Head Hunger vs. Physical Hunger vs. WHAT????

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel like I got an
education on the inner workings of hunger AFTER I had weight-loss surgery. What
hunger is, how I experience it and how I do (and should) respond to it are all
subjects that have consumed a lot of my thought in the last five years.
That’s probably good because, after all, if I wasn’t so
obsessed with food Bariatric Foodie would not be, but still…it can drive you a
bit batty. Like raise your hand if you’d give your left arm to have one day…just
one STINKING day…where you didn’t have to think about food at all?
I know some days I would. I’d love to either just be able to
eat intuitively and trust that what I’m eating is not going to make me gain
five pounds OR be able to listen to my body when it doesn’t want to eat and
trust that that won’t make me stall either.
But alas, we live in the real world.
So, here’s what I have to offer. A few learnings about
hunger/food intake from a 5-year post-op:
Thinking about food
and eating food are not the same thing.
This might seem like a no-brainer but somehow when I think
about food a lot I perceive myself as eating too much. I can think about food
all I want. I can watch all the Food Network I want and walk past all the
restaurants I want and stare inside the window (not that…uh…I’ve ever done that…).
The calories don’t start adding up until I put food in my MOUTH. (And thank
goodness for that. If watching Food Network had a caloric value, your girl Nik
would be about four Sumo wrestlers right now!)
Skipping a meal will
not kill you.
Beware the “I MUST EAT” fallacy. Yes, prolonged periods of
not taking in nutrition are harmful. And yes you may see a slight down-tick in
your metabolism from skipping meals. But skipping a meal is not going to kill
you. In fact, if you truly are not hungry, listening to your body might
actually be a better habit to learn. Granted, eventually you do have to eat or
take in calories (sorry, newbies!) but it’s not quite the emergency to skip a
meal as I see people make it. You’ll live. And go on to do better things.
Moderation is good…but
Here’s where getting to know yourself is a good thing. I
corresponded with a pre-op the other day (this person will likely know I’m
talking about them after reading this) who is on a liquid diet. They were
having an event for their child and there was going to be pizza. They wondered
about nuking a few pepperoni to take the edge off of cravings.
Conversely, maybe you’re a few years out and you have an
intense craving for potato chips. So you figure you’ll just get three and that’s
Well that’s great…if that’s how it goes down.
But you know yourself. Are you really ONLY going to eat
three chips? And the pre-op I mentioned…I cautioned that person to think about
if they’d ONLY eat a few pepperoni. (Turns out they did…so yay!)
“All things in moderation” is what we say. But moderation is
tricky. And it’s not always clear where moderation stops and overindulgence
begins. So my personal rule is that if I am craving a food with which, in the
past, I have exhibited poor self-control…I keep on craving it (see the first
point about thinking about vs. eating food).
Bottom line: only you know you. But here’s a good hint about
whether you should stay away from something. If you find yourself thinking, “How
bad would it be if I ate _____.” Yeah. Run, Forrest! That’s justification. And
you don’t want that.
Vets: Quit getting on
newbies about food phobias
I am the Queen of this. Yes, in a perfect world we’d all be
empowered to be able to sit in a room with our trigger foods and scarcely
notice. And yes food is just food and not some evil devil out to get us. BUT
after being where I’ve been and seeing what I’ve seen I would contend that food
phobias (if you can manage to hold onto them) can be a good and healthy thing.
So newbies (or vets), if you’re afraid of starchy carbs, I’m
resolving to no longer nag you about that. I do have a caveat, however. Know
your nutrients. Don’t lump all carbs together. They’re not all the same. And
don’t lump all protein together, not every source is worthy of your crucial
stomach space.
And lastly…
It’s not just how
much you eat but WHAT you eat that matters
I’ve always been able to eat bigger portions than my other
WLS counterparts. And I’m not going to lie and say I’ve always used that
ability for good and not evil. But for the most part I fill my pouch with good
stuff that doesn’t incur a lot of calories. I am the Queen of huge green salads
TOSSED (for better coverage) with super low-cal dressing (and seasoned with
things like cayenne pepper for flavor!). I am Queen of the carrot stick, the
cucumber slice and, of course, the pickle.
I point this out because I see a lot of “Ack! I can eat! I’m
DOOMED!” (Insert saucer-eyes) No you’re not. It just means it comes down to
your choices. Your pouch isn’t going to do all the work for you. Although rest
assured it’s still doing some of the work. I challenge any of you big pouch
people to TRY to eat what your closest male relative eats (barring a male
relative who is either a finicky eater or anorexic). You won’t be able to do
it. I guarantee it.
So if you can eat more, don’t take that as an invitation to
eat more calories.
Oh! Bonus point…
Eating more FOOD and
eating CALORIES are two different things
So it is possible to get your calories in with a small
amount of food. And it’s possible to eat a lot of food with virtually no
calories. I find myself explaining this concept to people a lot.
I know a vet who taught me ALL about getting a lot of food
out of very few calories. God bless her! Because before I met her I was
constantly ready to gnaw my own arm off. At the height of her tutelage, I was
getting no less than 150g of protein and about 7 meals for 1,200 calories. I
kid you not. I don’t necessarily advocate this way of living. I crapped out eventually.
It’s cumbersome to count the calories and be so meticulous and it’s expensive
buying the Frankenfood this method of eating sometimes requires.
But I just wanted to point this out because some people
think because they are not eating volume (and not counting calories) they are
not eating a lot of calories. Others think because they ARE eating volume (and
STILL not counting calories) that they ARE eating a lot of calories. Both are assumptions
that are equally likely to be untrue. Log your food every once in a while,
Foodies, it’s illuminating! 


  1. I've not had weight loss surgery, but doing the liquid diet last year with my daughter before her surgery got me onto a diet and I'm losing weight for the first time in 40 years. Yay!!

    Anyway, I think this comment is absolutely brilliant and applies to me just as much as anyone post surgery. "So my personal rule is that if I am craving a food with which, in the past, I have exhibited poor self-control…I keep on craving it."

    I really enjoy your blog and your recipes.

  2. Terry T in Galv T in Galv

    Not sure if my computer ate my first attempt to post so, I will try again! Once again, you are inside My Head on this one and it's a scary place, right! Thanks for the insight!!

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