Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Immediacy Of Hunger

I wrote this last night, then let it digest a bit before posting it today. I wasn't sure if it was just for me, or to share, For the bare handful of you that are left that read this blog, I hope you're still enjoying it. Oh, and this is a long one. :)

I've always felt an immediacy to my hunger, even as a child, which has led me to eat with a voracious appetite. I usually have a keen sense of what food I am wanting and that leads to my stomach sounding very much like Veruca Salt in its insistence of being satiated straight away. “I WANT the deliciousness and I WANT it NOW!” The depth and the sharpness of my hunger led me to believe that I not only had to have food right away but I had to have a lot.

Surely, something that felt so all encompassing had to be huge in truth. Right?

Tonight, I have learned that this isn't always so.

Sure, there are times when my hunger is of an immediacy that requires food straight away. Often when I haven't been paying attention and too much time has passed, or my nutrition hasn't been adequate, and my sugar levels have dropped dangerously low thus it's either eat or have a migraine, or fall over, or gag uncontrollably, or sometimes all of the above.

But as my body has taught me, not all hunger is created equal.

My workout hunger is best satisfied by a carbohydrate snack within an hour of starting a workout, followed by a protein snack after I finish exercising. Failing that, a balanced meal of protein, carbs, fat, and veggies or fruit within an hour and a half before starting the workout. (But then, if I misjudge the meal or the timing of the start of the workout, I'll need a couple of bites of banana or nut bar to be able to sustain the workout.) I've learned this over the last six months of consistent exercise. And it works for me.

PMS hunger. I've been working on this one for decades. It makes sense. PMS hunger means my body is working hard to make a hospitable home for any pregnancy that wishes to take up residency in any given month. And that takes nutrients and calories and salt and fluid. So my calorie intake goes up drastically. It's only for a few days a month and my weight follows a predictable pattern...I lose weight during that time and then go back to my regular weight as soon as I start to menstruate. Without fail. Whether I'm 65 kg or 115kgs. There's also usually one day of hormone-induced rage/tears/emotional turmoil, that's not a hunger story though.

But it does lead me nicely to emotional hunger. Name an emotion and over the years I've substituted feeling it with eating food. Numbing. Avoiding. Denying. Celebrating. Because I can. Because it's the best I can do in that moment. Because I need soothing to take the sharpness out of the emotion to be able to express it adequately. There are many and varied reasons I've used and abused food. Admittedly, there are times it's healthy and normal to soothe myself with food...but not every time I feel something that makes me uncomfortable. Or before I can even BEGIN to feel uncomfortable. I've taken a vital, protective behaviour and let it get out of control. It's no different than covering a kid in cotton wool. They'll never learn how to cope with anything, if they feel nothing.

And I was so frightened of being uncomfortable or feeling anything bad that I felt nothing real for a long time. Not emotionally or physically. Not even true hunger. I felt plenty of sensory hunger though. Something tasted or smelled delicious and I'd continue eating it far beyond when I'd had enough, simply because it tasted so good.

My true hunger can express itself in different ways. I've learned it can be a thunderous growl, or a nauseous feeling, or a headache, or crankiness, weakness, lethargy, even an inability to concentrate. (And sometimes, those things mean I'm thirsty instead.) Tonight it happened while we were out and about running errands. They took longer than planned. We were already running late to pick my dad up, and Kiddlywink's dinner time had passed half an hour ago, so we decided to get take away.

Fast food was something we spent an obscene amount on during the last year. We only found this out when we did our budget a couple of months ago. I haven't eaten from a fast food restaurant since. My body feels better for it. After eating it fairly regularly for several years..then going cold turkey for two months, I bet you can imagine how I was tantalised by the delicious smell when I pulled the car up to the drive thru window, ordered for Alaskaboy and Kiddlywink, and then passed the food back to them.

