Another “Hungry” Post

Last month, I posted about how ignoring the natural body signals (IE, being hungry) can be detrimental.  I said that I usually don’t feel hungry because I got so used to ignoring it.

Today I’m having an opposite problem.  Last night, I started having a “body memory” about being ravenous.  The trigger to this doesn’t matter, but it’s here now.  I associate it with “phantom pain” in that, while it’s not a missing limb (or whatever), it’s still something that has no basis in physical reality.  In other words, I’m not starving. 

However, I’m finding myself going back to old coping mechanisms.  I’m doing my best to ignore it.  To think about other things.  To wait one half hour before eating (and then waiting another half hour).  I’m sure that some of the feeling of being hungry is physical.  I’ve only had a banana for breakfast today (instead of my usual yogurt/banana/nuts/frozen fruit ‘soup’).  And I only had the banana because I needed to eat something before taking my medicine. 

Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night ravenous.  Like I used to do when I was a child.  Instead of being an adult and getting up and getting a snack, I did what I could to negate the hunger without feeding it.  I drank a huge glass of water.  A half hour later when I was still ravenous, I drank another. 

One thing about learning dysfunctional coping mechanisms, is that, even when one works hard to get rid of them, it’s so easy to fall into old behavior patterns. 

The good news (for me) is that I’m recognizing what’s happening.  There’s been times in the past where I’ve not even recognized what was going on.  The bad news, is that I don’t know what to do about it.  With body memories, I usually just have to ride them out.  If I can manage to do that without falling back into old coping patterns, it’ll be a good thing.

This, what’s going on right now, just underscores for me how dangerous this whole obesity epipanic is.   I’ve done enough psychological work on myself to realize what’s happening, and why I need to resist it.  And I still fall into the old coping behaviors so easily.   While you can’t teach eating disorders, you can teach, and ingrain, dysfunctional coping mechanisms.

We have a whole culture that’s doing this to people.  Telling them that if they are hungry they should just do this and that and the other thing.  That there’s no way they can be hungry because they just ate four hours ago (or however long it was).  And people are listening and trying to starve themselves, eventually ending up with real health concerns because they are starving themselves.

I’m one of the luckier ones, in that I am recognizing what’s happening.  I’m still trying to figure out what to do (and yes, I know I need to start by eating more than one banana), but at least I know what’s happening.  There’s a lot of people out there who have swallowed the obesity epipanic and don’t know what’s happening.  And worse, think they are a failure when they do, finally, give in to what their body is saying and feed themselves.

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10 Responses

  1. Ugh… I’m so sorry you are dealing with this right now. Body memories can be so confusing, but you’re right… you are ahead of the game, because YOU KNOW what is going on (body memories) and you know that denying hunger isn’t a healthy thing.
    Your body deserves love and nourishment – as I’m sure you know… just reinforcing. 🙂
    I like to think of body memories as a wound healing in my mind that is very old… I take the opportunity of a body memory to remind myself how my life has changed and how I am safe and loved now. I know… easier said than done, but I believe you are up to this task.
    You’re in my thoughts.

    • Thank you.

      A lot of times I’d be wondering what was up, but this time I know what the trigger was. Made it easier for me to figure out what was going on. The fact I’ve been ravenous for the last two days, no matter how much I forced myself to eat, just confirmed it.

      I like to think of body memories as a wound healing in my mind that is very old… I take the opportunity of a body memory to remind myself how my life has changed and how I am safe and loved now.

      That’s a very good way to look at it. Right now, as I’m dealing with the effects of this, I’m working on cooking my very favorite things (to conciously help myself eat, and want to eat instead of defaulting to my coping behaviors). Tonight is going to be corned beef. 🙂

  2. I’m struggling to know when I really AM physically hungry and when it’s just the mental hunger stimulating the desire for food.

    Can you always differentiate between the two? If so, how do you know?

