Mark, a dieter that we recently began working with, reported that during the past week he’s been feeling extra hungry, which is making it more difficult for him to stay within his calorie limit for the day. The first thing we discussed with Mark is the fact that this is completely normal. All of our dieters have periods of time when they are hungrier than others. Although they often say, “I had such a hard week; I was hungry all the time,” it usually turns out they were only hungry for a couple of hours during a few days that week, but let the memory of that hunger color the entire week.
We told Mark that if it’s not time for one of his preplanned snacks or meals and he’s feeling hungry, there are lots of things he can say to himself. First he can remind himself that hunger is never an emergency – it can be somewhat uncomfortable but he’s lived through much worse physical discomfort in the past (a badly broken arm, a root canal, and a popped kneecap). Mark can also remind himself that there’s always another meal coming and that he’s going to be eating again fairly soon. Last, Mark can tell himself that just because he’s hungry doesn’t mean he should eat – if he wants to get and stay thinner, he simply can’t eat every time he feels like it.
We also asked Mark if what he’s been feeling lately is always hunger, or whether he might be confusing it with a craving or a desire to eat (Day 11 of The Beck Diet Solution). We urged Mark to pay attention to the physical sensations attached to his “hunger” and try to discern whether it really is true hunger. Mark related that he had been working fewer hours this week, and it’s possible that he felt at loose ends and therefore felt like eating, as opposed to being hungry.
We proposed an experiment for Mark to try: for one or two days this week, he’s going to spend almost all of his calories on protein and vegetables and limit carbohydrates and starches. Many of our dieters have tried this experiment and were surprised to see how much more full and satisfied they felt when they varied their diet in this way. We told Mark to give it a try, and if the same is true for him then at least for now, when he’s feeling more hungry, it’s probably worth his while to incorporate more protein into his diet.