It happened a few times this month. I ate a sensible breakfast, planning on a reasonable lunch, but work interferes and the next chance I have to think about food is ten hours later. (This is not hyperbole; my days can get long.) Or I managed to get my breakfast and lunch in, but dinner somehow escapes me and it is very late (after 8 or 9 pm) before I even think of dinner.
The consequences are both expected and unexpected:
- Surprise! I’m starving. It feels like small animals trying to gnaw out of my gut. I don’t feel hungry while I’m preoccupied, but the minute I’m in my car it hits me hard as if all the day’s hunger must erupt at once. Waiting until I can get to a healthy meal is not an option. I need food now!
- Mentally I feel entitled to eat more. Don’t you think I earned something extra. Seconds? Sure! I can afford the calories.
- Physically I’m wiped out. I feel sluggish and often a little depressed. I get this “I don’t want to do anything but watch tv and check my Facebook” attitude. This becomes a vicious cycle.
- When I do eat (eventually) I eat too fast and end of feeling bloated. Even if I don’t eat extra food or bad foods (which I obviously deserve) I feel as if I have.
Hunger is the enemy of healthy habits. When I don’t nourish my body, everything else starts to fall apart. I make poor decisions, I get depressed, I feel like all of my efforts have been wasted. Sometimes I find that I focus so much on my workouts that I forget that this really started because of my relationship with food. The exercise is important and empowering, but without changing my food habits, I can’t really expect to get healthier. And if I don’t eat well, I won’t have the energy or the desire to exercise. It’s all linked.
For me, food is about fueling my body to get it to work better. Through trial and error I’ve learned which foods work well (lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, high-fiber, non-wheat carbs) and which foods hinder (sugar, wheat, processed foods) my recovery. So, this week I’m working very hard to get back to eating good foods and on a normal schedule. I know what to do; I just have to stick with it.
I realize that when I say hunger I’m coming from a place of privilege. There are 842 million people in the world that live with real, literal hunger every day. Just writing about my own hunger seems trivial and insensitive. I had to stop in the middle of writing this post to look into organizations that help people with real hunger. I ended up donating online to Feeding America, which is a highly rated non-profit devoted to helping 37 million Americans every year.