    • I went through the whole not knowing when I was physically hungry as well. I think the real trick is to be patient, because healing this kind of disassociation takes time.
      Some great books that helped me are “Intuitive Eating” and “Overcoming Overeating”… I kinda mushed these two methods into something that worked for me.
      Regarding “mental hunger”… it is normal for human beings to emotionally eat sometimes. Thin people do it. Healthy people do it. It’s just part of being human… so, it was really important for me to take the stigma off emotional eating… because the pressure I put on myself to NOT do it or the mental haranguing I gave myself after I did do it generally just caused more body disassociation and more emotional eating anyway.
      I do remember that the Overcoming Overeating book had some sections about the difference between “mouth hunger” (mental) and real, physical hunger too… that could help.
      The best advice I have is to be patient and gentle with yourself. The journey is going to take as long as it’s going to take whether you worry yourself or not… might as well enjoy the ride.

    • I usually have the opposite problem, in that I hardly ever feel hungry and so just have to eat when it’s “time” to eat. For what’s going on now, I know what the trigger was, so I know this is just phantom hunger. Also, I know how much I ate the other night (which was my normal amount of food), and that I didn’t exercise any more than I normally do in an evening (Conall and I did go out walking the mall and to a pet store to get more fish for our aquarium).

      So waking up in the middle of the night ravenous, and not being able to go back to sleep for three hours due to how hungry I was, had no physical element to it.

      As angrygrayrainbows said, everybody eats emotionally at sometime or other (all things being equal and they have the food available to them). It only seems to be a really bad thing to do if you are fat.

      I would echo her statements: give yourself time to get to know your body. When you are used to not feeling things (like hunger) it takes a while to identify what it is, and to realize it what is the body saying “I need more fuel” and what is the your mind saying “I’m bored, let’s do something.” Be patient with yourself. Try not to get upset with yourself if you figure out afterwards that it was something other than body hunger that made you eat.

      It may take some time. I’m still working on figuring it out myself, and I’ve been working at this for a while. The main thing is to be supportive of yourself while going through this.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I also suffer from disordered eating problems, and many things trigger me into un self supportive behaviors. I have a lot of problems having to do with not eating, and justifying it to myself. Thanks for letting m,e know I am not alone.

    • No, you aren’t alone. There’s at least one other person in this world who has similar things going on, and I’d wager a lot more.

      I’ve found for me, when something is triggered, like this body memory right now, it’s so easy to go back to the dysfunctional coping mechanisms I used to have. I have to think hard to actually eat instead of just waiting it out (or whatever).

      I like the way you said that: Un self supportive behaviors. I’ll have to remember that when I’m deciding that just a banana for breakfast (or no breakfast at all) is a good thing. 🙂

  4. Body memories? Could this possibly explain why I always always always start to feel hungry after brushing my teeth, which makes no sense whatsoever and has been freaking me out for months?? Perhaps it’s because I used to go to bed hungry a lot? If this is just a body memory, at least I can stop being paranoid about chemicals in my toothpaste.

    • I wish I could tell you. I only know for my own body and my own psyche. But it’s possible.

      If you’re afraid of chemicals in your toothpaste causing some sort of reaction like this, why not use a natural toothpaste for a litte while and see what happens? At health or natural stores, there are toothpastes that have the least amount of chemicals (they still have some, but not as much as what you get in regular toothpaste). If it still happens, it might be that it’s a body memory or a trained response.

    • While mint is often creditted with surpressing appetite, I find that if I’m hungry – mint makes me more hungry. Maybe that’s why your toothpaste makes you hungry?
      I had a habit for years of going to bed hungry and it caused a lot of weird behavior on my part in the morning. 😉 Even if I didn’t quite FEEL the hunger, cuz I was half-asleep, my body’s main focus was still food and I still felt huge pressure to eat a lot asap after I got up. Maybe that’s what’s up with you?
      How about going to bed with a comfortably full tummy and seeing what happens then? 😉

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