How do I eat less and deal with my hunger?
October 4, 2021 11:59 PM   Subscribe

I would like to eat less so that I can lose weight and save money.

Like everyone else, I have piled on Covid pounds due to going out less and commuting less (my location is suffering from a severe Covid Delta wave so I really don't feel like going out. I also hate wearing masks). I used to walk a mile or so to get my groceries pre-Covid but now I have them delivered instead. Little things like this means that I am a lot more sedentary than before.

In addition, I had a foot problem that led to my limping around in pain for a long time before I finally bit the bullet and got surgery. I have more or less fully recovered from the foot surgery but due to the foot problem, my mobility has been restricted for months and I've fallen off the exercise horse. I'm sort of afraid to exercise again because of my memories of being in pain whenever I place weight on the foot in question. I had trouble standing on my foot/walking for quite a long time which also meant that I had trouble cooking for a while and ate more convenience meals simply because moving around the house and standing at the stove/kitchen counter was beyond me.

Before the foot problem and up until recently, I was in a stressful working while studying situation which resulted in a lot of comfort eating and not much time for cooking. I've graduated and quit working that job since which has resulted in less money as well as less stress.

The end result of all this is that I have gotten so fat that I look pregnant. I am too afraid to check my weight but I'm pretty confident my BMI is in the obese range.

I eat three square meals a day with adequate complex carbs, protein and fats (the portions could be smaller actually). Given my sedentary lifestyle, I really do not require many calories. I really need to lose weight.

However, I'm having major issues dealing with hunger and the urge to munch in between meals. Like I said, I am eating enough and getting enough calories/nutrition so I have no reason to eat in between meals or late at night. I am not going to starve and I have stocked dry nuts to munch on in case of real hunger. I hate dry, roasted nuts so I will only eat them if I'm really starving.

I think the issue is that I have gotten used to comfort eating unhealthy but tasty snacks at all hours whenever I feel like it (with the traumatic surgery and the work/study situation I had plenty of reasons to stuff myself) and eating large portions of food so it feels really hard to cut back on portions as well wean myself off high-fat savory snacks like potato chips.

Given my tighter budget nowadays, it would really help if I could eat less so that I have more money to spend on higher quality foods like salmon and berries instead of buying junk. I would also like to feel physically attractive again (difficult for a fat, middle-aged female, I have gotten a lot of nasty remarks about my weight from family and have even been verbally harassed on the street by male strangers before for being a "landwhale"). I also really need to lose weight for health reasons.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Going through something similar here. It's so easy to snack all day out of boredom. So far I am trying to drink more water and eat fruit instead of packaged junk foods, but I need more ideas. Will be watching this post closely for advice.

Sorry about the abuse you have received about your weight, that's not okay at all.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 12:20 AM on October 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Sounds like you've had a bit of a tough time of it, sorry to hear that.

I have had success with intermittent fasting - 16:8 to be specific. I eat all my calories in an 8 hour period every day, which is usually midday-ish until 8pm-ish. In the morning I drink a black coffee and lots of water & sugar-free squash. I found it a bit tough in the mornings for a couple of weeks but then my body seemed to get used to it and now I don't think about it much. It works for me as I can still go out for dinner and have what I like and don't have to think much about calories etc. I still try to eat reasonably healthily most days, but don't obsess about it. I intend to stay eating like this long-term and that feels very doable.

There's a lot of info & support available online re. intermittent fasting - I found this subreddit quite helpful when I was first starting.
posted by amerrydance at 12:35 AM on October 5, 2021 [5 favorites]

I dealt with evening grazing by brushing my teeth for bed at the first grumble from the tum. I didn't go to bed, though: just won a couple of hours of awake time without intake - the detergents in toothpaste don't combine well on the palate with anything else.
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:30 AM on October 5, 2021 [22 favorites]

Like amerrydance I have had good results with 16:8 intermittent fasting. It’s really helped me be comfortable with feeling hungry and not being anxious about that. I’ve lost about sixteen pounds with that and some pretty light exercise, and it feels entirely sustainable for me.

