head hunger will pass

Head Hunger: Hang On, It Will Pass

April 2, 2013

Head hunger (or emotional eating) is not true physical hunger so it is important not to feed it. Many of the triggers come from an emotion or uncomfortable situation. Common emotions that can flip the switch to turn on head hunger and emotional eating are boredom, anxiety, anger, sadness, and others.

Uncomfortable situations can range from feeling powerless in a situation to being physically or mentally tired. When head hunger is talking or screaming at you, hang on...it will pass. The question is, what do you do while you are hanging on, waiting for it to pass? You can use many ways to avoid emotional eating. There are many strategies that you can use to outlast it. Think ahead and create a checklist of strategies when the hunger in your head is screaming at you.

Checklist to Use and Add Items For You to Use

  • Make a phone call. Call a trusted family member or friend, a fellow support group member, or post on one of the message boards on ObesityHelp for support.
  • Brush your teeth. It is easier not to eat to avoid spoiling that clean, fresh feeling in your mouth after you've brushed your teeth.
  • Eat healthy. Eat a healthy snack such as fresh, raw vegetables, a sugar-free Popsicle, or jello.
  • Get active. Move your body with an activity that will take you out of the environment you’re currently in.  Do some jumping jacks, toe touches, sit-ups, anything to get your heart pumping and your endorphins humming.
  • Drink it away. Drink some water. It’ll count towards your water intake for the day and suppress your appetite. Many times thirst can mask itself as “hunger” so drinking fulfills many cures for head hunger.
  • Reverse log in your food. Write down what you’d like to eat right now. Write down everything that comes to mind as to what you imagine you would eat. Write down the calories for each item, carbs, sugar, and fat. Add it up. By the time you do this and see how much you've saved yourself by writing about it versus eating it, you’ll be happy you allowed your head hunger to be silenced by all the calories you saved yourself.
  • Get in an argument...with yourself! When the voice of your head hunger tells you that you deserve to eat this or that, intervene. If you heard that same voice talking to a friend or family member you would intervene, right? Do the same thing for yourself too. Tell that voice you deserve far more than stuffing junk in your body because you have set a new, higher standard for yourself. Outtalk and outlast your head hunger by standing up for yourself.
  • Pinch yourself. Acupressure points for appetite are found in your ears and earlobes. Pinch them for 10 seconds and see if the cravings pass. Repeat as necessary.
  • Sherlock Holmes the source. Discover what is under your urge to eat. What emotion(s) are you feeling? Is there a situation or a person that is causing you to feel uncomfortable? Identify it and brainstorm things you can do to stay in control of your eating.
  • Who’s driving your bus? Ask yourself... who is driving your habits and your healthy lifestyle? Are you going to allow a temporary episode of head hunger to hijack your healthy lifestyle or are you going to wait it out and allow it to pass and stay in the driver’s seat?
  • Ride the wave of head hunger. Many times we give in to head hunger cravings because we think they will build in intensity until they become overwhelming. Try it. You’ll find out that it isn’t true. Food cravings from head hunger are like waves — they build, crest and, and then disappear. If you surf the urge, you have a great opportunity to show yourself that you can ride the wave of head hunger successfully and won’t crash and burn!
  • Look at your weight loss surgery scrapbook of photographs. Specifically, look at your pre-op photos. See how far you've come. Do you really want to take a step backward by feeding your head hunger?
  • Fast forward. Play out in your head how awesome you’ll feel if you don't give in to the head hunger. Play out in your head the flip side if you do give in. If you feed your head hunger, you’ll feel guilt, shame, remorse, and regret. If you don’t give in, you’ll feel happy, proud of yourself, and regenerated in your habits of living a healthy lifestyle.
  • You'll feel great about yourself. If you outlast your head hunger, you will get stronger and better able to curb cravings and impulsive eating. The propensity to give in to your head hunger will lessen each time you don’t give in and eat, and allow it to pass. You strengthen yourself and commitment to your healthy lifestyle rather than indulge that voice of head hunger. Just remember, you are stronger than your head hunger.
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cathy wilson


Cathy Wilson, PCC, BCC, had RNY surgery in 2001 and lost 147 pounds. Cathy is a regular contributor to the OH Blog and authored the "Mind Matters" column in ObesityHelp Magazine. Cathy is a licensed pilot and loves flying. She is a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC).

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