First of all, a warning: If you are squeamish and/or male, you may not entirely enjoy today’s post.
On Not Obsessing About Hunger
When it comes to food, I’m a pretty obsessive person. I tend to plan my life, and especially my meals, far in advance. I like to plan to make sure that I’ll always have food at my fingertips in case I get hungry. I guess it goes back to my flirtation with hypoglycemia as a teenager, when I would frequently get irritable or irrational when I was hungry, or would even pass out. So I make sure that I always have healthy, real food around me, so that I’m not faced with a choice of hunger or unhealthy snacks.
But really, is this healthy? Is it healthy or natural to always have food to quell the voice inside that says “Hey, I want food?” I would argue no. For so much of our existence, humans have had limited access to food. If I were a peasant working in the fields in the Middle Ages and my stomach rumbled, would I be able to just drop everything and have snacky time? No.
So one of my goals this year is to be less obsessed with food and hunger. Go hungry a little, and convince my body that it’s not the end of the world. Avoiding sugar and refined grains really helps.
And this morning, I found another beneficial practice: Find something else to think about. It can’t just be anything, it has to be something that occupies your whole mind and seems dire, at least at first.
See, what brought this to mind was my run this morning, which I started out already a little bit hungry. I usually know when I’m going to get my period, but lately my morning temps have been a bit erratic, possibly because my thermometer needs a new battery. So I was 75% sure I wouldn’t get my period today, but would probably get it tomorrow. So I went off on a 3-mile run with zero protection, just the layers of clothing I was wearing against the cold. About a mile in, I felt a familiar sensation: Menstrual cramps.
I could tell that I was wrong about my prediction of my period. I just knew that it was going to start momentarily. I mentally went through the layers of clothing, trying to figure out just how much of it was going to be ruined by this. How dark is black clothing, anyway? Is it going to show through? Am I going to leave little tracks? I finally talked myself down about halfway through the run, and just focused the rest of the way on finishing my run despite some pretty annoying cramps.
When I got home, I found I had not started my period, so there was no mess.
I also realized that I was no longer hungry.
After a stretch and a shower, I decided that I could eat something, so I had a dish of yogurt. But I didn’t have any real, physical signs of hunger afterwards until about 10:30 this morning. I’m currently enjoying a cup of pu-erh tea because I’d rather not eat my lunch early, and I feel like my hunger is bearable.
Now, we can’t all have female emergencies all the time when we’re feeling hungry and cranky. But I think this incident has served to show me that meditation is a powerful tool. I didn’t try to focus on not being hungry (“Don’t think of an elephant,” anyone?), but instead found another, completely unrelated topic, to occupy my mind.
Maybe next time I could try meditating on writing my thesis or something.