Some days I naturally only eat dinner and a few snacks afterwards, most days I have a big lunch, a mid afternoon snack, and a small but nice dinner, with water and unsweetened teas at other times of the day. Sometimes I have a ripe piece of fruit or an egg in the morning too, sometimes I eat a big breakfast (if it’s a social occasion, basically) and a late lunch and don’t have dinner, with a longer fast the next day until lunch. It’s very flexible and mutually compatible with many other dietary guidelines, since it’s about when you eat and not what you eat. I also try to eat a lot more fiber than I used to. Today I accidentally did the one meal a day (you will come across the term OMAD) because I just didn’t eat until dinner… had a big dinner and a few snacks afterwards (dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate) and I’m perfectly satisfied until tomorrow.

There are a lot of support groups and stuff for this, but I just watched a bunch of Jason Fung’s very straightforward videos and went from there.

For snacking I’ve learned to put up barriers for myself, and to stop and think about why I want that snack. So I have forced myself to habitually put a portion of a snack into a bowl - no bags or boxes of snacks are allowed to leave the kitchen, they must first be “plated”. I got a set of little glass containers with lids (I think they are Libby brand?) and one of those is a portion of snack - they are great for storing small amounts of leftovers too - but if I want more snacks I have to go back and refill the container. I also cut up fruits and things because I’m worth that level of care.

I also try very hard to always get a drink when I have a snack. A lot of mindless hunger is just misidentified thirst. So I have decided that snacks = food AND beverage, but since I don’t keep sugary drinks in the house nor do I drink booze (med side effects) that beverage is always going to be water or tea since everything else is too complicated to make in the moment of snackage. Since I’m drinking when I snack I end up wanting less snack.

While I’m “plating”, or preferably before, I try to figure out why I want the snack. If I’m hungry, that’s cool. If I’m bored or anxious or need something to do with my hands, I have other things I can do for that instead of snacking. If I just have a craving for that particular snack, that’s also cool and I go ahead and have a small portion, but I try my best to actually pay attention when I’m eating, to chew it deliberately and think about the flavor and stuff. So sometimes I’ll be like “it’s cheezits time” (possibly my favorite snack) but instead of mindlessly inhaling a box of them while watching a tv show I listen to some chill music and actually sit down with a drink and a bowl of cheezits and eat them one at a time. I do this with lovely seasonal fruit, as well, because you shouldn’t forgo lovely seasonal fruit just because it’s a “snack”.

If I were in your position about having exercise anxiety I would look into specific anxiety-reducing physical techniques like breathwork and physical therapist recommended stretches and such to help you work through the worry about your stability and (reasonable, understandable, and normal) fear of pain.
posted by Mizu at 1:44 AM on October 5, 2021 [19 favorites]

I don’t think you mention vegetables anywhere in your post - they are your secret weapon. Double or triple the amount of vegetables you eat - they’re full of fibre which helps to fill you up, and have very few calories. Make most of your dinner plate veg and then add in just enough protein and carbs to feel like a meal, not the other way around. Try a squeeze of lemon juice on the veg to enhance the flavour, rather than a knob of butter.

Also has other benefits like making you feel perkier from all the nutrients, making your bowels regular, helping readjust your palate away from the sweet/fatty stuff. And makes your dinner look great, if you choose a real rainbow of vegetables.

For the snacking, I’ve had luck before not by trying to ban myself from unhealthy snacks, but deciding I have to eat at least one apple a day. When I want to snack, I go for the apple first to get it out of the way and actually once I’ve eaten that, I find I don’t fancy the other snacks as much.

Even if you don’t want to calorie count long term, it can be really instructive to get an app and do it for a few weeks. It’s quite astonishing at first how many calories are in some things. You learn which high calorie snacks are worth the budget and which could be easily swapped out for something else.

Nuts are very high in fat, and fruit is high in sugar, so they should both be eaten in moderation - eating lots of nuts is definitely not a path to weight loss.

There are many values of healthy when it comes to food, and aiming for weight loss is only one of them, but you can choose how you order your priorities. Things like avocado, nuts, olive oil, nut butters, oily fish, are all very good for you in other ways, but if you want to lose weight need to be eaten in moderation because they’re also very high calorie.
posted by penguin pie at 3:05 AM on October 5, 2021 [23 favorites]

It sounds like you know what you need to do, and you want it (smaller portion sizes) to happen quickly. Your body needs time to adjust, though. How much are you reducing your servings by? If you went from 1.5 lbs of food/meal to 1.2, that’s a big drop! My body would protest too (in the form of binging). Can you reduce less for now, and increment downward slowly?

