This is a question I ask about midway through the weight loss class I teach: “Say one positive thing about hunger…” After the laughter dies down, the participants work on an answer. I ask you: is there anything positive you can say about hunger? I think there is. I want to be clear that I'm in no way advocating allowing yourself to get too hungry. I'm trying to get you to think about the mechanics of hunger, and what hunger means to you.
As a fat person, I never allowed myself to get hungry. As a morbidly obese 300 pound woman, hunger really wasn't part of my vocabulary. I grazed all day long, not on fruits and vegetables, but rather on junk. I went to bed stuffed, and woke up full. It's true, I did.
So in thinking about hunger from a weight loss point of view, I try to get my class participants to get over the fear of normal hunger, and understand why hunger is a positive feeling. Merriam-Webster defines hunger as: “a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient.” Hunger is necessary. If we never got hungry, we could die. Our bodies were designed to sustain our lives, and hunger is part of the process. It's important to learn to recognize the hunger signals your body sends out. You can feel it in your stomach. You may start to feel irritable.
When I was obese, I didn't feel hungry. So when I finally got myself together, and started losing weight, hunger was a little bit scary. I hadn't been hungry in years. And I'm talking about the good kind of hunger. Where your body is ready for more food at the appropriate time, not right after you've finished off a bag of chips!
The first time I felt hungry was the first day of my new weight loss plan. I still remember getting up, waddling down the street (in my dress), coming home and taking a shower. Then I ate a decent breakfast, and proceeded to go on with my morning routine. About an hour to an hour and a half after breakfast, I realized that I was hungry. I didn't like the feeling. It scared me a little bit. But I had a plan, and I ate a piece of fruit, and the hunger subsided. And then lo and behold, a little while later, I was hungry again! By this time it was close to lunch, so I waited until lunch and ate what I had planned for the day. And what do you know? I wasn't hungry anymore, but I was later. So I ate something good. And then I had dinner, and then I went to bed.
I still remember lying in bed thinking about the fact that I had gotten hungry. It unnerved me a little bit. I had to remind myself that hunger was a normal sensation. So the next, and every day after that, I learned to pay attention to the feelings of hunger. Eating when I was really hungry, instead of filling myself with other things when I wasn't really hungry.
Here is my favorite answer to the question: "One positive thing I can say about hunger is this that hunger might be a sign that you are doing something right." For me it was just that. Even to this day, I pay attention to my body's hunger signals. I try and eat the right things, to continue with my maintenance plan, but to also fill my body with what it needs.