Head Hunger – Is It Even Real?

Many times, both before and after bariatric surgery, patients feel hungry and begin to graze throughout the day – not consuming huge meals but several small snacks. This grazing can become problematic as time goes on and pounds are added. Further complicating the issue is that the root cause of this hunger is not always clear – sometimes we even graze right after a big meal.

In fact, oftentimes, the source of this hunger is not a lack of satiety, rather it is dehydration. Yes, not having enough water can actually cause you to feel hungrier than you normally would, even after a big meal. If the body is lacking in water, it will crave anything that can offer some refreshment, including food. This phenomenon, known as head hunger is further exacerbated by poor dietary and lifestyle choices including:

  • Drinking significant quantities of coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it flushes water out of the body.
  • Drinking alcohol. Similarly, alcoholic drinks can cause dehydration, one of the reasons why we have such painful hang-overs a day later.
  • A diet high in sodium. No matter how low in calories, excess sodium can cause dehydration and bloating too. With so many processed foods containing massive amounts of sodium, it’s no wonder we’re always hungry.
  • Diabetics and pre-diabetics may lose more water than most as the body tries to flush excess glucose through increased urine output.
  • Certain prescription medications, ironically often needed because of excess weight, can cause additional urination.
  • Stress, crash diets and a host of other issues can trigger head hunger too.

The bottom line? It’s a vicious cycle from which you MUST break free.

That’s why one of the most important parts of the post bariatric surgery diet is consuming enough water. Drinking water has many benefits including increased energy, a sense of feeling fuller and more – each of these, in turn, fights the lifestyle issues that may be pushing us toward dehydration. And, of course, as we lose weight, many of the causes of head hunger disappear.

The exact amount of water to consume depends on the patient, the climate and their activity level. The rule of thumb is 64 ounces per day, which should be sufficient to get all the benefits staying hydrated, however some patients may require even more. Remember, by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Now, we’ll readily admit that consuming 64 ounces, or 8 glasses, per day can be pretty difficult, but there’s no getting around it. Some patients like to tote a gallon of water everywhere they go, while others prefer more frequent refills of smaller bottles. There’s no wrong way to hit the water quota.

In the end, consuming adequate quantities of water can stave off head hunger and mitigate many diet-busting lifestyle issues. Plus, it’ll help you decipher when that hunger is real, allowing you to truly enjoy your food. If you feel hungry shortly after a big meal or during times when you really shouldn’t be, take a glass of water, wait 20 minutes and see how you feel. You could cut hundreds of calories from your diet every single day.