It may also help to increase your fiber; fiber-rich foods, especially when eaten with a balanced meal, makes you feel fuller longer. I say balanced because a bowl of oatmeal alone will only keep me full for 90 minutes or so, but oatmeal plus peanut butter keeps me going for 3-4 hours.

It can also help to identify exactly when you’re choosing to snack. I can’t go to bed hungry - I can’t sleep. So, I either increase my dinner and shift it later (7:30 instead of 6, if I go to bed at 10) or have a designated snack (usually hot cocoa or such fruit and nuts) around 9.

Exercise is great for overall health and feeling good in your body, but exercising for weight loss can backfire - exercising can make you more hungry, and it frequently doesn’t burn as many calories as one might think. For some people, though, it can really help with mood and hormones, which can then make it easier to stick with your eating plan. My hunger level is higher but more…realistic, for lack of a better word, on days that I exercise.

Lastly, how’s your sleep? If you’re not getting enough sleep, it can be very easy to eat more, and to eat unplanned/rich/unhelpful foods.
posted by punchtothehead at 3:13 AM on October 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

(I should add - the nuts and fruit is 10-15 almonds and an apple or orange, not a handful of nuts and dried fruit. And the hot cocoa is homemade, so just unsweetened cocoa, milk, and the amount of sugar I choose, which is typically half of what most cocoa recipes on the internet call for.)
posted by punchtothehead at 3:16 AM on October 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am not sure what will work for you but what has been working for me lately is:

1) Intermittent fasting. I was very skeptical I could do this when I started but now I don't give it a second thought. I don't eat from dinner (about 6pm) until lunch (12pm).

2) I eat three times a day: two big meals and one snack mid-afternoon. Because of this, those meals can be pretty big, which I think helps me feel more satisfied.

3) Every time I eat, I make sure the meal includes lean protein.

4) Every time I eat, I make sure that half of the plate (and it can be a smaller plate for the snack) is filled with vegetables or fruit. Obviously some things come in a bowl or what have you, but this is the general philosophy.

5) I try to be carb mindful. I don't avoid carbs altogether, but I take care with them. I try to avoid heavily processed carbs (including bread) as much as I can, but if I am going to have something carb heavy for one meal I'll try to balance that with low- or no-carb eating the rest of the day.

The most important of these habits for me are 1 and 3, I think. I have no trouble getting enough protein, but if I focus on adding vegetables instead of subtracting things, it helps immensely. One thing that is useful is to always have a bin or container full of ready-to-eat chopped vegetables in the fridge that I can easily add to a meal when I need to.

What works for me might not work for you, but this is how I approach it and I have found that it lets me feel like I am eating "normally," which is a big thing for me psychologically. I can still eat out from time to time and we have pizza (usually homemade) once a week and it doesn't inhibit my progress too much.
posted by synecdoche at 3:47 AM on October 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Several people I know lost a lot of weight and kept it off on Weight Watchers or going vegan. (Both involve at-home cooking.) WW is vegetable and fruit-centric. Vegan protein comes from budget-friendly beans, not pricey meat, fish, dairy, and nuts. Also cutting down on alcohol or cutting it out completely cuts down on calories and spending.

Do you have space for a small, folding indoor bike to use in winter while your foot completely heals?
posted by Elsie at 4:12 AM on October 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

A while back, in my mid 40s, I wanted to lose 50 pounds and did it with a calorie counting app. It gave me the daily goals I needed to motivate me through the hunger pangs. It also let me know where my calories were coming from - I immediately stopped putting so much olive oil in my pasta sauce. I'm not saying you need to stick rigidly to a plan but it sound like you might benefit from the sense of context it can give.

I set out to lose weight at a slow rate because I didn’t want to feel terribly hungry all the time and I figured that if I was going to rebound after the diet, I wanted to spend a good long while approaching and in the vicinity of, my target weight. I also though the habits might “stick” better if I decided to spend more than a year at it. It largely worked out that way. You don’t have to make weight the metric of your set goal though.

