In The Hungry I talked a little about why it’s bad to ignore being hungry. Being hungry is a natural body function that tells people that we need more fuel. Hunger comes before other things like the inability to concentrate, weakness, fainting, and in extreme cases, starvation.
So, why is this a good thing?
Caution: the following may be triggering. I don’t know how to cut some of this and put it so you have to click on a link.
When I was a kid, I had to learn all sorts of tricks to deal with being hungry constantly. Like I’ve stated elsewhere, it’s not that I was fat as a child, but that my parents (in the 1970’s) bought into the “you can never be too thin” ideal. The things I did to ignore my hunger can all be found on pro-ana and diet boards now. But no matter how much I tried, the hunger never went away.
I just learned to accept the fact that I was always hungry, and go about my day.
Yes, there were times I snuck food at home, times I stole candy from the local corner store (pre-cursor to today’s convenience store). I was always so desperate I would do anything for extra food, including risking jail — or worse, the owners of the store calling my parents when they caught me. Even when given the ability to have some extra food (a friend offering me some of their cookies or a piece of candy), I had to balance it with not eating too much or I’d gain weight, and get in trouble.
So, to say my relationship with hunger was a bit estranged would be an understatement.
Until a couple of years ago, I could go for days on end without eating (and did at times) without realizing I was hungry. The pangs were just “normal”, and if I ignored it for a half hour, it’d go away. Right? When it didn’t, I’d give myself another half hour and then start doing things. Eventually, I would forget about being hungry.
When I went to live with my grandparents, things got better, but I still never listened to my body, or it’s needs. I would eat at a certain time because that’s when dinner time was. It didn’t matter if I was hungry or not. And then there were my attempts to diet as I started gaining weight. One time, for a month, I tried to become a vegetarian. Only, I didn’t know the first thing about nutrition. So, my whole intake for the day would be a glass of milk with Carnation Instant Breakfast (TM) in it for breakfast, nothing for lunch, and a plate full of whatever frozen veggie Grandma was having with dinner that night. I was ravenous all the time, but it didn’t matter.
I was so used to being hungry after all.
As an adult, I had times of being with somebody and being alone. Whenever I was with somebody, I’d eat semi-normally. At least, I’d have one real meal a day, and maybe a snack during the day. I fueled my body on diet Coke (TM) and that’s about it.
By this time, I don’t even remember being hungry at all. I’d learned so well to ignore hunger, I never even felt it anymore.
It wasn’t until I met my husband that I started to realize something was wrong with me ignoring my hunger. Conall would get worried about me when we were apart, because he knew I’d usually not eat. If I was going to be away with friends for more than a few hours, he’d make sure they knew I needed to eat. It was annoying, because I was never hungry. It was more annoying when those friends saw how little I’d eat and insist I eat more, and at more intervals.
You’d think with how little I ate (how few times a day) that I’d not be fat. I mean, if it really is as simple as “calories in/calories out”, right?
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I was prescribed metformin for my PCOS that I started realizing I needed to actually eat. Only, now it became even worse. Not only was I conditioned from years of practice to ignore my hunger, one of the side effects of metformin is lack of apatite. I pretty much stopped eating, and had an excuse. I wasn’t hungry at all. Obviously my body wasn’t needing the food, because I wasn’t hungry, and if I ate more than a few bites, I was way too full, nauseous even.
That worked until the day I was at an SCA camping event. I was setting up the table with water, Gatorade, oranges and pickles (so nobody would get dehydrated) and started getting shaky. I had no clue what blood sugar bottoming out felt like, because I’d never felt it before. (Another side effect of the metformin, I guess, was making my body actually utilize the insulin and therefor make it so I had to eat, even if I wasn’t hungry.)
I ignored my shakiness, like I used to ignore my hunger. It was just a weirdness, and I had a job to do.
The short end of the story is that I almost fainted while providing people water and Gatorade, because I’d not had enough food to fuel me for the exercise I was getting. I was unable to focus, shaky, and completely refusing food. I kept insisting I’d had enough water (which I had, after all, it’s bad form for the woman pushing others to drink to fall out from dehydration). It took a man who had EMT training and who was diabetic to put the pieces of the puzzle together and force me to eat. And not only eat, but eat a bunch of carbs. Oh, and he pulled rank and prohibited me from returning to my job.
So, I learned that eating is something I have to do. If I’m going to exercise more than usual, I have to eat more than usual.
The thing is, I still don’t always recognize my hunger when it happens.
About a week ago, I was talking on IM’s with my made sister (as opposed to family of origin), and kept talking about all this food I wanted to make. I started off with wanting something really small, but we didn’t have here in the house. And we went on, as conversations do, and talked about other things. Then I brought the conversation back to food. And how I wanted to make something else. And we went back to the other topic. And I brought it back to food again. I did this about five times, the last time was wanting to make homemade cinnamon rolls, but I couldn’t do that, we didn’t have enough flour in the house. Besides, it would take about 4 hours for them to be done and it was evening when I wanted to make them.
It was at that point I realized I was hungry, and had been for a while. Yes, I went and got something to eat.
I’ve learned that hunger is the proper cue my body uses to tell me that it needs more energy. Unfortunately, I don’t always feel it, or when I do, I don’t always realize what I’m feeling is hunger. I don’t know how to get that back either.
So, Weight Watchers telling people to ignore the hunger? Is really setting them up for potential problems down the way. Besides the whole dysfunctional eating behaviors, it could have serious repercussions if you get to the point where you just never feel hunger again. Weight Watchers really don’t know what’s best for your body. Your body does. And when it needs fuel, it lets you know by being hungry.
It’s simple, really. Too bad it’s not easy for me.
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