This past week I had the privilege of attending a conference with the phenomenal speaker Anita Johnston, Ph.D. and author of Eating in the Light of the Moon. Dr. Johnston talked a lot about deciphering our true hunger by using imagery and metaphors.
One thing in particular that really stood out to me was when she talked about our two different kinds of hunger.
1) Our physical hunger for food. Our bodies need food to fuel us through the day, and they will tell us through hunger when they are low on fuel (aka energy).
2) Our hunger for our other needs and desires. These can be spiritual, emotional, or relational needs.
When we learn what our hunger cues are, we can decipher whether or not we are physically hungry.
If we are not physically hungry, yet we want to eat—this is the perfect opportunity to get to know ourselves better.
I love this way of looking at eating. Whether we are restricting foods or emotional eating, both are the result of our bodies wanting to tell us something. There is no guilt in this. We just get to be a detective and try to find out more about ourselves.
We can ask ourselves: What feeling or emotion do I not want to feel? Why do I not want to feel it?
Our answer might be “I don’t know”. But overtime, our detective work might show us a pattern of wanting to eat when we are not hungry (or not wanting to eat when we are hungry) when __________________. We are all different and each one of us would fill in the blank differently. People might try to suppress anger after they get off the phone with a certain person, pain when they have an injury, loneliness when they are home alone, or fear when they are in a new situation that they are unsure about. The list could go on and on.
The bottom line: feelings and emotions are uncontrollable and are part of our everyday lives. We cannot control them anymore than we can control an earthquake or a tornado; we can only control our responses to our feelings. Yet, many times we unconsciously suppress them and do not allow ourselves to truly feel them.
Simply taking time to check in with your hunger, both physical or emotional, is a way to get to know yourself better and find out what your needs really are. Food does not meet all of our needs—it only satisfies physical hunger. So, next time you are craving a food but are not hungry, try exploring what feelings, emotional needs, or relational desires you might be suppressing. There is no judgment in eating or not eating whatever you are craving. There is only a great opportunity to explore what other “hungers” you have.
Note: Connecting to Ourselves is a monthly column written by Janet Zimmerman. We are CONSTANTLY surrounded with distractions and negative messages that take us away from what is really best for us (think about all of the icky dieting messages to get you geared up for bikini season, ugh!). Janet will be writing about a wide variety of topics to help you connect with the best ways to take care of YOU! Janet is a dietetic student, positive body image advocate, and intuitive eating promoter. You can find Janet on twitter @JanetZimmerman where she loves tweeting yummy recipes, positive quotes, and mindful tweets.