If you can do any upper body exercises, a few simple calisthenics progressions will give you a challenge that's not weight related and will make you feel better about how your flesh is “hanging”. I've found that a short routine is best because I'm less likely to put it off. As an old man, I think building a tiny bit of muscle has done a lot to make me feel like I'm improving something, rather than just stagnating during COVID. I've had a comparatively minor foot problem over the last couple years that's kept me reform running or walking distances but can still ride a bike, so that's been the main way I exercise my legs and get cardio.

From the question, it sounds like you've got an amazing handle on this and just need to shift the tiller a little bit to change course. Good luck!
posted by brachiopod at 4:22 AM on October 5, 2021 [8 favorites]

I hear you. I have been asked "Are you pregnant?" before (definitely not), and it's rude.

I've lost a fair amount of weight in the past 2 years, first with Weight Watchers, and now with Lose It (calorie counting). Some tricks for boredom eating: I gave myself permission to buy good decaf coffee, I gave myself permission to keep sparkling water in the house at all times, and I always have carrots. In the mornings, after breakfast, before lunch, I get to drink as much good decaf coffee as I want. I drink this black, so it's not adding calories, but it feels like such a nice treat. In the afternoons, I drink sparkling water - I like the aldi unsweetened brand. I'm drinking a lot of plain water all the time, but the sparkling water feels different and can help get me through an extra hour or so of the afternoon before I decide I really do need a snack. Tea could work, or flavored water packets, I just prefer sparkling water. Finally, carrots (but fill in with any vegetable you like): carrot sticks are an afternoon snack that I can have any time and in any quantity I need. I often dip them in salsa. And then I do brush my teeth after dinner and don't eat anything else.

I'm not perfect by any means, but these small tricks really do help me. If you want a buddy, my memail is open. I'm not done losing weight, but I'm no longer in the obese range, and I've gotten off my blood pressure medications.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:04 AM on October 5, 2021 [4 favorites]

Another recommendation for intermittent fasting. I used to be ruled by huge blood sugar swings and terrible hunger. Now I routinely do 16:8 and often 20:4. It took about a week to adjust but then — it was amazing the difference. Also agree on drinking more water — I like it ice-cold and occasionally lightly flavored (like a squeeze of lime juice.) Sparkling water also has helped with my former habit of boredom eating … mindlessly mousing around in the cupboards.

I did a brief stint of calorie counting just to adjust my sense of portion sizes, but I couldn’t make a continuing habit of it.
posted by profreader at 6:33 AM on October 5, 2021

I think other posters have got the nutrition side covered, I wanted to mention the psychological support that the food is giving you. I too have put on the Covid-pounds and whilst I know that I need to eat less and move more, it's been what i've been doing about my hunger itself that I've done differently. I've been wailing/angering out all the sad/bad/alone/tired etc feelings that I would usually eat to care for/squash down/alleviate, and honestly it's been hard but amazing. You may find me - lying on the floor cradling my belly saying how hungry I am - stomping about like a toddler because "i deserve snacks" - and a whole host of other things.

I also have one snack per day (yes, it's a strip of chocolate!) that I enthuse about. "CHOCOLATE TIME!!!!!!! WEEEEEEEEE!"
posted by london explorer girl at 6:56 AM on October 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

In general, you're probably not getting enough protein. The guideline I've been working with (successfully) is to eat 0.8 - 1 gram of protein per desired body weight (so I want to weight 155, I eat between 155-160 grams of protein per day). Generally after that, eating a lower fat diet is recommended so I have about 200 carbs and the rest of my ~1800 calories are made up in fats. I prioritize getting my protein and do my best to hit my other macros, but if I don't get it quite right, I try to stay within my calorie budget.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:16 AM on October 5, 2021

If you're near a medical school, check out if the associated hospital/clinic offers "Adult Medical Weight Management". They will have a variety of programs (some free, some covered by insurance, others might be research studies) that can help you define, and meet your goals.
posted by wearyaswater at 7:23 AM on October 5, 2021

It's very important to include strength training into any weight loss program, especially after age 40. Cutting calories will result in weight loss, but primarily you will be losing lean muscle mass if you dont also increase exercise. To encourage that muscle to stick around, strength training is essential. There are tons of beginner exercises on youtube, most of which dont require any equipment other than maybe a couple free weights

This has another benefit: muscle burns more calories by weight than fat, by a large margin. This means every bit of muscle you gain is increasing your metabolism.

