Always Hungry Post WLS – Bariatric Edition

I run an online support group.  If you would like to be a part of our community, go HERE and send a request to join.  I will approve it and you can be a part of our community.  

In our support group, I posted a question last week.  That question was, “What are your biggest struggles when it comes to health and post-surgery weight loss”.  

We got a ton of responses.  Some of you have trouble drinking enough water, others have heartburn.  There are few members who have trouble seeing the  “new person” in the mirror.  They still see their former 250-pound selves.  But, there was one underlying response that concerned me the most. 

 There are a lot of members who feel constantly hungry.  

For some reason, people believe that the VSG procedure will relieve them permanently from feeling any hunger.  This is because when the gastric sleeve is performed, there is a part of the stomach removed that produces the hormone Ghrelin. Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone” because it stimulates appetite and promotes fat storage.  Ghrelin is just one of the MANY factors influencing hunger and fat storage.

Obesity is a disease.  It is a hormonal disease and there are MANY hormones involved and one of the main hormones is insulin.  We need to understand insulin in order to understand so many other things.  It’s one of my favorite topics because a true understanding of insulin answers so many questions we have about diseases like obesity and metabolic issues like type two diabetes.

I am not going to dive into a physics and anatomy course in this blog.  I want it to remain simple and readable and I want everybody to finish it to the end. 

A huge slice of the population has issues with the hormone insulin.  You may be in that huge slice.  My goal as a holistic nutritionist that specializes in bariatric nutrition is to help people lower their insulin levels.  I know that most of my clients have troubles with insulin even if they have not been diagnosed with insulin resistance, pre-diabetes or type two diabetes. 

 You see, insulin resistance is just the beginning of the road to full-blown diabetes.  You can have issues with insulin for years and even decades before the diagnosis of even pre-diabetes is made.  

Are you always feeling hungry?  Do you eat something and then an hour later feel the need to eat again?  Do you feel like you are chained to the refrigerator at times?  This may be due to the fact that you are having issues with insulin.  

I know that I have troubles with insulin.  My labs come back normal but I still know that I am on the road to insulin resistance and pre-diabetes if I continue to eat the standard American diet.  I found myself constantly hungry.  I called it my “food panic”.   Many years ago I used to think it was a type of low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.  Why would I go into food panic and need to eat NOW?  I guess I just thought it was “normal for me” and it was just the way I had to live.

I went back to school as an adult and studied nutrition full time.  It was in the classroom where I had my “AH-HA” moment.  It finally all made sense.  You see, I thought I was eating a fantastic diet.  I ate whole grains and quinoa.  I loved my beet salads and I brewed my kombucha in my kitchen.  Beans and brown rice were a staple in my kitchen.  I baked my bread and I made sure that my family ate the same way that I did.

What I realized was that my diet was completely wrong for my biochemical individuality.  I was slowly creating insulin issues for myself.  When I ate those foods that were very high in carbohydrates, my blood sugar soared.  When my blood sugar soars (high glucose levels), the bodies response is to make insulin.  Insulin’s job is to grab the glucose and get it into the cells where it can be used.  Blood sugar cannot just hang out in the blood or we would have a diabetic crisis after each meal or snack.

So the more grains, beans, fruit, carbs that I ate, the hungrier I became because INSULIN MAKES US HUNGRY.  

I want to write that again …. insulin makes us hungry.  So, if high insulin levels make us hungry, what would happen if we have low insulin levels?  What would that look like?  Exactly!!!  Bells went off in my head.  If I changed my diet and ate foods lower in carbs, would I feel less hungry?  That is exactly what happened.  I did it slowly and I started removing the rice, beans, fruit, and corn from my diet.  I started feeling better.  I started sleeping better.  My eczema got better.  

All of this happened to me over some time.  I didn’t dramatically overhaul my entire kitchen overnight but I did make small changes that added up over a long period of time.  My family also started eating this way.  Now, they don’t have issues with insulin (yet) but would it be safe for them to also follow my low carb lifestyle?  Of course, it is safe for them!  We eat protein, healthy fats, tons of vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, full-fat yogurts, etc. etc.  We no longer eat the standard American diet.  And guess what, I no longer have issues with being chained to the refrigerator due to the inability to be able to stabilize blood sugars.

Are you hungry?  All the time?  Do you think you may have an issue with insulin?  

If you do think that this may be something that is affecting you, you can try a week of very low carb eating to see if you can balance out your cravings.  It works like a charm for me personally.  If I eat foods high in carbs like bread, pasta, rice or tortillas, I can feel the hunger hit me like a hammer an hour after those foods are in my stomach.

So do I eat bread every once in a while?  Of course, I do. I am only human and I will ALWAYS love my french fries.  But, I also know that I need to take care of my blood sugars and insulin levels.  I eat low carb MOST of the time and I allow myself treats every once in a while.  

Do you know what happens when you eat real food?  You feel more satisfied and you are not craving the carbs like you used to.  Do yourself a favor and give it a try.  Lower your carbs and increase healthy fats and see how you feel overall. Keep a diary and check in with how you are feeling between meals.  

You may just find that your hunger levels are back in balance.  

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About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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