I have been thinking a lot about hunger lately.
Hunger can be good. I remember being struck when years ago Oprah talked about going to bed at night with that little empty feeling in your stomach; she said you need that feeling if you are going to lose weight. I think she is right about one thing for sure… to lose weight, you – I – need to let the body get hungry. Physically hungry.
But hunger can also be bad. Either because it is not true physical hunger, or because I let myself get past “good” hunger to the point of crazed, shaky I-need-to-eat-now-or-I-will-hurt-someone hunger. The latter invariable leads to crazed, shaky shovel-in-any-food-as-fast-as-I-can eating.
What I realize is that my past eating habits included so much snacking that I rarely let myself feel true physical hunger. The kind that comes from your stomach emptying and your body being ready for more fuel. Most of what I have felt over the years has been another kind of hunger. Emotional hunger maybe – I was feeling hunger in my head or heart. Or I was imagining hunger because I was picturing something I wanted to eat – feeling hunger with my eyes. Anywhere but in my stomach which is where true hunger lives, when we let it.
Surely you know what I mean. Hunger that comes from something other than a physical need. Stress, or anger, or frustration, or boredom, or craving, or wanting. “I’m hungry,” I’d say to myself. But that was not true. Well, maybe it was – but in reality I was hungry for something other than food – but food was what I reached for.
I would like to be able to tell you that recognizing this about hunger has made it easy for me to change. Easy for me to ask myself if I am truly physically hungry or if it is something else going on. But the truth is, I still eat knowing that I am not hungry. But I have gotten better:) And maybe, after all these years of constant snacking, I don’t know how to recognize true hunger when I feel it. Wait – that is wrong. I can recognize true hunger when I feel it! What I can’t recognize is when I am NOT feeling it but think I am. Does that make sense?
So I am going to concentrate on listening to my body, not my head or my eyes or my heart, for my hunger cues. I am going to work on not eating unless I am truly physically hungry. What about you? Do you eat only when truly hungry? Do you have any tips for the rest of us?