You may find that your weight doesnt go down at certain points, but your measurements will get smaller, as muscle replaces fat (it weighs more but takes up less room) so keep an eye on your tape measure and how your clothes fit, not just the numbers on the scale.

Best of luck!
posted by ananci at 7:24 AM on October 5, 2021 [8 favorites]

Fat, protein, and fibre should be your focus.

This combo is working for me right now: If you eat meat - one meal that’s fatty meat, like chicken thighs or pork if you want to avoid beef, with a veggie side (no white carbs). Another meal that involves beans (a stew or casserole you make on a day you have time and freeze for later). And a filling breakfast (eggs and yogurt and a veg, or oatmeal, or a fiberific cold cereal). No snacks or junk in the house.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:39 AM on October 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Eating slower is supposed to help make you feel full. The idea being there is some lag between when you're full and when you think you're full so by slowing down your eating you'll eat less after the point of being full. So chew your food well, fully enjoy the taste and texture, and drink water in between more of your bites, and hopefully you'll eat less than you would otherwise.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:18 AM on October 5, 2021

Low-carb is the only thing that ever worked for me, and it worked amazingly well. I didn't even have to try to eat less and it wasn't even my goal (my goal was fewer seizures, and it worked for that too), but it happened naturally. I know low-carb has a bad rep for some people or seems extreme after years of seeing the food pyramid everywhere, but it was pretty revolutionary for me-- a person who spent my whole life hungry 24 hrs a day, always stressed about what and where I was going to eat next, wasting money on snacks while doing errands, etc. Something as simple as plenty of protein and fat and veggies changed that completely.
posted by asimplemouse at 8:19 AM on October 5, 2021 [5 favorites]

Have you had things like A1C levels checked? If not, do so.
posted by aramaic at 8:30 AM on October 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Sorry to hear these abusive comments. You don't deserve that. Ever.

I stumbled into a few things that I'll account but the overarching theme is do what you can, find what you like and works for you, repeat and adapt.

I have lost about 40 pounds this year. I accidentally was intermittent-fasting. Mainly, because I got to a place where I was closely watching my need for food and hunger.

I reduced my daily caloric intake and looked at how my macros broke out: fat, protein, carbohydrates and fiber. I used myfitnesspal as the tracker. It has a pretty good database of foods/brands that are pre-loaded into the system. It also uses a barcode reader for easier use. I tracked my food regularly for 3 months. That was not by intent rather, it just played out that way. I came into patterns of eating that were consistent. I did not need to see data on an app that I knew, because it was rote.

I began exercising around that three month mark. There are a ton of youtube channels that have all levels of exercise that you can do anywhere. Stretching, yoga, bands, weights HIIT, etc. I was a moderate dogwalker. Not fast, not slow, but daily. Overtime, I did a Kostanza (Referencing a Seinfeld show character, George Kastanza, doing the exact opposite of what he wanted and getting positive results) and joined Orange Theory. Not everyone's cup of tea. Certainly, it wasn't mine. However, the structure and regularity has benefitted me greatly.

Having foods that are good for you and you want to eat, close at hand, make it as easy as possible to follow your plan. I am not Puritanical in my following but I have a goal. I don't beat myself up if I eat something outside of my expected food. Meal/snack planning is not simple but has become part of my day. What and how much are pretty much known to me now. I just have to remember to bring the food I've purchased. I want to really enjoy what I eat now. The calories have a significance, for the first time ever, which is kind of cool.

Bit by bit, I have lost weight and gained strength and flexibility. It has given me confidence to trust myself which is an issue that I have. For me, wanting to change and actually changing are difficult.

I am a 50+ year old man who was, BMI-wise, obese and living a sedentary life. I did not think I could do this.

