By Jennifer

Did you know dieting can really unleash The Hunger? The kind of hunger that causes you to contemplate what to have for dinner while you’re eating breakfast. The kind of hunger where you have to do something (ANYTHING) with your time and your hands to keep from rushing the kitchen and devouring an entire loaf of bread in 15 seconds flat. The kind of hunger that has you dreaming of food, Googling food, talking about food. Dieting makes one very, very hungry, and right now I’m both. Dieting. And hungry.

I’ll never forget reading a post by Amanda at Kicky Boots last November when she talked about how ridiculously unfair it is to be both fat and hungry. If you’re fat but indulging in the yummiest of foods, there’s give and take there. Sure, you don’t feel your best but mmm, baked goods. If you’re thin but dieting, well, at least you look good in your cute, skinny clothes. Again, give and take. But fat  + hungry = CRUEL. And that’s absolutely where I am right now. Overweight and not indulging. Depriving but still squishy all over. It’s … man, it’s tough.

It’s during this weight-loss and ravenously-hungry time when the cravings are the worst for me. When I’m thin and eating healthy or even overweight and not watching what I eat, I’m sort of ingesting a variety of foods, but am never all that obsessed with anything. Yet, when I’m at the beginning of a weight-loss phase, the cravings are worse than ever, worse than when I was pregnant even. I crave not just a certain type of food, I crave ALL food ALL the time. It’s not as bad during the week. I’m at work and can usually keep those cravings at bay by staying busy or not keeping food at arm’s length, but when I get home from work and on the weekends, I’m surrounded by a kitchen stocked with food, and even though we don’t keep many processed, bad-for-you snacks in the house, I’ll eye longingly at just about anything edible. Things such as year-old Easter candy and random cans of soup I would never touch otherwise.

You can imagine that this hunger and these cravings can really try to thwart one’s desire to shed some weight. You can imagine how kind of sad it becomes when you’re going to the bathroom at 3 a.m. and you start to think late-night baking is a fabulous idea. Sure, I’m exhausted and should be sleeping but, hey, what if I just make one pan of brownies?

Thankfully, I resist more than I succumb, but what do YOU do about similar cravings? How do you distract yourself and quiet the stomach rumblings? Do you snack on healthier, low-calorie options (and WHAT, please divulge) or do you take up knitting? Do you clear the kitchen of any and all temptations (even the foods that lean towards good-for-you) or do you begin building an iron will? Any and all suggestions welcome. I could really use some support to get me through these first few weeks of weight loss, when the scale isn’t dropping as quickly as I’d like but the cravings are more ferocious than ever.

29 Responses to “Hunger”

  1. Linda Says:

    Cravings and hunger are usually two entirely different things. I like diet options that don’t leave me in actual hunger pangs, because I’m much more apt to lose control if I’m feeling starving. My ideas:

    • Drink a whole glass of water. I’ve read that the body sometimes misinterprets thirst signals as hunger — not sure if that’s true, but it’s something to try.

    • Eat lots of smaller meals so your gas tank is never on empty. Good snacks: raw veggies, apple slices, nuts, lowfat cheese, turkey jerky, rice cakes, oranges, yogurt.

    • Hot drinks: a latte with 2 splendas is my favorite appetite-holder-offer.

  2. AndreAnna Says:

    I try not to deprive myself of anything so that I don’t get so food-crazed that I lose my mind. I think it’s more of a mental thing sometimes. You tell yourself that you CAN’T have these and that makes you want them even more. I think you need to mentally psych yourself up that this is NOT a diet, but a way of life. And if you want one cookie, it’s not going to kill you. Chances are, changing your mindset and allowing you that one cookie or fitting it around the nutrition/exercise of your day, will stop you from sliding into the 3 am whole-bag-of-cookies bender we all know so well.

    Also, I’m with Linda on the water thing. I try and drink a HUGE glass of water (You’re supposed to have 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water every day) right before I eat, so I feel fuller and more satisfied with the food I ate.

    I also love coffee or anything warm for the exact reason Linda mentioned – it’s a great appetite-place holder.

    What about popcorn? cut up fruit? almonds? soy crisps?

    Have you tried/heard of LaraBars? They’re just dried fruit and nut bars that I eat in between meals that honestly truly satiate my appetite until the next meal, and keep my metabolism going with good, healthful ingredients.

