Thanks McKinley. I really appreciate you saying that. As for your question, it’s a good one. The answer is tricky and I suspect plays out quite different for everyone.

For me (particularly at the beginning before my new, now trustworthy behaviours kicked in), I sometimes felt physically hungry — that rumbling stomach or low-energy, light-headedness. To combat it, my best weapon was to be very organised about exactly what I was eating at each meal (including knowing the number of calories), and the 1–2 hour window when I was going to eat it. By doing that, I eventually found a pattern where my body was satisfied by the type and quantity of food I was eating, and I was always able to consume the meal just before hunger took hold.

While that was usually successful, inevitably, the body sometimes disagrees and hunger hits unexpectedly between meals. For that I always keep a couple of healthy, 100 calorie snacks close to hand — for example 10g cashews + 15g brown raisins, or a banana. Both are filling, nutritious and tasty enough to hit the spot for an hour or two until the next meal, without significantly setting back the calorie count for the day.

In principle, no matter what you do to cope, I think it’s a question of learning your body along with the numbers — e.g. at 10.30am, 4pm and 9.30pm every day, how do you feel and how does that relate to what you have eaten and your day’s activity? For the first few weeks, it takes a fair amount of bandwidth to do these calorie experiments and mentally note the results, but it helps enormously to increase understanding in the long-term and make that hard-earned weight loss sustainable. For example, I now know that if I’ve had only 500 calories during the day, I’ll need to eat a dinner of at least 550 calories by 6.30pm latest. If for some reason I’m eating later, I need to grab one of my 100 calorie snacks at around 5.30pm, which should hopefully tide me over until 7pm. If I’m eating even later than that, I’ll probably need to take a second raisin cashew hit around 6.30pm etc. etc.. Simply put, I’m now able to better predict when I’ll get hungry and do something about it before it kicks in.

Even then, I’m still sometimes left with psychological hunger — a more challenging creature, which thrives in the environment of nothingness. I’ve found the best tool against it is to do fulfilling activities between meals — obviously something that isn’t always within our control, and a bigger philosophical conundrum about the lives we lead. But by habit, persistence, trusting the process of handling the physical hunger, and quietly celebrating the results as I became lighter, eventually psychological hunger became easier to handle. Temptation is always there, in my memories as much as my surroundings (I still think about the last, takeout pizza I had more frequently than I’d like!), but it became easier to stave off as time went on and the scales showed results.

I hope that’s useful! Thanks again for reading and commenting.

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Scottish-Ghanaian writer, photographer and former lawyer; currently based in Bucharest, Romania.

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