Be well, friend.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:30 AM on October 5, 2021 [7 favorites]

Nthing veggies. I find that if I make myself eat a plate of crudites and a piece of fruit in the afternoon, in addition to three nutritious meals, that I don't feel hungry or snackish. Sometimes I include a tablespoon or so of low-fat hummus to dip the veggies in if I feel like it.

One of Weight Watchers weekly tips earlier in the year was entitled "snack with a purpose". Eating a portion-controlled snack that contains both protein and fiber can help you feel more satisfied. They suggested nuts, yogurt, eggs or meat as the protein and fruit or veggies as the fiber.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:30 AM on October 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

I did a weight loss program that focused on being able to eat as much as you want of the high volume/low calorie foods, limited amounts of medium density foods. Here is their chart. so that includes no limit on things like vegetables, fresh fruit, popcorn (butter spray, no butter) as well as their protein shakes (lots of ice so high volume and less than 200 calories) and prepackaged, portion controlled entrees (easy to find in frozen section of the grocery store - less than 300 calories, at least 9 g protein.) The idea is to go ahead and eat as much as you want of the low density foods so you never feel deprived. I found combining that with calorie counting was very effective for me.
posted by metahawk at 11:35 AM on October 5, 2021

If you are still hungry, then I do not believe powering through that hunger is going to be sustainable long term.

From my own experience, I found that two things help me not be hungry. One is eating at least 20g of protein with every meal, and the other (and that is something I really pay attention to) is avoiding carbs-heavy meals. Carbs make me hungry, and having cereal for breakfast makes me ravenous before noon. So nowadays I have eggs or a protein shake for breakfast, but no bread, and no cereal. Lunch is protein (always) and lots of veggies, no potatoes and no rice. I am not hungry at all, when I used to be hungry all.the.time.

Second, I listen to myself at meal times. What would I find truly satisfying right now? Then I have that. I found that eating satisfying things helps me feel really full. Surprisingly, this sometimes means I eat something like ice-cream instead of regular lunch, just because I feel like that is exactly what I want. Sometimes, surprisingly, I find that I am actually craving an apple, or hot soup.

Third, I lost a bunch of weight and kept it off for a year now. So who knows. But what I found this time, and in the past, is that eating a lot of carbs makes me crave carbs, and re-setting my taste to eat more protein and fresh veggies and fresh fruit makes me crave fresh veggies and fresh fruit. Powering through hunger has never worked for me but being more mindful about picking "the healthiest option I can honestly enjoy right now"* is much easier.

*Yoni Freedhof, The Diet Fix - heartily recommend.
posted by M. at 11:35 AM on October 5, 2021 [6 favorites]

You had pain that restricted your mobility, then surgery that restricted your mobility and was a traumatic experience. You could not stand/walk without pain, let alone exercise for an extended period. You continue to have an instinctive sense of protectiveness of your injured foot, which makes it hard to reintroduce weight-bearing activities. This is a major challenge, and you're not weird or bad for struggling with it. Our bodies naturally avoid movements that hurt, and other parts disproportionately compensate for an injured part in ways that can be detrimental in the long run. If you have access to physical therapy, I would start there. Alternatively, consider a consultation (or, budget permitting, ongoing monthly sessions with) a corrective exercise specialist who can help you identify safe ways to add more movement into your routine with a goal of improving your alignment, balance, mobility, and strength. You cannot diet your way to healing your foot--you could lose 100lbs and your body would still be protective of that foot/leg, and you'd still be at risk of back/hip/etc. pain and injury due to that compensation.

You mention that, with your sedentary lifestyle, you don't need many calories. I would gently suggest that we are inundated with wild, unrealistic, and dangerous messages about our caloric needs. Many commonly promoted diets that aren't considered extreme promote calorie counts that would be appropriate for toddlers, not fully grown adult humans. (To say nothing of the fact that calorie counts on food packaging aren't accurate, and two humans can eat the same portion of the same food and absorb different amounts of calories.) The one outcome intentional weight loss efforts--whether "crash diets" or "lifestyle changes"--most consistently lead to is an initial period of temporary weight loss followed by weight gain to a higher number than before the diet. I'd highly recommend Health at Every Size by Lindo Bacon for alternative strategies for caring for your body and pursuing health. There's a 3-minute book trailer by the author on the page I linked, which gives a nice intro to the concept.
posted by theotherdurassister at 11:39 AM on October 5, 2021 [10 favorites]

