Are You Really Hungry?
Recently I've met a few people who don't eat very much, or very often. As someone who's either eating or thinking about food most of the time, I'm amazed by people like this. "Don't you get hungry?!" I asked them. Because to me, hungry people need to eat three times a day or more. Now, of course they do, but the way they deal with their hunger is markedly different from the rest of us.
What I've learned is that these individuals recognise their hunger and seek out food if they have time, or if busy they just put off eating until later. Eventually, they eat, but they rarely overeat, as many of us do when we've put off eating and are starving.
Sitting and eating with these folks, I see that they don't rush to eat food when it's placed in front of them, nor do they eat everything on their plate. They stop when they feel they've had enough. What I observe here is a very relaxed and almost ambivalent approach to food. They don't see their food as anything but something their body needs occasionally, and they rarely have thoughts such as "eating this will make me happy" or "I need to eat this or..." The most surprising revelation? These folks don't like feeling stuffed, so they make sure to stop eating before they get to that stage. "Don't like feeling full?" I ponder. "But it's like a hug from the inside!"
This is complete contrast to my own intense interest and occasionally anxious need for food. I think their style seems very foreign, but it has made me question my own.
From a physiological perspective: food is fuel that keeps us alive. We're programmed to detect when we're low on fuel and are motivated to seek out more. Once we've consumed enough to store some energy away, the idea is to stop eating, assuming there is a sufficient supply nearby for next time the hunger arises. Because, in times of scarcity we're programmed to overeat as a protective measure. Animals in the wild will gorge themselves on a kill, if they're not sure where their next meal will come from.
I wonder sometimes, if many of us have our internal hunger dials mistakenly set to famine mode. Could it be that the highly advertised availability of rich food around us, or the fact that most of us lead stressful lives makes most of us anxiously reach for larger quantities of food than we need?
I'm going to be asking myself this question a lot in the next few weeks: "Am I really hungry?" to bring my attention to times when I'm eating because I'm stressed or unhappy. Also, it may help me to better determine when I'm full. So I can stop and avoid the bloat. Hug or not, it's still a bit uncomfortable, like an unwelcome hug from an overzealous relative.