Hunger. We are afraid of it. We try to avoid it at all costs. We plan our life around our fear of it. But what is it about hunger that is so bad and scary?
If you close your eyes and think of hunger, what emotions or feeling come up? What do you feel when you think of not having enough to eat? For now just be mindful of the feelings and emotions. Make no judgements or conclusions. Let’s explore. (To benefit the most, do this little exercise now before reading any further).
Let’s step back. A few thousand years back. Food supply was limited and hard to get to. Our grand-grand-grand-parents had no certainty that there will be food tomorrow. If our ancestors got lucky they had food. But there were plenty of times when starvation was a norm. Going without food for days or weeks could have been life-threatening. Hunger was a sign that starvation period might be coming. It was a call of nature to urgently seek for food.
Hunger was a survival tool that kept our ancestors motivated to search for food, to overcome fear and hunt, to relocate in search of more food. Life was about securing food and avoiding starvation at all cost. Hunger was the motivator of many brave acts, cruel killings, long courageous hikes into uncertainty.
Let’s Come Back To The NOW
Fortunately, we live in a different time and the situation with food is very different. We have it in abundance. We are safe. If we think of it logically, there should be no worry of ever going hungry. Nevertheless, the subconscious fear persists in many of us. It pushes us to overeat on fatty sweet foods, if it is in front of us, just the way our ancestors would. However, for us starvation times never comes and we never get to expend the extra fuel. It stays in us and makes us fat, sluggish, and heavy.
I believe that our body stores the wisdom of our ancestors. It also stores their fears and instincts. The instinct that kept our ancestors alive was to eat as much as they could when the food was available to avoid hunger later.
Fear associated with hunger was a smart signal that kept them alive and we should be grateful for it. However in the present times, it doesn’t serve us anymore. It is time to let it go. Not to fight it because whatever we resist, persists, but to recognize it, acknowledge it, and gently let it go.
In present time hunger can serve a different purpose than it did thousands of years ago. We can feel safe, there will always be enough to eat. We can relax. Food is easy to get and always there, if we need it.
Instead of a purely survival tool, hunger can be a way to get to know our body better, to build a dialogue, to be more mindful of the internal world.
Get To Know Your Hunger
Do you know how physical hunger feels? Where do you feel it? How does it show up? Try to get to know it through observation and internal questioning.
True hunger is persistent. It is different from a craving. It is not food specific. It gets stronger with time, it doesn’t subside in 20-30 minutes like a craving does.
There are different types of hunger. There is emotional hunger, mind hunger, physical hunger. Different types of hunger need to be satisfied with a different type of nourishment. Do you know yourself enough to differentiate between different types of hunger and to know how to satisfy them?
Getting to know your hunger brings you a step closer to getting to know your body. Once you know it, you will recognize it and won’t be afraid of it.
It won’t be a scary stranger from the distant past that you try to avoid at all cost. Instead, it will be a welcome friend who can share useful information about your body and your current physical state.
Collaboration is always more productive than fighting. Use it in your internal relationships with your feelings and emotions. They are just trying to help out and keep your body in the best health condition possible.
If you feel that you lose control around food and that even a thought of going hungry brings up anxiety or fear, join me tomorrow, Wed, July 10 20313 for a Mindful Eating workshop in NYC
We will explore the concept of hunger and our relationship with it. Sometimes it is better to start in a group where you feel supported and safe. It will set a firm base for you to experiment with food-related fears and anxieties later on your own.