What has been your relationship with hunger during the quarantine?
I’ve been talking about this with my clients and other women about this.
Our conversations are very telling of how disconnected we are from our bodies.
Many women delegate the decision to start and stop eating to their Fitbits and apps, which tell them how many calories they can still consume.
Others ask themselves (with frustration), “Why am I hungry if I’ve been seating all day?”
Decisions and questions from the mind; never the body.
Women’s relationship with hunger is indeed interesting and complex. It says a lot about how we relate with pleasure, our minds, and ourselves.
We don’t trust our hunger. We interpret it as a signal of betrayal from our bodies.
We don’t trust ourselves around food, so we eat from the mind, relying on data we can count; whatever we can measure. It gives us a sense of control.
I don’t blame us! We’ve learned that is better to NOT be hungry: ‘If you don’t feel hungry, you eat less calories; and less calories means losing weight.’
It seems that the fear of weight-gain leads to fear of hunger, so the solution is to control it.
The thing is that a calculated way of eating lacks pleasure. A pleasure-deprived eater is a stressed, unsatisfied eater. An unsatisfied eater is more likely to lose control around food.
This explains why, when I work with women and ask them about their hunger, there’s always this sense that they must figure out how to tame it. Some drink a lot of water, others buy “low-calorie” snacks or distract themselves.
There’s also the assumption that hunger should follow a schedule. We expect hunger to feel the same everyday, regardless of how much we slept the night before, whether we got our periods, or if we’re sick.
We live under the delusion that we can and should control our hunger.
Technically, we should start eating when we feel hungry, and stop when we are satisfied.
However, this capacity to eat in alignment with our hunger and satisfaction cues is influenced by many factors.
In family reunions, for example, we may eat beyond fullness because there’s plenty of food and we’re enjoying ourselves.
How you’re raised also influences your hunger cues. Today you might want a snack at four in the afternoon because that was your after-school routine as a kid. Or perhaps, having ice cream was conditioned to cleaning up your plate, so today you do the same even though you might be satisfied.
These are not the only factors that influence our hunger:
Diets, juice cleanses, detox, 21-day challenges or anything you do to intentionally lose weight hinder your capacity to listen to your hunger cues (this includes the apps and devices you use to help you do it)..
Behind these factors there’s the desire to control what you eat, but also a deep and powerful assumptions:
I don’t know how to eat.
I don’t know how to control my body.
I don’t trust my body’s signals.
“It’s so scary to lose control! I don’t trust myself around food. I need my app to tell me when to stop eating”, clients have told me.
The thing is when you go on a diet or sets rules and boundaries, you’re delegating the decision to decide what and how much to eat; and so, your“I-know-how-to-listen-to-my-body” muscle weakens.
You forget to trust your body. It’s like wearing insoles forever instead of going to physical therapy and strengthening your arches!
Re-learning (because you were born knowing how to do it) to listen to your hunger cues is necessary to stop obsessing about what you eat.
When you do it…
Eating is more pleasurable.
You know when to stop eating.
You can distinguish a physical need for food from an urge to eat because of anxiety or boredom.
Basically, you take charge of what you eat and stop delegating a decision that should have always been yours to begin with.
This new awareness of your hunger is not a tool to decide whether you can or cannot eat, but WHY you want to eat.
Ultimately, the decision is yours. Sometimes we eat when we’re not hungry, for pleasure or convenience, which is part of normal eating and that’s OK.
I want to see the silver lining to the pandemic. This is an opportunity for growth and questioning paradigms.
It’s a unique moment to reflect on your relationship with hunger, your body, food, and weight. It’s a moment to decide who’s in charge. You or the app? You or diet culture?
It’s a process. Start thinking and experimenting:
- What’s your relationship with hunger? Do you know what hunger feels like? Do you judge your hunger?
- How would it feel not recording calories or checking your app, and instead listening to your body to decide when to eat and when to stop?
- What foods do you enjoy eating? What foods do you not enjoy?
- Do you know what it feels like to be satisfied?
Start there. Pay attention. Avoid distraction from rules or gadgets.
When you listen, you gradually achieve the normal and calm relationship you want to have with what you eat.
Written by Lina Salazar.