A reader emailed My Bariatric Life and asked bariatric dietician Elizabeth Anderson for her perspective on head hunger. Learn how to get your question answered.
I am concerned about head hunger. Mainly, what to do when these cravings strike. I know all the standard answers, but many of these are not practical when I wake up at 3 am and want ice cream. Sometimes I can convince myself that I need it. —Peggy
Stomach Hunger vs. Head Hunger
This may seem like a straightforward question but it brings up several more for me.
First, is it a craving or are you truly hungry?
Review your meal schedule and daily protein intake. Are you eating three (3) “bariatric meals” per day? Are you consuming at least 60 grams of protein daily? Are you eating at least every 5-hours?
If it’s not stomach hunger, which doesn’t usually occur in the first year after weight loss surgery, is it ‘head hunger?” Meaning, does the idea of a certain food sound fantastic?
If you’re like, ‘yeah, this might be head hunger.’ You have a few choices.
- Have two bites. That satisfies the true lust for taste and likely won’t cause dumping.
- Ask yourself, what are you really ‘hungry’ for?
When I was first grappling with my eating disorder, I found author and God’s gift to women, Geneen Roth [view books by Geneen Roth on Amazon].
Geneen has recovered from compulsive overeating and helped thousands recover themselves through her seminars and books.
You can find more about Geneen Roth on her website, GeneenRoth.com.
I also highly recommend working with a trusted therapist to uncover what your true cravings are and help you discover healthy ways to satisfy them.
Now back to my big list of questions.
Importance of Deep Sleep
What’s up with your sleep?
Is it common for you to wake up wide-eyed at 3 am?
Are you using a CPAP machine for sleep apnea? Does the mask still fit well after weight loss? It might be time to get an evaluation at the sleep lab. Find out more about sleep apnea.
False Beliefs about Food
Third, I’m curious when you say, “Sometimes I can convince myself I need it,” (the ice cream).
I’ve heard this before from clients who have a strong mental connection between eating, food, energy levels, well-being and health.
Oftentimes, they were taught from an early age that if they didn’t eat certain foods or enough of those foods, they might get sick, get a headache or feel unwell.
This belief can cause internal conflict after weight loss surgery.
For example, “I’ll be unhealthy if I don’t eat a hearty portion of meat and potatoes every day but I’ll throw up now if I do?”
I don’t mean to be a broken record but this is yet another area where a skillful therapist is worth their weight in gold.
Solutions for Head Hunger
I wish it were easier. I wish I could easily answer your question.
The good news is that by taking a more global look at the issue, we’re more likely to uncover the true issue and solve it.
Peggy, I recommend the following:
- Check in with a good bariatric dietitian to review your diet.
- Check in with your health care provider about any sleep issues.
- If head hunger sounds like your challenge, a therapist is your best next step. Here are some tips for finding a great therapist.
Eating, food and weight loss surgery are a complex combination and deserve thorough and individual consideration.
You deserve a plan specific to your unique needs.
Until next time, take good care of YOU!
Content is the opinion of the author and does not constitute or is a replacement for medical advice.