As a person with eating disorders, I don’t really know what hunger is. That evolutionary trigger that says “you need fuel or you will die” does not function properly for me. So when I’m “hungry”, I can’t always judge if that feeling is a physical feeling or an emotional upset. And when I was eating compulsively, I promise, it was never a physical feeling. If you can imagine how much and how often a person has to eat in order to maintain a morbidly obese body, then you can imagine that at no point was my body in danger of starvation.
Knowing this about myself is important. Because I have eliminated “hunger” from my reasons to eat. There is actually only one reason for me to eat now. Because it is time to eat. That is part of my food boundaries. There’s a time to eat. Not just one. Three of them every day, in fact. Big, beautiful, abundant meals. And then that’s it. If I have eaten lunch and I am “hungry” I just “be hungry” until dinner. Being hungry for a few hours is not the most horrible thing in the world. Especially for someone as well fed as I am. So far, I have not died from it.
A few weeks ago I may have actually been hungry. When I quit smoking, my metabolism changed. Is still changing. And I was not feeling satisfied after my meals. So when it was time to eat, I made some different choices about what I ate. Giant cantaloupes. Less salad, more vegetables cooked in butter. And that hungry feeling went away and my body started feeling full and fed and content again. So it could be that that was real hunger. The truth is, I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. Real hunger, emotional cravings. As long as my eating is within my boundaries, it’s basically none of my business. I don’t have to care. I don’t even have to wonder. (it’s very freeing, frankly.)
Even knowing that I am stuffed is something that only came to me after I had my eating under control for a while. When I was eating compulsively, I was basically disconnected from my body. Not only did my thoughts tell me that I was “hungry”, but they kept me from ever feeling the sensation of “full”. All of those feelings that lived in my mind and my thinking that occurred to me as hunger trumped any actual physical sensation. I didn’t (still don’t?) have that thing that regular people have that tells them they have had enough. All of the discomfort and shame and pain (and joy – any intense feeling is hard for me to deal with) registered as hunger. And I fed them.
But now, because I have boundaries, and therefore some clarity (not to mention sanity) I can look at feelings of “hunger”. And I have a shot at distinguishing what they really are. And I think I understand what this week’s “hunger” is about.
Right now, there are some areas of my life that are up in the air. There are some things that are not settled. And it’s not time for them to be settled. I don’t know what is going to happen. And I don’t know what I’m supposed to do next. I don’t know when I’ll know what the next right action is. I don’t even know what the next right action is supposed to lead to. So I have to wait. And be still. And I have been getting impatient. I don’t want to wait. I want to know. I don’t want to be still. I want to move. Now! And the not knowing and the not moving are making me uncomfortable. And that discomfort registers as a kind of emptiness. Like there’s something missing. Like there is a hole in my life. And the fat girl who lives in my head wants to fill that hole with food.