It’s true. There is nothing good about the feeling of hunger. While not a true pain, hunger is physically very uncomfortable. It is also an emotionally distressing feeling, distressing our brains at the deepest level. The fear of starvation triggers strange thoughts about obtaining food at any cost, and can make most people do things they wouldn’t dream of doing in a well-fed state.
However, let’s think about this for a moment: In most cases, here is the US (and this holds true for other developed countries as well), we are quite well-fed. Most of us have some food in the pantry at all times. If anything, the more common problem is that we are drowning in food choices, constantly bombarded with picking between two equally indulgent places to go for dinner, or by the “difficult” choices of eating leftovers or cooking something new for dinner tonight. For the most part, we are not actually starving. Hungry yes, but not starving.
This is the distinction that you need to learn to make. You can be hungry without starving. You are not in danger. You are just trying to lose weight. It is hard to convince your reptilian brain of this fact when it is saying “EAT NOW,” but we have evolved with a large cerebral cortex to do just that. If we obeyed every thought of the basest level of our brains, we would be killing each other in the streets over parking spaces. We need to be better than that: We are humans, not wild animals!
If you are currently trying to stick with a time-restricted eating plan as outlined in the Q15 ebook, you might find it difficult to push through that horrible hunger feeling in the morning. This is common and expected.
For this reason, I have some practical tips to keep you on the path:
- If you are hungry first thing in the morning, drink 1-2 cups of black coffee, black tea, or water. Do not add sugar, artificial sweeteners, or milk to your coffee/tea. Yes, it is OK to drink coffee on an empty stomach for most people.
- Exercise early in the day, within 1-2 hours of waking up. Exercise will suppress your hunger for a little while. Plus it is better to exercise on an empty stomach!
- Wait it out. Hunger is typically really bad for about 20-30 minutes at a time, then naturally fades away. Learn to recognize that you are not going to die if you feel really hungry for 20 minutes. Embrace the discomfort as a physical manifestation of change.
- Keep busy! Idle time is bad for self-control. Inversely, it’s hard to worry about being hungry when you have 20 other things to do. Make yourself too busy to eat much in the morning.
- Allow yourself to feel the feeling of hunger and realize you don’t have to react to it. Just like with anything else, you must choose to react. Just like you don’t pick a fight with every annoying person you meet in a day, you don’t need to react to temporary hunger by immediately eating. Practice this cycle: Feel → Think → Pause → React.
- Remember that you are not actually starving. Food is right over there. You are doing this on purpose! You are safe and can eat whenever you really need to.
- Listen to your body. Eat if needed. Don’t try to starve yourself to quickly lose weight. This process is a marathon. If you are really hungry because you just worked out hard and now have a long day ahead of you and just don’t think you can make it until noon to eat today, that is OK. Allow yourself the freedom to be flexible. Eat something healthy.
It gets easier soon! Your body will adapt over time and the physical hunger pains will diminish. You are building lifelong habits here. There will be good days and bad days.
If you stick with this time-restricted eating thing for long enough you will begin to do it automatically and without thinking about it. Like most habits, it gets easier the more you do it. Until then, keep pushing through!