What Drives my Cravings and ‘Hunger’

One of the major advantages I saw of gastric bypass surgery is that for a while after surgery it takes away your hunger. This can usually be expected to last for around 9-12 months after surgery and should really be taken advantage of while it’s not there torturing you. I seem to be a bit strange and my hunger hasn’t returned yet and I’m over 18 months out from my surgery now.

I’ve learnt a lot of things about my body and I have realised some things that I thought were a given aren’t necessarily so. If you hadn’t noticed I do a lot of deep reflection about myself and my body and how things are after surgery and I’ve had some big learnings in regards to hunger and cravings. There is a far larger psychological component to hunger that I ever truly realised and I’ve also realised how my cravings are driven and what exacerbates them.

When I say I haven’t felt hungry since my surgery I do need to make a distinction. I haven’t felt proper physical, I need to eat or I’m going to die type hunger at all since my gastric bypass in February 2014. Have occasionally thought, “Oh I’m hungry,” why yes I have. What has been really interesting to observe now is I can easily recognise that my hunger is not physical so I’ve been looking more into whats making me feel ‘hungry’.

It essentially comes down to all the reasons you would expect. Boredom, tiredness, stress and that usual wanting to eat feeling when you have run out of other ways to cope. What’s really interesting is that I don’t tend to have the same reaction and attraction to food as I used to so I don’t get the oh that looks good I must be hungry type feelings like I did before.

I have to say that while in absolutely no way is bariatric surgery cheating or an easy way out for me taking away the hunger and being able to focus on what my body needs without very strong hunger feelings has made the restrictive side of this far easier than any other way I’ve lost weight in the past. Whenever I dieted in the past the hunger drove me insane because my body had such a compulsion to eat that it was torturous.

So much of what I thought was physical hunger was actually psychological and this is something that comes back in force and can be hard to manage. This is especially highlighted for me when I’m tired and stressed and feel ‘hungry’ but I know now on a psychological level that food is not going to make me feel better. This can be hard to deal with post surgery when you have been perfect since your surgery and suddenly these feelings start to come back. Don’t be too hard on yourself just take the time to reflect, recognise where the thoughts and behaviour are coming from and next time remember you now have the tools you need to make the right decisions around food.

I’ve also found an interaction between cravings and hunger and I’m going to call them cravings even though it can feel a lot like hunger sometimes. I find now if the carbohydrate and/or sugar ratio goes up in my diet it drives cravings and I start getting cravings for more food that feel a lot like hunger. My general interest in food also goes up too. This is a potentially very bad slippery slope to fall down as you start to eat little bits here and there, it makes you want more, you eat more, it starts to take over your diet and I can see how easy that can snowball into weight regain.

What is also interesting is that as soon as I reduce the amount of carbohydrates in my diet I stop getting cravings/hunger and I totally lose interest in food again. This is really important to recognise because I have got to the point before where although nowhere near as bad as pre surgery, I started to feel like I was losing control around food again and it was getting hard to say no to things I knew I shouldn’t eat. The funny thing is now when I do give in and eat these things I shouldn’t I don’t actually enjoy it and 9 times out of 10 regret even eating it.

Last week I made a very concerted effort to reduce the amount of carbs I had been eating, for example only having a small amount with my lunch and missing them altogether at dinnertime and cutting out those sneaky biscuit snacks, and I am not kidding but within two days I was not even wanting any of the things I had been struggling with over the few weeks before.

Having bariatric surgery has forced me to get to know my body all over again and learn what different feelings are and how much things like hunger and cravings are actually driven psychologically and are not necessarily a physical need. Have you become more in tune with your body since bariatric surgery? What was the biggest thing you learnt that you thought was just so with your body previously? Comment below I’d love to hear from you!

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There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Meagan Kerr at 6:49 pm

    I think that from a young age we’re taught to essentially ignore what our bodies tell us. Cravings are your body’s way of letting you know that it needs something – not in a hunger way, but things like vitamins and minerals (I’m pretty sure you can google a chart of “what your cravings mean” online). Do you take supplements? I wonder if you get them less if you do? When I wasn’t eating sugar it became a lot easier to interpret whether what I was feeling was hunger or a craving for a particular food, so I’m going to go back to that and relearn my body’s cues.

    • Melissa Peaks Author at 8:06 pm

      I agree Meagan. The whole you must eat everything on your plate and so on and so forth. I don’t push any of that on my son because I don’t want him to struggle like I have all of my life. I have to take vitamins (200%) of a normal daily intake because of the malabsorptive part of how the bypass functions. My cravings now are driven solely by how much carbs or sugar I eat. It’s interesting how much of a difference I notice when I don’t eat too much of them.

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