Oh, uh. There it goes again. Either my stomach was rumbling or there was a very small, very angry alien in there. Regardless, I was hungry.
I had run out of snacks, and I could tell that my body needed dinner. And big one at that. After my family found somewhere to eat, I shoveled down a pulled pork sandwich, giant pickle, a nectarine, some of my dad’s milkshake, shared fries… I’m amazed I managed to not eat the napkin.
About an hour later I realized… I had eaten what I wanted.
I had allowed myself to eat what I wanted, how much I wanted, without a second thought. My body told me it was hungry, so I fed it what it was craving.
For a long time, I overruled my body’s hunger signal. A few stomach grumbles? Try a piece of gum (only 5 calories!). Dizzy? You’re only dehydrated. Fizzy seltzer water or diet soda pop will make you feel fuller too.
Eating disorders make us think we aren’t hungry. We figure out reasons why we can’t be hungry. We just ate a salad. We just binged on peanut butter.
But there’s a flip side. In recovery, hunger becomes scary. I carried at least 5 protein bars on me at all times, a bag of mixed nuts, about 3 pieces of fruit. I thought I needed these snacks, just incase I couldn’t get to food or I didn’t like whatever restaurant we ended up at.
More than that, I feared the newfound hunger I had for life.
Okay, maybe a little corny, but it’s true. Eating disorders leave no room for living. Our thoughts revolve around food, exercise, body image, all our flaws and inadequacies. Basically, we fear (pardon the language!) “fucking up”:
Deviating from our routine (What’s not broken doesn’t need fixed right?)
Changing what people think is our “identity”
Acknowledging that we don’t have it all together all the time
None of that can be changed overnight. I needed to regain my connection to my body’s physical hunger signals before I could work on reconnecting with what my mind and soul craved.
One of the keys? Uncertainty.
Yes, a solution to realizing what I was hungry for was actually becoming uncertain. Becoming uncomfortable.
Perfection is impossible, yet we tell ourselves we can do it. We can have the “perfect” diet, exercise regimen, body. Heck, the perfect life. If we only do X, then we can be Y.
Every day, allow yourself to be uncertain about one thing.
Give yourself permission to try a new activity. Go skydiving. Try hot yoga. Submit that short story manuscript to a publisher. Try for that raise.
Give yourself permission to not eat “perfectly”, however that manifests for you. Bread your fish for dinner, even though it’s not Paleo. Have an ice cream cone with your sister. Order that cheesy dish that sounds delicious at your favorite restaurant, instead of the “safe” Caesar salad. Take food off of its pedestal.
Give yourself permission to try… and fail. Maybe you didn’t get that job. Maybe you realized you probably shouldn’t have eaten all those candy canes you were craving after downing spicy chicken wings.
Life isn’t going to be perfect, so think of these little challenges as training. When we welcome a little uncertainty in our daily routines, we learn to become less anxious. When we become less anxious, we lessen our need to be perfect.
I still feel hungry.
I still get anxious. I still have fears. I still struggle sometimes to choose a dessert, when I “know” I should only have one “cheat” meal. I still don’t know what I want to do with my degree when I graduate, how I want to serve the world.
Yes, hunger is uncomfortable. But hunger is not something to be feared.
Hunger is a sign of a healthy body and mind. We need food as physical nourishment, and we need aspirations as spiritual nourishment.
The food we eat, the goals we strive for do not need to be “earned.” If we’re starving, we can’t embrace the present.
We can’t truly live.
So, take a moment and figure out: What am I really craving?
Have that bowl of ice cream smothered in whipped cream and sprinkles. Try for that new position at your job. Change your career. Heck, figuring out what you’re hungry for can be as simple as putting aside that stressful to-do list and chilling out with a movie for an evening.
Those stomach grumbles may sound like an axe murderer revving up his chainsaw, but you don’t need to run from your hunger.
Allow yourself to eat.
—-> How do you satisfy your hunger?