When I opened the bag to ensure the order was correct, my mouth flooded with saliva and my stomach roiled with anticipation. Once my hand was in the bag, my brain urged me to take one chip...just one chip, they smell SO good. It was in that moment that I realised that even though I was hungry—ravenous, in fact—I wasn't hungry for this kind of food. I rolled the top of the bag back down and handed it to Alaskaboy, leaving all the contents intact.

It was torturous driving a further 40 minutes with the smells, sights and sounds of two hungry people thoroughly enjoying their dinner. I happily talked to them about what they were enjoying, and how I'd enjoyed those meals in the past. I even refused their kind offers to give me tastes of their food. I wasn't being masochistic. I simply wasn't hungry for it. And I knew I would be home soon enough and could find something there I would want and enjoy more. Believe me, if I HAD wanted the food, there would have been nothing stopping me from enjoying my own take away meal also.

There is a time and a place for take away. It is a Sometimes food after all.

We arrived home and I remembered we'd promised Kiddlywink to stop and get a particular ice cream on the way home. Unfortunately, we were out of time to go back to the shops. Kiddlywink was understandably disappointed. After brokering a deal wherein I'd get the ice cream and she could have it for her bed time snack, if she was bathed and in her pyjamas by the time I got back from the local supermarket, Kiddlywink, Alaskaboy and my dad went inside.

When I entered the store, I was struck by the sight of this particular white cauliflower. I swear it was already perfectly lit, but it was missing the accompanying upswell to the soundtrack. Oh wait, it's not a movie, it's my life. Seriously, the cauliflower looked so delectable it could have been a prop for a movie. But, I ignored it and focused on the fridge section, where I'd planned to scoop up a healthy preprepared soup and devour that when I got home. The selection was good, but it was not the soup I was looking for.

And like Luke barreling his X-wing fighter along the canals and gullies found on the death star, I manoeuvered my way back around for a final pass at the thing that had my R2 unit's head all swivelly. This WAS the cauliflower I was looking for. That, and the bag of baby spinach leaves in the cool store section. I grabbed those, the icecream bars and hotfooted it out of there, after dashing through the self-service line like any intrepid adventurer would do! Or, you know, someone in desperate need of dinner.

I made it home to a bigger fanfare than Han and Luke received, but I didn't get any fancy gold medallions.

What I did get was the satisfaction of seeing my daughter enjoy a meal and a dessert as the treats they rightly should be. As a Sometimes food. Not the Quite Regularly Indeed foods they'd become.

I was in the mood for soup, so was Dad. Good old cauliflower soup; cauliflower, potato, onion, garlic, and veg broth all simmered for about 15-20 minutes, then whizzed. I felt kinda decadent tonight so I plopped spinach leaves in the huge soup bowls, covered them with piping hot soup and crumbled in some goats feta and added a twist of lemon. The textures and flavours had us making the same omnomnom noises I'd heard an hour and a half prior in the car.

I enjoyed every spoonful of that soup. From the piping hot start where I had to balance my hunger with the need to not burn my mouth to the dregs where it was quite cool and I had to guage my need to be fully satisfied against the tastiness of the soup and the size of my stomach.

What was it that I learned tonight? The immediacy of my hunger is not always an indication of how soon I must eat.

Sometimes, even when I'm very hungry, I can in fact wait to eat.

Sometimes, it's okay to feel my hunger and move beyond it. Especially if it's in search of what it is I truly want to eat. If I'd given in and eaten those burgers and chips because it was convenient, I wouldn't have sat with my hunger long enough to identify what it was I was truly hungry for. And I would have binged continuously throughout the evening looking to find what it was I needed..and probably not succeeded and ended up eating thousands too may calories.

Sometimes, it is necessary to eat something that isn't what I truly want. Sometimes there are other factors involved that don't allow me the luxury of choice. But when I do have the luxury of choice, I now know that being hungry is something I can survive. It's not the end of my world...I'm simply hungry.

Tonight, I was hungry was for this soup. YUM!