I’m not hungry but I want food

I recall an afternoon more than fifteen years ago when I found myself foraging through the kitchen cabinets looking for something to eat. As I searched it dawned on me “I’m not hungry but I want food!”

In my last blog post I emphasized that if you’re hungry for a particular food – like licorice or chocolate – then you’re not hungry.

My quest to find something in the kitchen cabinets was a perfect example. I didn’t reach for broccoli and tofu to satiate physical hunger. I was looking for “something” to satisfy me. What was going on?

I teach this stuff and had lots of practice so gratefully it was a split-second discovery of the fact that I was tired. And food was not going to help that.

What is your equivalent of foraging through the kitchen, being “hungry for licorice,” or needing chocolate to feel satisfied? I realize you may have more than one of these, but let’s start somewhere. Once you know what that is for you, ask these questions:

  • What is producing this feeling? (In my situation, being tired made me feel I needed something to eat – and something “tasty,” not broccoli.)
  • How can I meet my need without food? (I needed a nap, but was in the middle of a workday. So, I went outside, took several deep breaths and stretched my muscles before getting back to work.)
  • How can I prevent this “need” in the future? (I realized I had over-commit and that I needed to make specific adjustments to my schedule going forward.)

This last question is an advanced one. Until you can identify and address the long-term need, you will perpetually be fighting on the short-term front, and that takes a lot of energy.

Sometimes the answer is nebulous. Like with my chocolate example. I just “felt” unsatisfied. What does that even mean? My thinking brain (the responsive parent) didn’t really know. But my toddler brain was throwing a life-or-death tantrum in order to get what she wanted. When I identified the tantrum, I could let the toddler rant without giving in. I could be the responsive parent (using my prefrontal cortex) to let her know she wasn’t going to die and it would be okay.

I recall an afternoon over 15 years ago, foraging through the kitchen cabinets looking for something to eat. I realized, “I’m not hungry but I want food."
Photo by Pete Wright on Unsplash

After a while, her tantrums stopped and I no longer needed chocolate to be satisfied.

Do I still eat chocolate? You bet. Now I eat it when I decide I want it (I mean really decide) not because I feel a compulsion or unexplained desire for it. Now I care about it far less than I ever did before.

This is the work of reaching and maintaining your ideal weight. And you cannot wait to feel like it. Ask the questions. Do the work. It’s hard, but only because it’s new. It’s also simple and rewarding.

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