other emotions. The old habit to avoid feeling your uncomfortable feelings may have been to eat.

There are many people who have become obese due to soothing themselves with food. Clearly, this is a destructive pattern because over time the weight piles on and impacts your life in a variety of ways. Emotional eating can be an overlooked part of how you gained weight, and following surgery, if you notice yourself not losing weight, check in on your head hunger and eating routine.

After weight loss surgery, there are guidelines put into place to help people stay on track with eating. Some of these guidelines are protein first, drink your water (not within 30-minutes of eating), avoid slider foods (chips/popcorn, etc.), and no grazing in between meals.

Head Hunger Can Be An Automatic Behavior

A good point to mention here is that you may not even notice it as head hunger because it is such an automatic behavior because it's happened for so long.

When head hunger strikes, you may find yourself in your old comfortable position, standing in front of the refrigerator looking for what will soothe your emotions, and feed your nerves. Yet, when you do recognize it and follow a few simple steps, you'll be able to challenge it and release it for good!

Changing your habits and mindset around food are integral to helping you stay on track and say no to head hunger following bariatric surgery. You want to rid yourself of head hunger because this and subsequent eating can be one of the many leading causes of weight regain.

I'm including your five step process to help you overcome head hunger. This process helps you can catch yourself in the act to help you change your behavior and officially say GOODBYE to head hunger for good and help you sustain your weight loss long-term.

Are you ready? Let's go!

1. Check In With Your Emotions and Be Aware of Behaviors

When head hunger strikes, you may not notice it right away. You will notice that you have a craving, a desire, or just need to put something in your mouth. Instead of heading for the fridge soon after you "feel hungry", check in with how you are feeling.

One of my clients shared that whenever she was having a meeting with her boss, she felt the need to put something in her mouth. We discussed it and she had a huge awakening that the nervous energy surrounding the meeting with her boss was sending her to food which she used to help her avoid an emotional downward spiral.

Checking in with herself helped her to recognize this negative pattern of behavior and to help her chart a new healthy course for changing her behavior. She also checked in with WHY she was nervous and anxious around her boss, and it had to do with deeply seeded emotions around her own unworthiness and self-doubt. When she realized this, she was able to work on it and clear this so she could be more confident and as a result raised her self-esteem using other therapeutic techniques.

This first step is important for rerouting your automatic processes. When you are on autopilot, you may not even realize all that you eat during a day or in between meals, especially if you are not tracking it.

Also, a good question you may ask yourself is: What exactly am I hungry for? (hint, hint, it's not food.)

The truth is, it is never food that you are hungry for when head hunger strikes. You are typically hungry for love, attention, calm, stability, or some sense that no matter what, everything will be alright. And... you can give this all to yourself without food.

2. Feel Feelings That Come Up

As uncomfortable as this may sound, when you feel the feelings that are coming up, you are able to release them.

  • Are you fearing the boss?
  • Is it uncomfortable to follow through on a task?
  • Are you being called on to level up your game at home or work?
  • Are you having relationship difficulties that you don't want to face?

Whatever issues that may be emotionally stirring things up for you, soothing with food is not the answer.  Get a journal and write down what you are feeling. Or, call a trusted friend, advisor, or get a counselor/therapist to help you work through deeper feelings/emotions that arise.

3. Use Alternate Behaviors to Soothe Yourself

This is the opportunity that you have to shift to a new behavior. Instead of heading to the refrigerator or pulling something from your desk drawer (and subsequently into your mouth), do something different.

Some suggestions are:

  • Call a friend
  • Write in your Journal
  • Go for a walk
  • Drink some water (or tea)

Whatever you decide, know that you are changing the neurological pathways within your brain when you choose differently. Then the more consistently you do it over and over again, it gets easier over time and you'll create new habits as a result.

4. Track Your Progress and Your Meals

Knowing how you are doing in this process is very important to get to the next step. Therefore, keeping a log or tracking your food intake and when you eat will help you recognize when head hunger strikes. This is because if you start to get antsy, fidgety, or feel the need to eat, you'll recognize it's not about the physical hunger, but the mental hunger that you are experiencing.

When you track your progress, write down what you are eating, how much, and the time. There are many free online tracker tools or apps that can help you with this as well. This will also help you stay on track with your meals and caloric intake in addition to helping you stomp out head hunger.

5. Reinforce the New Behavior

Celebrating your successes is important for changing your habits. You want to notice that even when your brain said "CAKEEEE!!" you took back control and said "NO!"  Reinforce the new behavior, and celebrate with reminders on your calendar, in your date book, or even in your phone with such successes.

Post it on social media if you like! Whatever you do, you MUST reinforce that you took back control over your head hunger consciously! This helps you feel back in control and like a success. It's always important to focus on what you will gain rather than what you may lose in the short term. In this process, you are changing patterns of behaviors that you've had for years, and for some people, even DECADES!! So, give yourself some time to adjust, but keep trying!

You will succeed!

Furthermore, tracking your successes and reinforcing the behavior is HUGE following surgery. You got surgery to be a success and while surgery is a great asset, it is a TOOL to be used along with long-term behavior change to maintain your weight loss.

kristin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristin Lloyd-Moussa, MS, LPC/LMHC, PhD-Candidate is a licensed psychotherapist and certified transformational mindset mentor guiding individuals to embrace healthy habits and fuller lives after WLS. A WLS patient herself, Kristin understands the challenges of WLS patients. She is the founder of Bariatric Mindset and author of the "Bariatric Mindset Success: Live Your Best Life and Keep The Weight Off After Weight Loss Surgery​" book.​

Read more articles from Kristin!