When I first began welcoming more nutrient-dense foods into my diet, I was a total basket case. I remember, while I was at school, freaking out at the salad bar as I stood in front of the small bin of sunflower seeds. The scoop that rested in the middle of the seeds was “too big” and I was so afraid of measuring out more than the “appropriate” serving size. Then, I remembered that I’d drizzled some oil-based vinaigrette on my salad just a moment before. Two fat servings on a salad? AW, HELL NO! I put the sunflower seed scoop down and made my way back to the table where I would be eating.
After finishing my meal, my friends and I chatted for a few minutes and I was still hungry. “If I’d only just sprinkled sunflower seeds onto my salad,” I thought, “I wouldn’t be so hungry right now.” I hated being hungry. Hunger was the enemy. In my mind, if I allowed myself to reach the point of hunger, I was a failure – especially now, at the advent of my recovery journey.
This created unspeakable anxiety inside of me. Even writing this story now, I can literally feel the anxiety I once felt. Like it was yesterday. Thankfully, this scenario wasn’t yesterday. It is three years later. I am recovered, strong, and more-than-happy to add seeds onto a salad, regardless of whether there’s already a substantial fat source on my plate. I love fats and enjoy them every day.
At the time, my fear of being hungry was so crippling. I knew that recovery would not work if I didn’t try to change my perception of hunger. When I became hungry, I would take a deep breath and ask myself the simple question, “What is hunger?” I would gently remind myself that my body was my friend and that hunger was its sidekick, encouraging me to honor the simple sensation. “The more I honor my hunger, the more I become BFFs with my bod pod,” I said to myself.
When I began to view hunger as a way to honor my body instead of a tool I formerly used to destroy my body, my perception if hunger began to change.
Of course, if I was to honor hunger, that also meant the eventual feeling of satisfaction after a meal. Satisfaction was another doozy. When I felt satisfied, I would tell myself that I ate too much. I would allow fear to tell me that satiety = feeling full = failure. Why? Because I had become accustomed to feeling empty – literally and physically. Satisfaction was so uncomfortable to me because it was the exact opposite of how I’d been trying to feel. I was seeking fulfillment in emptiness; seeking fulfillment in controlling my hunger instead of recognizing that hunger was connected to me. Hunger unites us with our bodies – but I was resistant to being united with my body. I was trying to work against it. I was getting in my own way.
Soon, I realized that my body wasn’t just this thing that runs on fuel. My body is a container. My body needs to be filled with fuel in order to operate. When I fill my body with fuel, my body can then hold space for its true purpose: to hold love, which I can then pour out to everyone I meet, everyone I talk to, and with everything I do.
The more I honored my body as a vessel through which I express love, the more I listened to my hunger cues and the more I believed that hunger was a sensation that united me with my body.