    Ok, so I basically wrote a whole post here. Rest assured, you are NOT alone and so SO so much of it is mind over matter.

  3. Jennifer Says:

    Thanks, ladies!

    I want to pick up some of the LaraBars (something I can get at a local grocery store?).

    I did want to clarify that this is absolutely a lifestyle change for me, not just a “diet.” I shouldn’t have thrown that term around so loosely in this post. But … I ate really badly for most of my pregnancy and in Kyle’s first six weeks of life. I have to curb my eating because it was really out of control. So, even though I’m eating a normal, healthy amount NOW, it’s still restrictive compared to what it had been for so long. To my body, it definitely feels very much like we’re on a diet for the time being until I can adjust. During this transitional phase, the hunger is unbelievable, so I need to figure out a way to curb those cravings of eating SOMETHING, ANYTHING (since that’s what my body is so used to from the last year). I see how I didn’t convey that exactly as I intended.

  4. Ashley Says:

    I am on a diet right now (WeightWatchers) and I find my craving time comes between lunch and dinner. I have been staving off gorging on empty calories by eating a piece of fruit and a big glass of water with a heaping teaspoon of fiber mixed in…that keeps me satiated well into dinner time. I tried a couple different fiber mixes and found one that is not gross (pinky swear) it’s Organic India’s Fiber Harmony, I prefer the orange flavor but they have others.

  5. AndreAnna Says:

    I get them at Costco. Check the site (maybe Amazon too). They’re so worth it:


  6. AndreAnna Says:

    Oh and I know what you mean about feeling like you’re “on a diet.” It does take some time for our bodies to get used to smaller proportions and not stuffing our pieholes ALL. DAY. LONG.

    I gained NINETY pounds with both of my children, so I definitely definitely relate to this!

  7. Ris Says:

    Water is absolutely KEY. When I simply cannot face another gulp of water I opt for fat free hot chocolate, Nestea with Splenda, or Crystal Light. All low-cal liquids that will keep you hydrated but aren’t just water. Not to get too graphic but I once heard from a soon-to-be-MD friend that you should pee clear by about noon. So, lots of water. I also will allow myself to eat a handful of unsalted peanuts or almonds if I’m starving. I tell myself that the protein in them will satiate me much longer than something with empty calories like chips or candy. I also eat a LOT of veggies–carrot sticks with hummus, cherry or grape tomatoes, edamame, etc. I like really crunchy stuff. Also, if you get weight watchers shake powder, mix it with skim milk, Splenda, and ice cubes in the blender, it makes a pretty good smoothie. Food options aside, I try to redirect. I grab a book, a broom, take a walk, anything to keep my mind off eating. Hope these helped and good luck!

  8. Marin Says:

    Everyone else has said it, so I’ll just repeat: water. Tons of it all day long. I’m awful at mindfully distinguishing between cravings and hunger so I don’t have any other advice. (I’ll read the comments and we can suffer together. Party!)

  9. kakaty Says:

    Water is huge but so is fiber – I’ve been drinking the All-Bran lemonade fiber every afternoon to help fight off the 3:00 grumbles. I really like it and it’s not gritty at all…you get your water and 10 grams of fiber.

    Also, if I’m really hungry between meals and want something with a bit more of an indulgent mouth-feel (I watch too many cooking shows) I make a smoothie with non-fat vanilla yogurt, a few splashes of OJ, an handful of frozen strawberries a scoop of psyllium husk powder (fiber) and maybe a 1/2 scoop of protein powder. It’s about 150 calories and is loaded with fiber and protein which keeps you going. Plus sipping on it takes time which tends to keep you feeling full longer.

  10. leanne Says:

    If you’re hungry, then you aren’t eating enough. It sounds counterproductive, but if you deprive your body of the calories it needs, you’ll make your metabolism slow down and the weight loss will become So Slow. Try adding more protein to your diet. Sliced turkey breast is a good snack. So are those low-fat BonBel cheeses. I make hummus with canned chickpeas, using the liquid to blend instead of a lot of olive oil. That makes it high-fiber, high-protein, and low-fat – and it’s a tasty dip for cut up veggies. Air-popped popcorn is also a good snack. Eat it one piece at a time so your brain thinks you’re fuller faster. And drink a lot of water.

