I sat down to write this blog post, and I noticed I was a little bit hungry.
And I immediately started fantasizing.
Should I have a cup of frozen pineapple from my freezer? That would be so cold and tropical and satisfying on a humid summer night.
Or perhaps a Kashi oatmeal chocolate chip cookie? They are friggin’ good, and the heartiness of it is sort of filling. I know they have a ton of fiber, and fiber is so good for you. Maybe I could have it with some milk to make it even more substantial….
…And yeah, it kind of went on like that.
Look, I strongly, resolutely, positively believe in eating when you are hungry. It is a core commandment in the Book of Katie.
But also, it’s worth noticing that just because you are hungry, it doesn’t mean you absolutely need to eat this second.
Let’s be clear, I’m not at all saying you shouldn’t eat if you are hungry and if you want to eat. I don’t believe in deprivation. Especially if you are just beginning this journey, it may be empowering to you to eat even when you feel the slightest tinge of hunger. I know it felt that way for me in the beginning.
But I do believe that for many of us who struggle with compulsive eating, it is essential that we take a gentle moment to check in with ourselves when we find that we are about to eat.
If we are not hungry, this gentle check in lets us ask what else is going on.
If we are hungry, this gentle check in lets us ask what else is going on.
Because at the moment when we feel hunger, there are usually other, subtle currents of thought and emotion going on.
Here two of the top ones that happen to me in moments like this:
1. Food is awesome.
When you love food, food sounds pleasant just about anytime. If someone handed me a cupcake from my favorite cupcake place (Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ – their frosting tastes like butter and nothing is better) right now, I would absolutely love to eat it.
But here’s the thing: I’m not really that hungry. Frankly, I’m barely hungry at all. And yet…it sounds lovely to fantasize about eating. Just thinking about pumpkin cinnamon rolls makes me feel delighted.
So when you love food, eating anytime sounds nice. And look, you can eat anytime. Despite what many of us have come to believe, if you eat when you are not hungry, you will not immediately become a blimp and the food police will not knock down your door.
It’s a deeper question – sure, I love food. But my body doesn’t really need food right now. And (1) food tastes better when I’m truly hungry and (2) food tastes better when I know that I’m taking care of myself on a deeper level, by only really eating when I’m hungry.
2. Food is a cheap, quick, and convenient way to take care of yourself.
I knew I should write a blog post. On my deepest level that wants to share what has changed my life with the world, I definitely wanted to write. But on that level that says “Oh god, you’re not going to write anything good and you should just stop now and go to bed or maybe go on tumblr for an hour but whatever you do, don’t try to write” – yeah, that level wasn’t so interested.
Other things that inevitably make me want to eat include: being with people who make me feel uncomfortable, trying to do work that tires out my brain, and facing truths about my life that I don’t want to face. All those things take a lot of emotional, spiritual, and intellectual work.
You know what doesn’t take a lot of emotional, spiritual, and intellectual work? Eating.
I mean, if you’re really thoughtful about it, eating does take some of that deep work. But mostly, the gap between thinking “I’m a tad peckish” and finding myself at my freezer eating large spoonful’s of Ben and Jerry’s can be nearly nonexistent.
And I can feel virtuous, because I was hungry and I ate! Look at me, ma! I found food all by me-self!
Uh, yeah. It IS great and life affirming to eat when you are hungry. But when you are eating because you are avoiding deeper emotional tasks…not so much.
So that is my loving question to you: have you found yourself in a situation where you wanted to eat, but realized you were avoiding the elephant in the room? Was it a late night wanna-eat, or at another time? It would be such a privilege if you would share with me.