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Real Hunger

Several months ago I had intestinal testing which involved 24 hours of fasting, including some hours with liquids but mostly without. Being forced to abstain from food reminded me of what appetite, especially true hunger, is all about.

Knowing I’d be hungry and permitted to eat a “light” breakfast and lunch, I tried to bulk up in preparation for a day without nourishment. I usually eat small amounts every few hours or so because that’s how my body likes to take in food. I don’t care to be full because it reminds me of my binge-eating days and I don’t like to feel starving because it reminds me of my dieting days. So frequent, small meals suit me perfectly.

Before I talk about my hunger, let me back up a bit and describe what it was like to eat prophylactically and be stuffed with food. Suddenly I was super conscious of my belly which felt uncomfortably distended and terribly mistreated. It took a couple of hours before the distension lessened and I was relieved and feeling comfortable again. Then I had a few hours when I was neither hunger nor full and resumed my usual life of not thinking of food until my body had something to tell me about it.

Hunger returned gradually as usual. It grew more persistent and the pangs and pains grew stronger as time went on, as if to forcefully make the point that I was ignoring it. I couldn’t help but feel that I was letting my body down by not giving it what it so badly wanted. By early evening I was so tired and headachy that all I could do was to watch TV—except that I couldn’t stand seeing food commercials or any show scenes which involved eating. I slept surprisingly well, but awakened thinking non-stop about food, counting the hours, then the minutes until I could have nourishment again. When I finally could eat, I didn’t want to stop. I tried eating small amounts, but they failed to quell my hunger. Working was difficult because my mind was focused only on food. Finally, near bedtime, beginning to feel sated, I rejoiced.

The next day I thought about how misguided I’d been in my life during the times I’d restricted food and how deprivation had made my body want food more than ever. This enforced fasting reinforced the need for us to stop messing with our appetites because it works perfectly well on its own if we let it. I also realized how much we take being able to feed ourselves nourishingly for granted, unlike much of the world whose people are faced with “food insecurity.” In light of all those who suffer starvation, we surely owe it to ourselves to eat “normally” and to nourish ourselves well if only because we can.

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