Befriending Hunger

IMG_0680Sitting in the restaurant the other day with my daughter I became aware that I was experiencing a familiar dynamic of dis-ease as I repeatedly looked at the waiter and toward the kitchen doors, as if my very impatient stare could result in a quicker delivery of my lunch. I had been so wrapped up in my morning errands that I forgot to take care of my nutritional needs and now I was HUNGRY. 

When I finally became aware of the ridiculous emotional state I was in, a combination of irritation and anxiety (verging on panic), I had to chuckle to myself. This was certainly an emotional relic from my past harkening back to my food and diet obsessed days of vilified hunger.

Now I teach clients every week in my office about the importance of making peace with hunger and allowing our bodies to experience the sensation multiple times a day in order to receive the only cue that makes sense for eating; the one our body gives us. I teach a mindful observation of the hunger experience versus the type of reaction I had yesterday of fear and rejection.

Many of us grew up hearing such things as “clean your plate”, “no dessert until you’ve eaten all your supper”,  “you can’t be hungry it’s not dinner time yet”. We have a food culture built around overconsumption and dismissing the body’s signals for eating. Instead most people eat according to external cues: “Should I eat? Let me check what time it is” or “Am I done eating? Well, I still have some on my plate” rather than relying on the authority of their own body.

From walking The Deeper Cravings Path and learning the principles of intuitive and mindful eating I have come to know the gift of hunger and the importance of embracing it.

Prior to that, much of my eating schedule was built around warding off hunger. I used to eat even when not hungry as an insurance policy against experiencing hunger later. “I am going into a meeting and  I might get hungry so I better eat now so that doesn’t happen”. What? How does that make sense? It is exactly like trying to fill a gas tank that is already full.

If you are like me and have a long history of dieting your body may be used to periods of dishonoring hunger; patterns of starvation and overfeeding: “Oh-oh, hungry – but can’t eat now cause the diet book I’m reading says don’t eat past 8pm” or “Not at all hungry but I’ll shove down this bagel on my way to work cause the diet book I am reading says I have to kick-start my metabolism”.

Ask yourself how often you experience the hunger cue each day now. If the answer is less than 3-5 times a day than you are likely out of connection with your body’s brilliant system for regulating itself.

Hunger is a necessary whisper from our body and the only thing we should be basing our eating decisions on. Hunger is no more menacing than a yawn. It is simply a message. When we learn to befriend hunger and observe its nuances we can recognize it sooner and see it as a welcome indication from the body that it is time to eat.

This is living in tune with our body’s wisdom and this is the foundation for making peace with food and the body. We experience hunger – we eat. We experience that we are no longer hungry – we stop eating…and the cycle repeats multiple times a day. Yes, the complicated mystery of how to feed ourselves just might be that simple. Then a partnership develops, we begin to trust the body’s beautiful and amazing ability to guide us to health and balance.

Try this; tomorrow stay connected. Let your body guide your eating. Wait for the gentle tap on the shoulder of a hunger signal before you start eating and stay present while you eat so that you detect that moment when you’ve had enough to satisfy that hunger. Relieve any “will it be enough?” anxiety with the assurance that when you get hungry again you will eat again. Savor your food, eat in joy, totally guiltless. Just give yourself a taste of one day eating in this kind of harmony.
photo credit: N00/4490411506″>04-04-2010 via photopin (license)