Learning my Hunger

I’ve reached the end of Day 3 now on my new Optifast program. I think I’ve figured out one of the things I’m supposed to be paying attention to and learning on this program.

First let me tell you about the other Medical Weight Management (MWM) program I am familiar with due to 10 years of (more-or-less) success with it. On the HMR program they’re all about “more is better.” They give you the shakes, entrees and bars, which are very small portions with very low calories, and tell you to go to town. You can have as much as you want of these items, because you can’t possible eat enough of it to stop losing weight. This approach aids retention and compliance by never allowing you to feel hungry for long, hence you don’t feel tempted to go off-program.

But, over the years I’ve been noticing that as I’ve worked on maintaining with their system, I have perhaps over-practiced this system. More Is Better is fabulous until you are eating fruit anytime you feel even the slightest pang of hunger (hmm…or is that boredom? Sometimes it’s not so clear). Out in the Real World of eating when you can have anything you want, and you’ve trained your body that you never have to go hungry, well, you can get into some trouble. Maybe 50 pounds worth…

On Optifast you get a set number of Meal Replacements (MR) every day. I get six. Six meals each day, totaling 960 calories. No more, no less. You know what I’m starting to become very familiar with? Hunger. I’ve been hungry for three days now. This is uncomfortable, it’s hard, it’s distracting. But it is also causing me to get extraordinarily familiar with and able to evaluate the shades of hunger I feel. Because I can’t just eat something whenever I feel the slightest pang. I need to be calculating, and determine whether or not this particular hunger I’m feeling is strong enough to burn one of my meals for the day. I have to take several factors into account. Has it been long enough since my last meal? How many hours are left in the day? If I eat now, will I have enough meals left to get to the end without a meltdown? Can I ride this out for a while longer?

I suspect that this skill, which I’ll be honing over the next 4-6 months, is something that may serve me well later.

They say you learn what you need when you need it. HMR was all about learning proper portion sizes, counting calories, finding exercise I liked, and picking the right food with a lower caloric density. I suspect that Optifast will be all about becoming familiar with hunger, learning to  to wield it, control it, and eat strategically.

Or I could be completely wrong and the hunger will go away after a week or so. We’ll see!

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6 Responses to “Learning my Hunger”

  1. Yoko Says:

    You know, you are so right. I am having to face my own problem with portion size and eating whenever I feel the slightest pang. Yup. Busted. Thanks, Laina, for posting that and bringing it to the forefront of my mind. I’m swimming, doing pilates, yoga, and cycling and not losing any weight. Yup, we all know why. Still eating too much. I’m going to try a different take. I’m going to eat everything I have been eating but really watch the portions and frequency. Thanks again, Laina. As always, you inspire me. ❤ ❤

  2. Caron Says:

    For most of my life, I never knew a minute’s hunger because I didn’t wait to be hungry before I ate. During the past ten years, I’ve become familiar with real hunger before I eat, but I will still eat out of boredom or just because it is time to eat. Sometimes I kind of like the hungry feeling, but I can’t explain why exactly.

    I have found a useful trick that I use at night and that is having a cup of herbal tea a little while after dinner if I think I need to eat more and I know that is not a good idea. Somehow, the tea is a signal that the kitchen is closed and eating is done for the day. If you are allowed tea and like it, you might try it as well. 🙂

  3. Kaaren Says:

    I’m back on my program again, too. Here’s what I’m learning about me and hunger…. There’s a BIG difference between empty-belly hungry and depleted-blood-sugar hungry. The first kind I can deal with, and I’m even learning to embrace it as a sign of being in control (however weird that sounds) and enjoy it. The second kind = meltdown, but if I’m getting the right nutrients, it rarely happens. I’m also re-learning the difference between hunger and thirst. Thirst isn’t always a mouth thing, which is how I used to identify it. It’s a whole-body need. Often when I feel what I think is hunger, a tall glass of water or a big mug of tea does the trick.

    • Laina Says:

      You are COMPLETELY right about the hungry-belly vs low-blood-sugar difference! I totally meltdown when I’m low blood sugar too, and I noticed that right before I started this program, when my weight was high and I wasn’t tracking my food it was happening a lot – almost every day! Good comment, thanks for sharing!

  4. Kaaren Says:

    Wow! Something *I* said struck something in *you*! Welcome to backwards world! 🙂


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