What Are We Really Hungry For?

For years, I was able to maintain my weight with minimal exercise and a balanced diet. Then my late 30s set in and it became a lot harder. Not only that, but pile on a healthy amount of stress from entrepreneurship and you have a cocktail for disaster and extra weight. In the black community I am by no means considered a candidate for weight loss. I wear a size 4 (though snug). However, I know my body fat is no longer in the healthy range because of how my clothes fit and the lack of muscle in my abs, arms and back. Despite this, I know there are other women who would trade bodies with me without question. In my quest to find my old body again (I looked and felt my best at size 2), I had to re-examine my relationship with food. Sugar has been my vice for many years though I have been able to slay that dragon successfully many times. But what I noticed in the last few years was my meat consumption increasing along with my portion sizes. When it’s time to lose weight, the knee-jerk reaction is about what to cut out. This time, I’m not going that route. I’m a pretty clean eater. I shop the perimeter of the grocery store and I loathe food that isn’t made with quality ingredients. My biggest problem had been limiting how much I was eating. I also have a history of stress eating. When the pressure’s on with a project, someone pisses me off or I am decompressing from stress, I reach for something sweet or really no good. It’s an unhealthy cycle that lurks in the shadows and pounces at the worst times (specially that time of the month). The good news is now I control my thoughts and feelings so if I don’t like the cycle, I can certainly change it. Sure, it takes time and effort, but it is nowhere near impossible. Then I began to re-read a book that gave me everything I was looking for.

Q: When do you eat? A: When you are hungry.

That seemed simple enough. However, for many this is not the best explanation. The author went on to say that you must know the difference between hunger and appetite. This can be confusing because these words are often used interchangeably. To paraphrase the author, hunger is a signal from the body that it needs more fuel, but appetite is satisfying a desire. He also states plainly that hunger should be earned. What this signaled to me is that I was not always eating when I was hungry. I was planning meals I wanted days in advance, plotting to hit a certain restaurant because I had a free offer or continuing to indulge to the point of feeling stuffed just because I wanted to taste one more bite. These are all no-nos.

Q: When do you stop eating? A: When you feel your hunger begin to subside.

That means you have to be paying attention to your hunger while you are eating and stop at that particular point. How hard could that be? Well, very hard if you are not consciously present during your meal. We sometimes eat while distracted. We drive, talk on the phone, watch television, read and the list goes on. The only real indicator is usually when the food is gone when in reality, by then we’re way past the point where we should stop. Then add on the desire to get another helping because it was just so good!

Q: What should we eat? A: Basically, the author said eat what is local to your region.

Without saying so I believe he was advocating for a more plant-based diet, but he did not shun meat-eating. His comparison was that of an Eskimo and one who lives in the Tropics. Their diets are very different because of where they are and what their bodies require. There were a few more tidbits but this was enough to get me curious enough to try it again.

Once I began to pay attention to my hunger, I only managed to eat one meal a day. I know that sounds extreme, but it works. It turns out that most of the time I was eating I was not hungry, only craving things I wanted or saw. When left to respond to my body’s natural rhythm, that’s what happened. Also, I eat anywhere from 1/2 to 1/3 less food at one sitting. That blew my mind! Let me also add that I am drinking nearly a gallon of water every day which likely contributes to being more satiated.

The point of this is not to convince you to try this also (though some of you might). The true point is to encourage you to ask yourself ‘what you are really hungry for?’ if you find that you are not eating purely to satisfy your hunger. These deeper questions are the ones that truly need answers. For me, I was hungry for companionship, comfort and stability. What ended up happening is that once I got my eating under more control, I began to seek those other “hungers” individually. Now, a month later, I have almost reached my body goals without dedicated exercise (see photo). As it turns out, lack of activity was not the problem. I was feeding the wrong things.

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