Throughout my life I have had moments of overeating to stuff back feelings. Discomfort, pain, grief that might have seemed much to large to deal with, always seemed quieter when I ate more than I needed to. I think it’s like this for many of us. We comfort ourselves with food in order to quiet down feelings that threaten to overwhelm us.
It’s been a while since I’ve done this. In large part because over the years, through therapy and deep spiritual work I’ve learned to dance with being present no matter what the emotional experiences are that I’m going through. It’s possible to grow bigger around the grief, the sorrow, the fear, the anger or the loss, so that you can hold yourself in those moments, knowing that in a week, a month it won’t be this way and you can weather this as another act of celebrating and embracing your life as it is.
But there is another form of overeating. One that is sourced from feeling a bone deep insatiable hunger that very much mimics the belly sensations of actual hunger, but is very different. I hadn’t felt this one in a very very long time, but this last week I did.
I Was So Hungry
I had eaten breakfast. A full big breakfast, the way I always do. I was fed and moving on to another task on the long list of things I have had to attend to day after day while taking care of my mom and my brother and my life, and work and marriage and husband and…
I’ve also been sick for 2 months. A cold that comes and goes, but never completely. My health is mirroring the results of my physical, emotional and psychological neglect, as is my mind and how hard it has become for me to keep track of more than two things at a time.
There is no point in my day at which I’m not tired. I wake up in the middle of the night from a deep slumber and am so aware of the exhaustion that still sits on my shoulders it’s some times hard to fall back asleep. It’s a very odd time.
So I had breakfast and had proceeded with my day. But an hour after having eaten a meal that I know is enough to sate my hunger and fuel my energy for an entire morning when I’m in a typical space, I was starving.
Like… the kind of starving that makes you stop in a bit of shock and exclaim, “Jesus… I’m starving.”
It was a hole, an empty hole in the center of me and without thinking I got up to go find something to eat, only to stop myself short in the middle of the kitchen.
“Wait… are you really hungry? You really shouldn’t be hungry so soon.” That wasn’t judgy-ness on my part… it was self awareness. It would be a super rare thing for me to really be that hungry at that moment.
So I sat back down and spend a few moments doing some deep breathing and checking back into my body.
“What’s going on with me? Is it that you’re sick, and there’s a nutrient I’m needing or depleted of? Is this really a hunger pang, or am I have acid indigestion?”
The more I stopped to feel into the sensation, the more I was aware this wasn’t really hunger. It was another pang altogether. I don’t have acid indigestion so it was worth inquiring if this intense sensation was in fact something like that.
I’ve practiced self inquiry in many ways for over 25 years. It doesn’t take long for me to get to the answers once I’ve stilled and looked inside. Sometimes the answers don’t come in words. Sometimes the answers come in sensations or the waves of specific emotions.
For me this time, it was in the form of tears. I just started to cry and cry. I couldn’t stop. I hadn’t cried like this a very long time and at one point I almost doubled over with it.
I was so tired, so depleted in every possible way and I hadn’t stopped long enough to really acknowledge that.
Signs Of Depletion
I was hungry, yes. But not for food. Not actual food. But because I have been so drained and my body is yearning to be fed, the most obvious and concrete way my body could communicate that to me was with this sense of deep hunger.
10 years ago… mmm, maybe even 7 years ago, I would have eaten another meal. Maybe even made this one a huge meal. I would have just gone on autopilot, sensed that I was “hungry” and stuffed myself with food.
But what I know now is that I need the food of silence, space, exercise, boundaries to protect myself from energy suckage, spending time with people that practice trust, love, possibility and beauty. I need the food of self care in the deepest way because I haven’t been tending to myself at all for a month now.
Nourishment comes in so many forms and we feed ourselves many things, not just food.
Our relationship with food tends to re-calibrate towards a healthier dance when we are aware of all the ways our body, mind and soul receives nourishment.
Sometimes what we are truly hungry for isn’t actual food at all, but we spend years, if not life times, mistaking these hunger pangs for the pangs for food and miss out on truly nourishing ourselves. It’s why we are all starving all the time even though we over eat.
It’s safe to say that by the time we start to really feel this kind of hunger, we have been in a state of undernourishment for quite a long time.
Do you know what types of nourishment your body, soul and mind need? Share with me. It’s a conversation I’m deeply involved in with myself these days and would love to hear from you on.
Elizabeth Gerrish Renzetti says
THANK YOU. I am nauseous from hunger that won’t go away. This explains it perfectly. It’s also a bit creepy that it was posted on my birthday even if it was 4 years ago.