7 Things that you can do when Hunger Strikes...

When losing weight, hunger can be your worst enemy. Perhaps it feels stronger than ever because you know you are eating less and sacrificing some of the foods you love. Regardless of the cause, it’s come and you now must decide what to do.

I was speaking to a friend at the end of last week at a bariatric clinic I work at (you know who you are ;) about hunger and how this can be one of the most challenging things to staying on track when you are losing weight. Hunger can strike anyone regardless of having bariatric surgery or not so I thought it was a great topic to write about. Note: it is often thought that you will never get hungry again after bariatric surgery and while this is true for some people or for a certain amount of time after your surgery, long-term, feelings of hunger can re-emerge so it's important to know what to do. Those who've had bariatric surgery will not be able to eat a big amount when hunger strikes but like in anyone, making the right food choices is essential regardless of your weight loss method.

Before I go on I must point out that a little hunger is actually not a bad thing for losing weight. I know it feels uncomfortable but it is ok not to have a full belly all the time and periods of hunger can actually benefit your weight loss so don’t be afraid of letting hunger be sometimes. (Note if you have conditions such as diabetes, be sure to follow the meal regime provided by your dietitian or specialist.) However, if the hunger is related to simply skipping meals and snacks or not eating enough then this isn’t a good thing. Make sure you have regular small meals and snacks or at least 3 main meals even when you are trying to lose weight, because your body does still need fuel coming in. If unsure of what to do, book in to see a dietitian.

But what if you’re struggling with the hunger pangs? Here 7 things to do.

  1. Check your food intake and meal routine. 
Are you eating the right foods when you eat or eating at the right times. When losing weight, you need to make sure that you are not being so restrictive that you are starving yourself of the nutrients your body needs. While lowering your kilojoules / calories is important, you don’t want to lower them too low or miss out on nutrients from other foods by being so restrictive. Including adequate protein, fibre and low kilojoule vegetables can also help fill you up so make sure your meal plan is well balanced. If unsure, speak to a dietitian to get a plan to follow.
  1. Keep busy.
Have you ever noticed that when you are busy, time seems to fly and you have not even thought of things such as food? This is true, so try and fill your day with activities that will distract you so you have less time to dwell on eating.
  1. Get out of the kitchen!
Yes I am actually saying this. If you’re like me and like to sometimes work from the kitchen, then you are probably making it harder for yourself. The kitchen can be a dangerous place to linger when you are trying to lose weight. Not only will it make you think of food more but everything is there for you to grab in a moment of weakness. So unless you’ve got amazing willpower, the kitchen is not the place to hang!


  1. Drink a glass of water or have a cup of tea.
Sounds simple but sometimes hunger signals are mistaken for thirst signals and all you need is fluid. Either way, fluids hydrate you and an extra glass or 2 is a good thing.


  1. Rank your hunger levels!

It may sound strange but sometimes we are not as hungry as we first think we are. So ask yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being absolutely starving and 10 being so full you feel sick), how would I rank my hunger level? If it is anything above 6 then try and hold off, if it below 3, then it’s definitely time to eat. Review the hunger scale from dietitian Corrine Dobbas (image below). 

  1. Make up a list of things you will do when hunger strikes e.g. go for a walk or phone a friend.
Sometimes doing something helps occupy the hours between meals so that we are able to hold off. Try making up a list of all the things you will do so that you can simply pull this list out and pick something to occupy you until the next meal. Note to say that you don't have a million things going on as it is but sometimes we all need distractors!


  1. Have a list of low kilojoule / calorie snacks that can be consumed if too hungry between meals.

Having a list of low kilojoule / calorie snacks and making these available to you can really be a saviour when overwhelmed with hunger. It is wise to do this as hunger will strike. Some ideas include low kilojoule vegetables such as salads, vegetable sticks, cherry tomatoes, vegetable soup or diet jelly or simply making a nice cup of tea. Note: again if you are skipping meals and snacks or not eating the right foods at meals then maybe take a look at what you need to start including or have a protein or high fibre snack when hungry e.g. a boiled egg, yoghurt, nuts or high fibre bar.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list and there’s other things you can do, it gives you a starting point.

When hunger strikes during a weight loss plan, it can be difficult to go on but with some planning and a checklist to tick off, you can be prepared for these moments and combat these feelings. Regardless of what happens on one day, don’t give up, everyone has those moments of weakness but simply get back on track and review the above list again and again.