Cutting carbs is the biggest thing that helped me with hunger. I’ve read that it’s actually the rate of decrease in falling blood sugar levels that triggers hunger, so spiking blood sugar with sweets/starches and having it drop back down quickly makes my body think it’s starving and it’s vitally important to eat, regardless of the number of calories I actually consumed. Protein, fat, non-starchy vegetables are all very helpful for me in keeping hunger at bay. Before going low-carb I literally never knew what it was like to be hungry but not feel compelled to eat immediately. After I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and went low-carb, I was astonished to find that I actually didn’t have to feel like I was starving to death (and sweaty, shaky, brain-foggy) every few hours.

As far as snacks, I recently discovered the joys of shell-on flavored sunflower seeds. I can snack steadily on them for hours and get a ton of satisfaction and still only consume maybe 100 calories because the edible part of each seed is so small. Plus they are low-carb and very tasty and fun to eat. Enrichment for humans!
posted by music for skeletons at 12:28 PM on October 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

There are several classes of appetite suppressants out there, including newer ones (liraglutide, semaglutide) that are amazing at decoupling irrational, distracting, damaging hunger from actual food/energy requirements.

You know that expression that depression lies to you? So does hunger.
posted by Dashy at 12:38 PM on October 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Last year I did a program through my work health plan that worked really well at reducing how much I ate in a meal, and how much snacking I did. I didn't lose a bunch of weight but I didn't gain any during that time, which I would have likely done otherwise.

Essentially it focused on eating slowly and mindfully for 10 minutes during mealtime, (I set a timer) then waiting a few minutes before eating again if I was still truly hungry. It did a great job of curtailing spaced-out eating, and giving my brain time to catch the "I'm full" signals. I ate less but didn't get the crazy hungry signals. It created some much needed structure when working from home. Send me a message if you would like a link.
posted by Maude_the_destroyer at 2:12 PM on October 5, 2021

Can you brainstorm a list of comforting things you can do that are not related to eating, and substitute them some of the time when you want a snack? Petting a cat, or taking a hot shower, or watching an old TV show, etc.
posted by metasarah at 2:17 PM on October 5, 2021 [2 favorites]

Drink more water, but also, add psyllium husk to it. Think Metamucil, but not full of colourings, flavourings, and sugar. A good idea is a shaker cup such as one might use for protein powder after the gym. Throw a tablespoon of husk in there, top up with water, shake, and chug. Very filling, and good for your poop-tubes.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:08 PM on October 5, 2021


Think big picture, not short term losses!
posted by erattacorrige at 3:36 PM on October 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

Awhile back I joined Weight Watchers and strictly adhered to the points. The main thing was to eat throughout the day.

On a typical day I'd have: nine triscuits, a hard-boiled egg, an ounce of cheese, etc., but spread out through the day. It required an effort to get into the routine and make sure I had all the right baggies for the day but it worked wonders and I was eating frequently enough that I wasn't hungry.

You have to be willing to work to maintain your diet, but I'd abandon it one or two days a week and go out for dinner and it would be fine.
posted by bendy at 6:59 PM on October 5, 2021

Also chiming in on physical therapy - I have personally found that pain can be very crippling both physically and mentally, and that I found in my case a good physiotherapist was 10x more helpful than any doctors, ultrasounds or MRI scans.

I think pain is very much tied up with our fear response - pain is our body's way of warning us of impending damage, and warning us to stop using those muscles or joints. But a physiotherapist showed me what movements and exercises were safe, and in fact, the cure for pain may be - paradoxically - to use those muscles and joints more - because the less you use them, the more they atrophy, and with less activity, they get less blood flow and healing is made much slower, and the more this happens the less range of motion you end up with. And as you've identified, pain itself is a major stressor that could be driving comfort eating. And the increased weight is not doing your foot any favours, so I'd imagine a comprehensive solution would need to attack the issue at both ends.

