Even after years of (mostly) maintaining a big weight loss, I sometimes still have hungry days. You know, those days when you are truly hungry all day and you can’t do anything about it. Actually, you CAN do something about it. You can just stuff your face with whatever and accept the consequences. Or you can fight through it and be miserable all day.
Yesterday, I chose option #2. Here’s how I got through it, with only a little misery. (This is a detailed run-down of the day, maybe TMI for you but important for me to remember what I did and why.)
I was hungry when I got up. I am often hungry when I get up, but since I had a good protein-packed dinner (restaurant meal of mixed grill of 3 ounces each steak and chicken, plus 3 shrimp, a big tossed salad, a half a sweet potato and some brown bread), I was a bit surprised at the hunger pangs. I always plan ahead and build in enough time before I leave for my 6 a.m. train to cook and eat a good breakfast, usually an egg sandwich and some fruit or plain Greek yogurt with sliced almonds and fruit. Yesterday I was tripped up by bad outfit planning and I needed to iron a pair of pants at the last minute. No time to eat, so I grabbed a package of Kind Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars to have on the train.
A word about Kind Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars: They’re better than nothing, better than a pastry or fast-food breakfast. But that’s about all I’ll say. Some liken them to “eating peanut butter cookies for breakfast.” Not quite that bad, but still, there are three kinds of sugar in them (cane syrup, raisin paste and honey). Nutrition info here if you like gory details.
With Kind bars, I make a little deal with myself. I eat them in a pinch, and I agree when I eat them that I will be hungry a couple hours later and will just tough it out until lunchtime. That is, I won’t eat these bars for breakfast on the go, and then eat a second breakfast when I get to the office like some white-collar Hobbit.
Right on schedule, I was hungry at 9 a.m. I had packed my lunch the night before, including some grapes for an afternoon snack. I tried my usual ways of coping. I had some water. I had some hot herbal tea. I tried to concentrate on work. At 9:45 I broke down and ate the grapes. So I considered myself in a deficit.
Lunch could not come fast enough. I had a glass of water and tried to immerse myself in work until 11:30. Then I heated up what I thought would be a pretty filling, protein-packed lunch – 3 ounces each of leftover chicken and steak, plus 1/2 a sweet potato and 1 cup of green beans with olive oil.
I was hungry again at 3. This was getting ridiculous. I mean, the morning I could see because of some dubious choices, but that was a big lunch. I had more herbal tea. I took a 15-minute walk outside to get some air and distract myself. By 4 p.m. I had a headache, which is the usual outcome of being hungry all day, but I knew if I took something for it, I’d have an upset stomach. My back-up plan – the grapes – were gone. I grabbed an apple from the office fridge. This was not my apple, but it had been hanging around in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I stole it. Yes, I am that person. (I replaced it today.)
At 4:30 I left work for home. The apple made no difference. I had to decide: do I eat something caloric but guaranteed to fill me up, or do I tough it out? I told myself: I’m tough. I can take it.
I got home at 7, ravenous and with a brain-splitting headache. My husband prepares dinner Thursdays. He bought a rotisserie chicken from Costco – no veggies, no salad, no sides, no nothing. So I quickly steamed some asparagus, tossed with olive oil, and defrosted 1-cup chunk of homemade macaroni and cheese. I gobbled down almost half a chicken, half a pound of asparagus and half the mac and drank two big glasses of water. I still felt hungry, but at this point I knew my brain and my body had not caught up, so I waited. The headache subsided but did not go away completely.
I wrote down all my food for the day and was a couple calories shy of my daily intake plan. I also hit my exercise goal (walking 10,000 steps).
At 9, still feeling hungry, I had another choice to make: do I tough it out or eat something else to try yet again to stop the hungries? If I tough it out, I risk insomnia and a worse headache. If I eat something, it might work, it might not. There’s no guarantee the hunger will end, but maybe my brain will finally realize I have had plenty to eat. If I say “the heck with it” and pig out, I won’t feel hungry anymore, but I also might sleep poorly and will feel pretty lousy tomorrow just the same.
At this point, I was feeling desperate. So I ate a small piece of leftover frozen pizza that had been in the fridge since the weekend. I was over my calories for the day by about 200. I brushed my teeth and went to bed. It was 9:30.
I woke up this morning, very hungry again, with a splitting headache again. I am in for a second day of this torture. It’s almost lunchtime, my head hurts, and I am very hungry, despite a good breakfast.
I am telling this story not to get your sympathy or to just vent about how hard weight loss and maintenance are. I am just trying to show what happens, some days, when you do the best you can and you feel like nothing goes right.
I was in a hole from the minute I woke up. I tried to fill the hole as best I could. I made a lot of great choices and a few not-so-great ones. The simple act of eating – the most basic bodily function that most of us enjoy and many of us take for granted – utterly exhausted me. I don’t feel defeated, but I do feel humbled and angry. Even after years at the weight-loss maintenance game, I get down sometimes.