Friday, October 1, 2010

Do you need to be hungry to lose weight?

A lot of the diets out there will tell you that you should never let yourself be hungry. You should always eat before you reach that point. Fill up on low calorie foods, vegetables and the like...

Does this really work?

After losing my first 15-20 pounds, I went through quite a few months where the scale just didn't move. I was eating healthy, mostly unprocessed foods. I might even be able to say that I was eating intuitively. It worked fabulously for maintaining my weight, but I wasn't losing anything. So, why is that?

Perhaps because I never let myself be hungry?

The thing is, our bodies survive by sending us signals as to what they think they need. One thing our bodies try to do is maintain their current weight. There's a lot of buzz in the blogger world about intuitive eating and to be honest, I just don't get it. If I eat intuitively, I am going to be feeding my body whenever it's hungry. My body is going to send me signals that it needs food (and then I'll be hungry) whenever it enters a calorie deficit.

You need a calorie deficit to lose weight.

There's tricks out there. Weight watchers has their list of filling foods. You might hear advice to drink tea or munch on celery...

I'm not fooled by that.

Seriously. I am enough in touch with my body that, if I'm physically hungry, tea or celery doesn't change that. Until I throw some calories in there, I still feel hungry. Those things may help when I'm feeling emotional hunger, or I'm just feeling munchy, but not when I'm truly physically hungry.

In order to stay in my calorie range, I will be hungry, and I'm coming to accept that. In fact, I think being this in touch is a good thing. When the time does come to maintain my weight and I'm training hard for triathlons, it should help me to know when I genuinely need more fuel for my workouts.

Until then, in order to lose a modest amount of weight each week (1-2 pounds), I have to feel a modest amount of hunger.


  1. Have I told you lately.... Awesome, and so spot on.. Hungry, not so bad...

  2. I think there's a difference between feeling hungry and feeling so hungry that you need to eat something RIGHT now or you're going to pass out or throw up.

    The first one is okay, and as you said, I think necessary for losing weight.

    The second? That's dangerous (for me, anyway). If I let myself get to that point, I'll eat everything in the house.

    A little bit of hunger isn't a bad thing.

    And I totally agree - tea and celery? Not going to do anything but make me even hungrier.

  3. Love this post!

    I think a big learning for me in this process is that being uncomfortable is okay. It's required to see change. So if an extra lap or 10 minutes of cardio or heavier weight or whatever isn't a pleasant feeling, if it feels like effort, it's not the end of the world.

    A little hunger is uncomfortable, but it's not painful. I'm not going to die of hunger.

    I'm a big girl. I can deal with not being comfortable all the time!

  4. Love this post!!! It makes a tremendous amount of sence and I am a firm believer in everything you said! Keep up the excellent work!

  5. Great post and oh so true. I sometimes forget that it's ok to be a lil hungry. I was reminded of this last night right before I went to bed. I was thinking "oh...hunger pang, need food..ah it's too late to eat I'll just go to bed" and woke up fine.

  6. I just popped into your blog for the first time and I gotta say, this is exactly what has been on my mind for a while now. Like you stuck at that 20lbs. I guess I'm going to have to learn to be hungry for a while. :)

  7. The nutritionist we saw today said if we never let ourselves get hungry, the body does use the stored fat to feed from, therefore the fat stays. Interesting.

  8. Great post, Deb! Here's my problem with the intuitive eating concept. In theory, it's wonderful, but I can't handle the "eat when hungry, stop when satisfied" motto. My "stop when satisfied" button doesn't work. I'm NEVER satisfied and once I start, I'm in big trouble. It's much easier when I'm totally sugar and flour free, but not sure I'll ever be able to totally buy in to the current intuitive eating fad.

    However, I'm NOT being critical. It seems to work for others and that is MY motto, "whatever works for you as long as it's healthy."


  9. I'm with you. I think there has to be physical hunger to lose weight. When I'm in that phase, I cannot say that I'm not hungry. I'm just doing a better job of ignoring it.

  10. I completely agree with you. I think W.W. with their hunger scale tries to teach you this. Also agree with debbie up there about being too hungry.

    You sound like you are on the right track.

  11. I love this post. It's totally true. Hunger is not so bad. And I heard a quote one day that something along the lines of "Nobody ever died of hunger from missing one meal" or something like that. So true.