  11. Jennifer Says:

    Just one more clarification, and I think I’ve been inspired to talk about this more in depth next week, but I don’t think it’s hunger in the way we usually define hunger. I’m not in NEED of more calories. My body just WANTS more. As Linda said, there IS a difference between hunger and cravings. I said “hunger” but … that was a misleading term. It’s just all I know how to label it as, I suppose. I think a better way to put it: I’m mentally hungry. I’m hungry for the foods I used to eat so regularly even though physically I don’t need them and shouldn’t be allowed to have them whenever the craving strikes.

    I was eating so much (and such bad foods) for so long that when you turn to a more sensible diet after literally more than a year of overindulging, your body kind of goes a little berserk and becomes a bit obsessive over the fat-laden and calorie-rich foods you’re no longer eating. And, really, over food in general.

    My point was I don’t need more food (I never did) but that didn’t stop me from shoving tons of extra food into my mouth for months and months and months and now that I’m cutting back, all that food I’m no longer ingesting is still on my mind (and, sure, I wish it were in my stomach too).

  12. AndreAnna Says:

    Me again. I’m enjoying this thread because I can totally relate. For people who have eaten so much, so crappy, and for so long, getting used to less, better, healthier is an adjustment.

    ANY life change is an adjustment.

    For me the difference is not between hunger and needing to eat more. It’s WANTING to eat more. I like feeling FULL and often baby carrots just don’t cut it. So, in those times when my mind knows I’m not hungry but my body wants to EAT, I do all of the things listed above – water, protein shakes, fiber, fruit/nuts – or get out, and away from the triggers and food.

    And only now, after seven years, has it become habit and I don’t have that WANT TO EAT all the time and know how to handle it when I do. (Most of the time. Never, ever, ever put rice krispie treats near me. You will lose an arm.)

    I get where you’re coming from but I think being aware of it, like you are, is a great step in the right direction and soon enough you’ll be kicking it’s ass!

  13. penny Says:

    GUM. Lots and lots of sugar free gum. I chew it all the time and it will take your mind off wanting to chew or snack….(obviously it isn’t THAT satisfying but it is the best I have come up with so far)

  14. Jennifer Says:

    Thanks, AndreAnna.

    I think what I love so much about this site (and the comments on this site) is how they force you to face the reality of things. What I’m realizing (and what I’ve probably always known, really) is that I’m not hungry for the food itself, but I’m hungry for how I feel when I eat certain things (chocolate cake, pizza, etc).

    I mistake fake hunger for real hunger because I’ve never really learned the difference. I’m finally (and ever-so slowly) figuring it out.

    And I’m now arming myself with tools to handle the transition from out-of-control to controlled, thanks to everyone reading.

  15. Rebecca Says:

    I am maintaining my weight loss after being on Weight Watchers. My cravings happen late in the day. This is what I do….
    Mid-afternoon I have a piece of fruit, a serving of veggies (something crunchy, like carrots or snap peas) and a Fiber One granola bar (I get these at Costco). I try to spread it out (maybe eat one of these snacks at 3, one at 4, and one at 5) so I don’t get hungry. If I still feel hungry before dinner I chew a piece of gum. Chewing gum really, really helps me as it gives my mouth something to do and prevents me from stuffing my face with whatever is lying around.
    I have another snack a couple hours after dinner. My go-to snacks are either a yogurt or one of the 100-calorie packs of microwave popcorn. The popcorn is GREAT because you get a lot of flavor, volume and crunch for not a lot of calories. Again, if I feel like munching more I will chew another piece of gum. I also like the sugar free/diet hot cocoa idea.

  16. Krissa Says:

    I think Weight Watchers does something similar, but with my meals, I LOAD UP on my (healthily-prepared) vegetables. There is no such thing as too many veggies! The health benefits so vastly outweigh the negligible calorie intake it’s stupid to NOT eat them all the stinkin’ time – plus, natural fiber. Ta-da, regularity!

    It’s not fool-proof, of course, but it really, really helps me stave off between-meal snacks.

    I also try to minimize the snacks in my house, so that if I just *have* to shove something in my face, I have to actually make it or go out and buy it. I have an allergic reaction to spending extra money on food all the time, so this really does help me. For instance, instead of keeping even a pint of Ben and Jerry’s in my freezer, if I want ice cream I can head down the street to the local ice cream place for a sundae – and I end up getting my favorite dessert once or twice a MONTH, rather than snacking on it every single day.

    I know the monetary motivation won’t work for everyone, but it has definitely helped me keep my calories under control and my budget from going bust.

