hungry for more

Hungry for More: Lose Weight From the Inside Out

June 28, 2021

How Do You Experience Hunger?

Our emotional hunger, our spiritual hunger, is experienced viscerally, like a gnawing sensation in our gut. It feels similar to physiologic hunger, but it is not the food we hunger for. Rather, we are hungry for self-love and self-acceptance, for belonging, connection, approval, presence, and autonomy.

In the fifteen years plus that I have practiced medical weight loss, I have always known this to be true. So while I prescribe medications and dietary strategies to help people lose weight, I know that spiritual hunger cannot be ignored when it comes to this work. Because when it is, no tool or drug, no supplement or surgery will help, nothing will help, not in the long run, that is.

Never has this been more true than over this past year as the pandemic forced us to navigate uncertainty, sadness, boredom, grief, listlessness, anxiety, fear, and collective trauma.

As a weight loss physician, providing telemedicine from home, I was seeing this unfold en masse as social isolation and difficult emotions were kicking up old wounds and dormant hungers. Given my privilege to talk to patients from my living room in the midst of such trying circumstances, I was reminded that hunger is universal.

Are You Hungry For More?

Hunger for certainty, self-acceptance, connection, and meaning is a universal human experience. This notion is backed up by science, as emotional eating is hardwired in our neurobiology.

In fact, difficult emotions literally hijack our hunger hormones. Science demonstrates that when we are stressed, hunger hormones which normally respond to food intake, ignore our food intake and promote a feeling of hunger despite having eaten.

Unfortunately, we are not taught to understand this hunger, nor are we allowed to tolerate it. We are not taught to embrace ourselves in times of need. Rather, we are conditioned to suppress and reject our hunger.

Ironically, this only magnifies the fear that it cannot be satisfied, averting our attention from the invitation that it presents—the invitation to accept our common humanity with understanding and self-compassion.

You're Not Alone, Shared Experiences of Being Hungry For More

A longtime patient of mine saw me weekly. By the time we transitioned to virtual visits, Craig had already lost 65 pounds—the most weight loss he had ever achieved. He was pleased, and I was too, pleased yet cautious.

After over a decade of this work, I knew that no one ever fully arrives. No one loses 65 pounds to the sound of blaring trumpets and confetti, at which point they ride off into the sunset to the sounds of happily ever after. Arriving would mean our work is done, and we all know that our work is never really done.

At first, he continued to do well despite job loss and family illness. And then, one week, he shared that he had binged. My attempt to alleviate his shame went unseen. I wished to share that James, the last patient I had spoken to, was struggling. So were Sherry, Cindy, and Joe. I wished to share that I, too was struggling, but opted against self-disclosure.

The truth is our needs, wants, and desires, our longing, heartbreak, grief, struggles, and our worries are the same. It is, of course, from a place of shared humanity that we have the courage to dig and explore our own psyche. My hope is just that, by reading the stories in my book, you too will recognize that your experiences are shared; you too will know that you are not alone. There is great power in that validation and the vulnerability that it allows.

Your New Norm and Self-Care

As we all contemplate re-entering into normal, we are also contemplating what our normal should look like. Many of us are rethinking our jobs and our relationships. We are reconsidering how we spend our time and who we spend our time with. In essence, people are getting in touch with their true values. This is exactly the process that underlies understanding our hunger.

We all know physiologic hunger is just one reason we eat. Hunger, of course, is emotional, and overweight or not, our relationship with food is symbolic of our relationship with ourselves.

How do we care for ourselves? Are we worthy of the time and attention required for that care? Do you provide yourself with true self-care? What boundaries are necessary to support healthy relationships with others and with ourselves? What true longing is our desire for food signaling? Are you taking stock of what's really important?

Our relationship with food gives us an opportunity to consider these questions and understanding our hunger will allow us to nourish ourselves in the ways we truly need. The process starts with awareness.

Outside of true physical hunger, find out about your hunger. The next time you feel that gnawing ache in your gut, ask yourself, what is it that I am truly hungry for?

hungry for more
Adrienne Youdim


Dr. Adrienne Youdim, is an internist who specializes in medical weight loss, clinical nutrition and the metabolic support of bariatric surgery patients. Dr. Youdim currently sees patients in her private practice in Beverly Hills. Her new book is "Hungry for More: Stories and Science to Inspire Weight Loss from the Inside Out". She also hosts the Health Bite podcast and is founder of Dehl Nutrition, a complete line of nutritional supplements made with functional nutrients to promote health and wellbeing.