It’s ok to be hungry.
That’s right, humans. You’re allowed to be hungry!
Seems obvious . . . We all know that we have to eat to live – and yet, I find that ‘hunger shame’ runs rampant among dieters and ex-dieters – and it’s massively in the way of accessing a balanced relationship with food.
This week, I got an email from a client of mine, hitting the nail on the head about this concept. I asked her if I could share it with you so that everyone could benefit from her breakthrough du jour. Here’s what she wrote:
Thanks to experiences with Weight Watchers and similar, I’ve been treating hunger as a problematic feeling, rather than a normal cue from my body. For example:
~If I’m hungry, I’m afraid that it’s going to cause me to overeat. But now, if I eat mindfully, I won’t overeat, or am a whole lot less likely to, even if I’m starving.
~If I’m hungry “too soon” after eating, I feel like I’m failing and that I shouldn’t be hungry yet.
~When I’ve eaten to the point of satiety, I often eat more out of a fear that if I don’t, I’ll be hungry later . . . Which is especially bonkers because I live in a place where I am probably never more than 5 minutes from being able to eat. 24/7
I had this realization all of a sudden, and then it became obvious that hunger is actually just a signal from my body that it’d like some nourishment, pure and simple, no need to find it disturbing. And I can eat now, or in a bit, and eat what I want without overeating . . . because there’s always more if I want it later.
Amen! To me, this is such a simple but potent breakthrough.
As she describes, one of the side effects of the “eat less, exercise more/control your appetite/get more willpower” mentality (aka dieting) is a very real ‘forgetting’ of how to recognize and respond to our body’s natural hunger for food.
In the dieting framework, our desire for food becomes the enemy – there to tempt us and thwart our efforts to be healthy and thin. We enter into a war we will never, I repeat never, win: woman against her appetite.
For dieters, the sensation of hunger becomes somehow dangerous and definitely unwanted. And usually, it initiates a series of behaviors and thought patterns that eventually cycle right back to some version of “I cheated, I gave in, I fell off the wagon, I have no willpower, I’m fat and worthless, I’ll only eat salad until I’m skinny”.
This is backwards. When we try to regulate our hunger with mental constructions of what, how much, and when we should eat – we miss out on one of the most untapped resources on the planet: Body Wisdom.
AND . . . trust me when I tell you that a suppressed appetite with come back with a vengeance. Every time.
So next time hunger strikes, welcome it. Get curious about your hunger. Remind yourself that it’s ok to be hungry. It’s healthy to be hungry.
Don’t get me wrong, the whole ‘hunger thing’ gets complex. Is it emotional hunger or physical hunger? What foods am I hungry for? Am I nutrient deficient or do I just need more food? Maybe I’m just dehydrated?
These are all important questions, and they’re some of my favorite explorations to work with. However, in order to go there, we have to first get on board with this fundamental agreement:
I T I S O K T O B E H U N G R Y !
Put this post to use:
- Awareness . . . Notice what happens when you feel hunger. See if you can excavate the unconscious associations, thoughts and behaviors that happen when you feel hungry. When do you treat hunger as ok, or appropriate? When do you judge it? What is your relationship with your appetite?
- Make amends with your appetite. Give your body unconditional permission to be hungry. Know that hunger is merely a sensation in the body, a messenger. Know that you live in a place with an abundance of food, and no one is rationing you . . . except you.
- Deeper dive . . . If you try to control or suppress your appetite, consider where else in your life you might try to control or suppress your desires . . . in sex, work, play . . .? Or if you find yourself constantly overtaken by intense desire for food – check out how this might be a balancing act of other areas of tight control in your life.
Does this hit home for you? Leave a comment and let us know whatcha think!