  17. Dinneen @Eat Without Guilt Says:

    As a professional in the business, it seems to me you’re hungry for something more than just food. Okay, I know you’re reading this and thinking “is she crazy? I just want a freakin’ piece of chocolate cake!”

    I hear you, I hear you. But if you are REALLY eating healthy and having balanced meals, you should not be hungry. Plain & simple.

    It looks like you’re the type because you “can’t” have something you want it even more (actually, most if not all of us are like that…pure human nature).

    You should also try not to eat too many of these bars and things. Eat as many real foods as you possibly can. I know, you don’t live on a farm (or so I’m guessing) but these bars have so many ingredients in them (lots of them fake) that can also disturb your hunger.

    Of course, I’d have to look deeper into what you’re eating to find out what’s out of balance. But just from a quick look at things there’s an imbalance in the foods your eating, and an imbalance somewhere in your life.

    May not be what you want to hear, but I can tell you, this is my LIFE, helping people like you. As yourself, I mean really ask yourself — what are you hungry for? (and I don’t mean food).

  18. Jennifer Says:

    Well, I’m feeling just a little misunderstood. But, I take responsibility for that. My words sort of caused confusion, and I should have chosen them better, I’m afraid.

    Dinneen, I appreciate your point of view, absolutely, as I appreciate everyone who takes the time to come here, read my words and comment. I am grateful for your time and, especially, for your professional opinion, but I don’t say much at all about the foods I’m eating, so to sort of jump to the “there’s an imbalance in the foods you’re eating, and an imbalance somewhere in your life” conclusion kind of throws me. Not even because I think you’re totally wrong (there is an imbalance and it’s called I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since my son was born three months ago; sleep deprivation will knock your balance right on its ass) but because I’m not sure it’s totally fair to assess me after reading one blog post (or even all five).

    What I mention in the comments above is that I’m mistaking other emotions for hunger and I don’t think I’m the first person to do so. But, what’s more than that (and my goal of posting here) is that I’m finally taking needed steps toward a healthy lifestyle. I’m finally ditching the high-fat, high-calorie diet that I allowed myself during my entire pregnancy (and I have been pregnant or with a newborn for the last year) and Kyle’s (my son) first few weeks/months of life. Now that I’m finally (after much too long) making the RIGHT choices, my body is kind of getting pissed at me. It still wants all those foods it got so used to having free rein over and I was simply asking for advice on how to keep those cravings at bay when I know those cravings will only lead me right back to square one.

    Linda very rightfully pointed out that hunger and cravings are two totally different things. But to someone who hasn’t made the right food choices for well over a year, it’s easy to mistake the two, I think. It’s easy to want to eat something fatty and mistake that craving for being hungry. And it’s even easier to go from intaking more than 3,000 calories a day to 1,500 and mistake those withdrawals for hunger, as well.

    I tried to say that I know I’m not hungry in the very true definition of the word, but it’s hard to go from unhealthy to healthy in a matter of days without your body not being totally on board with the change.

    My mistake is throwing around the word hunger when that’s not exactly what I meant, so I am sorry for that. I should have been more clear.

  19. Foodie McBody Says:

    As someone who went very recently from a 3k+ cal/day life (high carb, high fat) to a radically reduced one, I think it was a combo of all 3: TRUE hunger, true cravings and a bunch of something else (emotional) all mixed in together. It physiologically took time for my stomach to shrink – several months. It took time for me to really understand what “hunger” felt like, as opposed to feeling uncomfortable both physiologially (withdrawal from addiction, really) and emotionally. I think so many things are at work during these times when we make a big transition. My body and my mind were not on board at all times, and it took a lot of patience. It still does on some levels. But I agree with Dinneen that dealing with emotional aspects of hunger are really important for those longterm life changes we’re all seeking.

  20. Linda Says:

    Jennifer: I went through a similar challenge after both my kids were born. Changing my eating habits from the anything-goes, FOOD = AWESOME months of pregnancy and the early weeks of newbornhood (where I ate whatever the HELL I wanted because OMG give me a break like I’m going to diet while I’m in freaking Vietnam) was really difficult, and it was a big mixture of cravings and actual hunger and emotional eating and wanting to reward myself after a difficult day and being run down and tired and probably a million other things.

    It’s really hard. REALLY hard. I give you massive credit for having the insight to know what’s going on and actively looking for solutions for getting past this stage.

