One of the hardest things to deal with, after weight loss surgery, can be ‘head hunger’. This can also be a common phenomenon for non-bariatric patients.
‘Head hunger’ is an emotional hunger, were as ‘belly hunger’ is a physical hunger. Knowing the difference between head hunger and belly hunger is one thing, but knowing when to act or not too is very different.
Head hunger can strike at any time but it is more likely to happen when we are not busy. Some patients refer to this phenomenon as: ‘the devil sitting on my shoulder, waiting to pounce at the first opportunity’. Indeed, head hunger can often be cited as one of the main reasons for unsuccessful attempts at long-term weight loss.
However, there are ways to manage head hunger, including:
Physical activity could include going for a walk, going to the gym, swimming or even some DIY or gardening. Dog walking is highly recommended, as it can lead to fun social situations. If you don’t own a dog, you can always borrow one! Why not take up that hobby you have always wanted to start.
Meditation can be a great tool for re-focusing your mind away from food. It can help you to recognise your head hunger triggers. If you are armed with that knowledge, you have more chance of defeating the negative thoughts that almost always accompany head hunger. Give yourself some time to allow your mind to focus on the things that make you feel good about yourself.
Socialising is a great way to defeat head hunger. When we are with friends and family, we nurture and nourish ourselves with friendship and love, rather than with food.
Lots of bariatric patients attend support groups, where they can meet up with like-minded people, make new friends and are able to share experiences without having to explain themselves. Support groups can be a great way to socialise. You can find out more about weight loss surgery support groups by visiting: https://www.streamline-surgical.com/forums/topic/south-coast-support-group-2017-dates/
An emotion journal is an excellent way to keep record of when head hunger may strike. It also enables you think in advance about what sort of healthy snacks you could choose. An emotion diary is also a good way to control ‘mindless’ eating. It’s not uncommon for people to eat mindlessly when they are watching television, listening to music or even working at their desk. If you only have healthy, nutritious food available, the damage limitation is more favourable.
Head hunger can also lead to negative emotions. It is common to feel guilty after eating food that is neither needed nor nutritious. This can lead to further mindless eating, creating a vicious circle of negativity.
Before eating ask yourself these five questions:
- Am I hungry?
- When did I last eat?
- Am I thirsty?
- Am I angry, tired or upset?
- Am I bored?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, take five minutes for physical activity, meditation, socialising or writing in your journal. The old cliché ‘The devil finds work for idle hands’ is true of head hunger.
We all experience head hunger at some point, however, like most things in life, overcoming it is possible with determination and perseverance.
Have you conquered head hunger? We would love to hear what you do to beat it. Visit our Facebook page and help others beat the battle.