One of the blogs I follow is "Half the Woman I Used to Be", and she recently blogged about how she's still struggling with overeating. I know exactly how she feels and what she's going through. I've had the same fight with myself and am actually having one right now as I compose this post. I ate a snack about 2 hours ago and I have to wait about 4.5 more hours to eat dinner due to work scheduling. I have another planned snack, but I really should wait longer before I have it so that I'm not ravenous by dinner time and finding myself starting to eat things I shouldn't.
There are several things I do to help me through this when I have a small meal and then feel hungry anyway. Generally, I don't write about this sort of thing because I have my doubts that what works for me will work for others. Someone used to say, "your body, your science experiment". I think every body responds differently and most people already know what other people have tried and don't need more tips. That being said, I'm going to share what I do and think anyway because it can't hurt and I was going to write a gigantic comment on "SimplyGorgeous's" blog and it just seemed ridiculous to write such a long one when I could do a blog post in a format which was more readable.
In this battle, here is what I do (usually a combination of all of these):
1. Distract myself by getting into a situation which takes my attention and physical effort - housework, take a walk, give myself a task to accomplish which has a set duration. This gives my body time to recognize that I have enough food or allows my blood sugar to quiet down. I've noticed that I go to bed hungry sometimes, but wake up feeling okay. I think that a lot of hunger pangs are blood sugar fluctuations (which can be caused by eating choices, stress, or fatigue) and if you just get your mind off of it long enough, the extreme urge will quiet down.
2. Tell yourself again and again that the hunger you feel is a delayed lepton response. Your body tells you you need food, but you really don't. This is a battle of using your psychology to vanquish the biology. I remind myself that the food is there and I can have it soon, but not right now. I'm not going to suffer any serious problems if I just wait.
3. Try to visualize the fact that if my urge to consume food is "eating me up", then it'll have no choice but to start working on fat cells if I don't give it what it wants. I guess it's like treating my body like a kid who demands to stay up late when he has to get up early for school the next day. I figure that if I let him go to bed when he wants enough times, he'll eventually be so tired everyday that he'll go to bed early for his own benefit. If I don't give into my body's demands, it'll eventually be better off consuming existing body fat.
4. Drink a hot liquid of any sort which isn't densely caloric - tea is usually my first choice, but I'll have a sugar-free flavored coffee or hot chocolate if I need something more gratifying. The calorie investment on such things is not so great (usually about 50-75) and if it stops me from eating 200-300 calories of real food, it's worth it.
5. Consume more of my calories at meals in fats and less in carbs. Fat improves feelings of satiety and doesn't mess up your blood sugar.
6. Map the day's meals and calories so that I know what I can eat and when I can eat it. Know just how long I have between meals and hang on to the fact that I can deal with hunger at a given time. It's easier to not eat for an hour or two hours if I know that I will be able to eat. At the hardest times, I can do a countdown to the next meal.
The mapping for me breaks down generally to:
Breakfast: 300 calories (at 9:00 am)
Lunch: 400 calories (at 1:00 pm)
Snack: 200 calories (at 4:00 pm)
Dinner: 500 calories (between 8:00-11:00 pm)
Sometimes I'll break this differently into two snacks if dinner is too far off, or I'll simply add in 100-200 more calories around 7:00 pm if dinner is very late and accept that 1600 is an okay number (or reduce calories consumed at dinner). That's what I have to do this evening. I had a snack at 4:00 pm, dinner won't be until 10:00 pm so I figure that I need to hang in there until 7:00 pm (which is tough since I'm getting a headache from not eating, but I only have to wait one more hour).
7. The usual stuff - suck on a sugar-free herbal cough drop or candy, brush my teeth, etc. This is an attempt to fool my body into thinking it's actually getting food when it's really getting the oral experience. It really has nothing to do with true hunger pangs, but it sometimes works.
8. Look in a mirror. This is my least common way of dealing with the situation and my most hated one. I don't want to motivate myself by looking at myself and feeling bad about how I look, but sometimes it works. I have to remind myself that I built this body by giving in to urges that I shouldn't have given in to and now I have to spend some time and immense mental energy resisting those urges if I want to build a better body. Frankly, sometimes I apologize to my body for what I've done to it and promise it that I'll do better by it from now. It's a promise I don't want to break, and hope to be rewarded with better health if I keep that promise.
The main thing I'm trying to learn to do is accept that I'm going to feel hungry. Hunger is part of the process. It's difficult because the gnawing feeling and the biological push to eat make me really, really uncomfortable, but you have to get used to the discomfort if you want to succeed. It does get a little easier, but it never gets easy. In fact, it always stinks. It's really, really hard and tiring fighting this internal battle.
That being said, when I started doing this 3 months ago, it was unbearably difficult, and now it is closer to being bearable. And what I do sometimes, though less often than before, is simply fail. I don't fail and overeat badly, but I do fail and not gain any ground on my goals (or gain such a small amount that it wouldn't show for weeks if I continued on the same path). And I try to keep that failure in mind during the next (all too frequent battle). Failure isn't preferable, but it is understandable. It's part of the process.