Hunger After Bariatric Surgery - My Bariatric Life

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • If you say you are hungry someone might ask "what are you hungry for?" Will a sandwich suffice or is your hunger more than a sandwich can satisfy? Do you have a sweet tooth? Well, everybody likes ice cream. Are you six o'clock honey-I'm-home-and-what's-for-dinner hungry? Meat, potatoes, and a vegetable then?

    What are you hungry for? It is a good and sensible question.

    An equally good and sensible question might be "what kind of hunger are you having?"

    What kind of hunger am I having? Glad you asked.

    The Different Types of Hunger

    Hunger can be categorized using the sensory cues of sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. Appetite can be stimulated by the sight of food, the smell of food, the taste of food, the touch of food against the mouth, and the sound of food being eaten.

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    Hunger can also be a cognitive experience. Thoughts about food, feelings about food, and memories of food can trigger hunger.

    The final and most familiar type of hunger is physical hunger. Some of the  characteristics of physical hunger are hunger pangs, irritability, low energy, and the feeling that you must have food immediately.

    Gastric Bypass and Emotional Eating

    The purpose of gastric bypass surgery is to address morbid obesity and the health risks that accompany morbid obesity. Bariatric surgery reduces the size of the stomach and therefore reduces the amount of food that a person eats. Because of the reduced size of the stomach, the patients feels full after eating only a small portion of food.

    The question bariatric patients might wish to ask themselves then, becomes "when I am hungry, what kind of hungry am I?" If the hunger is not physical, it would be best to not reach for that favorite snack.

    Emotional eating is defined as eating for reasons other than hunger. If the bariatric patient becomes habitual about feeding emotions as opposed feeding physical hunger, the chances for success after weight loss surgery diminishes.

    The Differences Between Emotional Hunger and Physical Hunger

    There are discernable differences between emotional hunger and physical hunger that can be mentally referenced if there is a need.

    Emotional hunger presents in a sudden burst while physical hunger comes on gradually.

    Emotional hunger often involves craving a specific food while physical hunger is non-restrictive. If only pizza and nothing else will do you may need to reassess.

    The craving from emotional hunger demands immediate satisfaction while physical hunger can wait.

    Emotional eating continues even after you are full while physical eating ends when you are full.

    Emotional eating may produce feelings of guilt while physical eating will not.

    Tips for Addressing Emotional Eating

    Emotional eating often involves consumption of comfort foods or foods that are eaten to prolong a feeling. The emotion can be either a happy feeling or a sad feeling.

    Should you find yourself indulging for emotional causes there are actions you can take.

    When you recognize you are about to eat due to emotional stimuli you can assess the moment and search for the trigger behind the emotion.

  • Engage in a productive activity to distract you from the craving. Take a walk or call a friend.

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    Find a comfort food that is healthy for you. A small portion of a more acceptable snack is useful.

    Make a list of things you can do when you have the desire to eat but are not hungry. Carry the list with you wherever you go.


    Center For Mindful Eating accessed 4/16/12
    Silhouette accessed 4/16/12
    WebMD accessed 4/16/12


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    My Story...

    You can read about my decision to have weight loss surgery back in 2003 and my journey to maintain a lifetime of obesity disease management since that time. My wish is to help you on your own journey of lifetime obesity disease management with shareposts along the way to help you navigate that journey successfully.

Published On: April 20, 2012