    You will, though. Bad habits can be replaced by good ones, even if it’s kind of sucky getting there (and as I know firsthand, all too easy to slide backwards sometimes).

  21. Tara Says:

    One question for you to consider: if you are honestly going from around 3K calories a day to about 1500, maybe you’re trying to do too much, too fast? It’s hard to make a change of that magnitude overnight. Have you thought about cutting back a bit at a time, every couple/three weeks or so, so you can ease into a new eating habit? If you gradually switch out the higher calorie, fatty & sugary foods with healthier options, it might be an easier transition for your body–and your mind.

    Whatever you decide, best of luck to you.

  22. jcristg Says:

    I hear you loud and clear. I know exactly what you mean… and I’m there too! It’s not hunger, it’s not craving necessarily, but it’s something. It’s almost a habit you’re trying to break. When you go from a high-in-fat, eat-what-you-want-when-you-want-it sort of lifestyle to one in which you’re trying to make good choices, you’re having to relearn and retrain yourself to not immediately reach for the Doritos when you’re bored (or sad or stressed, etc). Instead, you’re trying to assess whether you’re really hungry — and if so, wouldn’t that banana be a nice choice this afternoon? And I know it takes a long time for your body to adjust to not ingesting so many calories; takes time for your stomach to (almost?) shrink and to accept your smaller, healthier portions as sufficient. You’re right — it’s such a combination of things that it’s hard to pinpoint your frustration exactly.

    All that said, I am a HUGE fan of greek yogurt — Chobani and Oikos 0% honey are my favorites. They are high in sugar but low in calories and fat and at 13-14 grams of protein, completely worth it for me. I’m also partial to a bag of Smart Pop (pick a brand, any brand) kettle corn in the afternoons — it’s a little sweet, a little salty and just enough to get me through until dinner.

    Good luck to you, and I am delighted you are blogging about this. We started this change about the same time, so I certainly feel your pain!

  23. Kim Says:

    I so understand this!! I have to not have temptation in my house. But that is difficult when others do live here. I hate fruit. And hummus? blech! I struggle just from pure pickiness.

    I’ve enjoyed all of the tips on here and will be trying some myself. It’s so hard to get the brain, the belly and the motivation alll working together.

  24. jodifur Says:

    I always find that if eat more protein it helps with those kinds of hunger pains. Even during snacks. Which is hard because I’m a vegetarian.

  25. K Says:

    I don’t have much advice other than water. Also, if you have chocolate cravings, I keep a bag of dark chocolate chips (ghirardelli) in my freezer and grab a few whenever I neeed a chocolate fix. I savor each one and they help me to not overindulge on other dessert foods after dinner.

  26. ali Says:

    a) drink water
    b) chew gum


  27. Sharon Says:

    Try sugar freefat free popsicles – sugar free, fat free jello in the individual servings with a squirt of fatfree coolwhip. They definitely satisfy the what can I eat for dessert question.

    Ak-mak crackers are very nutritious and satisfy the “crunch” I buy them at Trader Joes

  28. Kim Says:


    I hope you read my comment because I am in the same boat as you are. I am having trouble losing weight because I am hungry from 3:00pm until I go to sleep.
    I have tried everything that has been posted here with no success. I’m talking about the kind of hungry when your stomach is growling so loud other people can hear it.
    I was so desperate I even went to a nutritionist and spent thousands to be told to get off splenda, diet coke, anything white, etc. So I have given up diet coke, sugar, pasta, etc and guess what still hungry.

  29. Kim Says:

    Sorry, but my comment posted before I finished. I only eat Quinoa for grain. Take tons of vitamins, drink water with fiber, exercise, tried eating fruit and almonds to ward off hunger, still hungry.

    I think it is some kind of awful chemical imbalance. I am 45 but in my 30′s I lost 60 lbs without breaking a sweat and then after a horrible family tragedy gained 80 lbs 5 years ago.

    Be careful with those bars because the nutritionist told me to eat Raw Revolution bars to ward off hunger and they made me more hungry.

    I recently read that protein is the answer, so now I’m eating protein and vegetables.

    I wish you luck and I am so glad you posted because I thought I was crazy because I’ve been telling people I’m actually hungry all the time and they look at me like I’m crazy. It’s very hard to diet when you can’t get your mind off food because you physically feel hungry.

    Good Luck!!!!


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