The Overwhelming Desire to Eat

If you hadn’t already guessed I love to talk. One of the things I really enjoy talking about is my gastric bypass and the journey I’ve been through to all sorts of different people because I gain so much perspective and learn new things from talking to a range of people about it.

I recently got a message to my Melissa Loses It Facebook page that really made me step back and think. The message went something like this, “I know you can’t eat a lot of bad stuff but how do you get past the overwhelming cravings and voice in your head and can’t think about anything else? Just because you had an op doesn’t mean that the head cravings go away.” This is something I had forgotten had changed for me until I got this message.

Before my gastric bypass and basically as long as I can remember I always had a very healthy appetite and while I wouldn’t say an overwhelming desire to eat all the time there were certainly days that I would explain it exactly as that. I always had food on the brain and always made sure I ate enough if I wasn’t going to be able to eat for a while or made sure I made up for it later if I missed a meal.When I say made sure I ate ‘enough’ or ‘made up for it’ I know now that I was overeating anyway and the whole notion I had of ‘enough’ or ‘making up for it’ were a bit off.

I think at the time a lot of this felt like it was a physical or biological drive to eat and sometimes the cravings were overwhelming. This would be compounded on days when things weren’t going right, if I was tired for example, also I used food as a coping mechanism and to comfort myself. I do think obesity is a very complex issue and while I’m sure these factors contributed to my morbid obesity I don’t think they were the be all and end all of my weight problem.

I had figured out before surgery that mentally this whole process was going to be a rough ride. Once I had decided I wanted a gastric bypass I had to make peace with how my lifestyle was going to be affected. I started working on the head stuff beforehand and while I think I was in a really good place mentally for my surgery it’s still something that I have to continue to work on every day.

I don’t have the biological desire to eat and eat lots anymore. I think having the physical hunger taken away makes it so much easier to recognize when I actually just need water or if my cravings are coming from a place of me being emotional or tired. Being able to recognize this distinction is part of what’s helping me now after surgery. You can’t have the same reliance on food after any kind of bariatric surgery because if you push it and eat things you shouldn’t it will cause you problems and/or pain and you will probably end up overweight (if not morbidly obese) again.

The voice in my head has about 98% of the time been well and truly muted. I also know now that if I’m fixated on something I have to purposely think about something else or distract myself and that the craving will pass. I have come up with ways of dealing with this when it happens now and because I don’t have the same physiological structure now it’s much more easily forgotten.

It is very true that having the operation doesn’t fix your head and that cannot be overstated enough. With a combination of starting to work through your head issues beforehand, being introspective and aware of your behavior and responses after surgery and continuing to work on the head stuff as time goes on means that the voice and the head cravings basically go away.

Have you found the voice in your head and your head hunger has been impacted by your surgery? Did you do lots of work in your head before surgery and do you still have to keep it up after? Comment below I’d love to know how you’ve found this aspect of bariatric surgery.

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There are 10 comments for this article
  1. Nigel Pearson at 7:51 am

    Hey Melissa,
    I definitely did some work on my eating issues before surgery, and as I am not just 3-4 months post surgery I am at the stage where it’s possible to eat a wee bit more, but mostly I am not that interested in food. I still do get some occasional cravings….mostly a need for protein…..but I am finding my tastes have changed and if anything I’m going through a process of accepting that the indulgence of eating (read over-indulgence!) is truly a thing of the past. I have to find satisfaction and happiness elsewhere. When I have dinner with others, I just cannot believe how much food (I think rubbish!) they shove in their mouths. It sometimes shocks me to think I used to be just like that!

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 8:21 pm

      Hi Nigel! I agree I can’t believe how much normal people eat either. I’ve totally lost perspective of how much a normal tummy fits in and when they go and get more I’m just thinking where do you put it!

  2. Jane at 7:31 am

    I read this hoping for some hints! Unfortunately, for some of us post surgery the physical hunger was not removed. I have been physically hungry since the day of surgery! This is one of my most challenging aspects of this journey. I have learned that distraction and physical activity are the best solutions but it is scary to feel hungry and know that was the cause of my previous ‘failings’ to maintain weight loss. I also recognise my emotional need to eat in times of stress, etc. I just read an interesting article that suggests eating crunchy foods at that time, and luckily I can eat veges such as carrots 😊. Also suggested tidying a room or sorting a messy drawer to be very good at alleviating stress!! I love the idea of that. I guess I’m looking for a quick solution to a long-term complicated problem (that I did hope would be more controlled after my RNYGB) 😄

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 12:25 pm

      I’m sorry to hear it hasn’t taken away your hunger at all Jane. We are all so different and react differently to the surgery that it can be hard to predict what’s going to happen afterwards. It’s great that you’re recognising that you have emotional triggers, they can be very convincing that it’s physical hunger and if you can recognise it you can beat it. Keep it at the front of your mind, try all sorts of different things and see what helps and doesn’t, you know yourself best and can figure it out.

  3. Judith at 11:06 am

    I am pre – op – I am scared to go through all this pain and be left exactly as I am – I am an insatiable eater – if this desire is not curbed = how can I succeed

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 12:27 pm

      Your experience will be individual to you Judith. It will affect you in ways you cannot imagine and it is bound to prompt changes and you will make progress. Some of us have to work harder for our results but I am yet to meet someone who regrets having weight loss surgery, no matter the challenges they have faced.

    • Jane at 8:02 pm

      Judith it is a roller coaster. Each of us have a really individual journey. Most people’s hunger is gone or at least curbed. And even though I experience hunger I am satiated easily. And if I overeat or eat the wrong foods (high sugar/fat carbs) I either throw up or am on the loo for 30mins in agony! These are quite good motivators to control yourself! But not always… and we do continue to beat ourselves up about that. I am working on ticking the right boxes each day rather than focusing on where I slip up. Fluids, walking my beautiful dog, gym, protein, vegetables, sleep, vitamins, mindfulness, pleasurable activities, mastering new projects – these are the things that make me feel good. The scale should be the last thing on my mind (but I have lost 38kg since Xmas … 115kg to 77kg… and gone from sz22 to sz14 …so the bonus side effect of this journey IS getting smaller!!). Good luck

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