It's about regaining confidence in your body's ability to move and function, and that with the proper exercises approved by the physio, if you feel pain, it's the pain of healing, not the pain of increasing damage. My right shoulder still ended up with significantly less range of motion than left, but the outcome I had today is so much better than I would have had trying to deal with the pain and recovery on my own.
posted by xdvesper at 11:30 PM on October 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

This may depend on what you associate with 'comfort' when it comes to snacks or food. But if soups are not a key part of your diet at the moment consider adding soups.

Soups are a great way to add veg to your diet, you can easily make them more filling by adding protein to make them more a meal than a snack. For me, soups are anything from a cup of hot broth I sip to a bowl of something rich and very meal like, such as hamburger soup. The former makes a nice snack, the latter clearly is a meal that you actually have to prep and cook. But you can make a pot and eat throughout the week or freeze.

You can assemble and boil some veg with a bit of broth, blend the veg to get a nice, rich mouth feel without adding lots of fat/cream. Soups tend to be eaten warm, which goes a long way towards 'comfort' for me. They are savory, which again works for me. You can just add a few bits of rotisserie chicken or an egg to add protein.

In fact I have been losing weight and part of that was adding ramen a few times a week. I found ramen packets I like and discard 2/3 of the noodles because weight loss for me requires going easy on carbs. I add a couple of hands full of uncooked stir fry veg (I buy the the bags of stir fry veg you just have to cook and add sauce to) and a few lumps of rotisserie chicken/cooked meatballs to the spice packet and top this with a lot of boiling water. 3 mins later I have a meal I enjoy greatly - it is also very filling, hot and soothing and not a lot of calories for a main meal.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:25 AM on October 6, 2021

For weaning off snacks, I have had a great deal of success with just not having them in the house. Like, I really don't have anything that I would actively choose to eat as a snack (although there is food I can easily eat if I am really very hungry eg a slice of bread). Whilst it is annoying to not have the snack food I want, I only have to actually have any willpower at the moment at which I'm doing the grocery shopping. So I do that after a meal or another very non-hungry team. I'm fat and I've got nothing of any use on losing weight, though. I choose not to snack because I want to eat more healthily and snacking gets in the way for me.
posted by plonkee at 5:57 AM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I strongly second the "eat more vegetables!" suggestion - for one thing, when you're struggling with eating less, it can be really nice to have a positive goal in there, to eat MORE of something. Soups are a great suggestion, but I've been pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy microwaved frozen vegetables as a snack. A warm bowl of corn or peas with just a touch of butter and some salt and pepper - really good. Same for cooked cabbage. Who knew cooked cabbage was so tasty? I've been trying to eat ridiculous amounts of vegetables (like 400 grams or more a day), and like penguin pie's apple, focusing on the stuff you DO want to eat more of feels a lot better than just focusing on what you want to cut out.

I also encourage counting calories just for a month or so, to get a sense of which foods have the most calories. It can be really enlightening. You need a kitchen scale to do it right - weigh those potato chips, and weigh that bowl of peas (and the butter), and see how much more delicious warm comfort food you get to eat as peas vs. a tiny serving of potato chips. With condiments, pile on the mustard or salsa (very few calories for most varieties) but skip the mayo (lots of calories). It can help you identify the lower-calorie things that are still filling (like soup, and many fruits - watermelon is surprisingly low in calories).

But I also strongly encourage you to find ways to comfort yourself that you can substitute for comfort eating.

It's much easier to replace one habit with another than to just stop doing something. I recommend the book The Power of Habit - the website has a guide to changing habits (PDF) excerpted from the book, and a flowchart for changing a habit.

The steps are:
1. Identify the cue for the habit you want to change - feeling hungry, or maybe feeling cranky or blue or frustrated or anything that makes you want to feel better.
2. Think of another reward that could make you feel better. Do you like to take quick naps? Do crosswords? Call your best friend? What are some things that make you feel really good that you'd like more of in your life? Make a list, and try substituting one or more of those things instead of trying to get comfort from food.
3. As you go through the day, watch for the cues that make you want to eat, and immediately indulge yourself in your substitute pleasure instead.

Your impulse to take care of yourself and make yourself feel good during stressful times is a GOOD impulse. It's just that the thing you're using - high-calorie food - isn't making you feel good. Try replacing that with something else that does a better job of comforting you and giving you pleasure.

Good luck!
posted by kristi at 3:14 PM on October 7, 2021

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