Thanks to Eric Carle and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
There are at least three types of hunger and until we recognize and learn to differentiate among them, we can’t respond to them appropriately.
- REAL hunger. You haven’t eaten in a few hours. Your tummy rumbles, you may feel a bit cranky or light-headed.
- HEDONIC hunger. You eat because food is pleasurable. You’ve recently eaten a satisfying meal, but your favorite dessert suddenly appears. Or you see a commercial for a juicy hamburger on TV. Or you walk into the mall just as the Cinnabons are coming out of the oven. Your mouth waters. Your hunger feels real, but you crave something specific, such as pizza or chocolate.
- EMOTIONAL hunger. You’re tired, stressed, angry, frustrated, sad, lonely, or happy. You eat to feel better, to feel part of the group, or to celebrate.
Trouble is, only two of those can ever truly be satisfied by food.
Real hunger definitely needs to be addressed with food. If mealtime is still a ways off, grab a snack such as a piece of fruit, a carton of yogurt, or a hunk of low-fat cheese. Letting yourself get too hungry can easily lead to overindulgence because your brain doesn’t/can’t make wise choices when it’s hungry. And remember to drink up–water that is. Many times our bodies register hunger when what we are really experiencing is thirst.
Hedonic hunger can also be addressed with food, but very carefully. Sometimes it’s a matter of “taking ten.” Wait out the craving. Take a walk. Brush your teeth or chew some minty gum. Accomplish a chore away from the kitchen. Have a cup of herbal tea. The ones with cinnamon or peppermint are particularly good at hitting my sweet tooth. If the craving is still there, have a small bit of whatever it is you were craving. One Dove Dark or a Ghirardelli Square are my go-to for a chocolate craving.
Emotional hunger is the troublesome one. It can’t be quelled with food, no matter how much you eat. An entire pie, a half-gallon of ice-cream, a bag of Doritos. Nothing fills you up, and then– of course– you have the emotional aftermath and feelings of hopelessness and failure. The trick (if there is a trick) is to catch yourself before you indulge. Ask yourself what you are feeling and find a way to directly address that feeling. Stressed, angry, or sad? Go outside. Head to the gym or take a walk. You are literally only a few steps away from a better mood. Those endorphins kick in and you will feel better. Lonely? Call a friend. Connect with others. Tired? Take a nap. Pamper yourself a little. Take a long, hot bath. Do your nails or schedule a pedicure. Or a massage. Not sure what you’re feeling? Write in a journal.
If you can discover what you’re really hungry for, you can make one more baby step toward your own transformation.
This will be the last weekly post in this series. There may be more from time to time, but I feel the need to move on to other projects now. Stay tuned! I wish you well and would love to hear from you. Take care and remember to be kind to yourself as you make progress toward your own goals.