It’s been a year since I began running Nutrigal Pals Support Groups for emotional eating. What I gain from the women in the group is just as valuable as the information I discover from experts in the field. On the topic of hunger my Nutrigal Pals report that they don’t trust their bodies and for the most part they try to avoid feeling hungry. What I’ve learned is that some of us subconsciously fear hunger.
One of the mindful-eating strategies I teach is simply to eat when you feel hungry and stop when you feel full. It seems simple enough, but what If you are afraid of your body’s signals? Some women have said to me jokingly, “If I eat when I’m hungry I’ll be eating all the time”. Many of us have internalized the belief that dieting, i.e. regulating and restricting, is the correct way to eat and live. This means if we allow ourselves to just eat because we’re hungry we will be out of control and never stop eating and blow up into gigantic, unlovable women.
This false belief is hinged on another: that our body shape and size determines our success in life, our lovability and ultimately our survival. This mentality launches the battle of our self against our body. We struggle a lifetime to deny the message (hunger) our body sends us. Our bodies request food and our minds respond with yet another diet. We treat our bodies with bad parenting practices: judging, comparing, ignoring, ridiculing, and torturing. At some point in our lives we learn to stop listening to our bodies; to wage war with our hunger, and to follow another’s battle plan for achieving an ideal clothing size or a number on a scale. The impetus to follow is we believe we will be more lovable, more acceptable, and therefore our survival will be ensured.
It’s no wonder we don’t trust our bodies or their signals of hunger or satiation, however the fact is our bodies get hungry, we feed them, and they are satisfied. The piece we need to learn, and it can be learned, is to differentiate between physical hunger and emotional or spiritual hunger. Physical hunger is not insatiable. When we learn to become quiet and listen we will hear our body saying, “Thank you, I’ve had enough.” Nothing to fear.