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Speech of the Week: Hunger...It's not an emergency.

It's 3pm, you are in the middle of a huge project, feeling that midday slump, frustrated with coworkers, and all of the sudden you just know that you’re dying of hunger. “I have got to get something to eat NOW!” You tell yourself as you dash to the vending machine for a bag of chips or a Snickers Bar, because you’re just not you when you’re hungry, right? 

We have been conditioned by ad campaigns like Snickers and loads of others to believe that the moment we feel a grumbly in our tummy, we must reach for the quickest, most immediately satisfying option, like chips or candy. You may know somewhere back in the corner of your mind that the chips and candy are not the best choice, and likely you will end up feeling even more slumped, more on edge, and your stomach will not thank you. 

This is because, despite everything we have been told by commercials, 

a little hunger is not an emergency. 

I know that statement may come as a bit of a shock, but it is the truth. 

According to some in the medical community, an average person can theoretically survive without food for 1-2 months! Trust me when I tell you, if you don’t eat that Snickers bar right now, you will by no means wither away. Sometimes, it isn’t even that you feel hungry, you just feel uncomfortable, for a variety of reasons. 

Take the example in the first paragraph:

Is it actually hunger or is it discomfort? 

What is creating the feeling of urgency? 

Is it actual hunger or general ennui? 

Spoiler alert: Discomfort is not an emergency either. 

Am I saying you should not follow your hunger cues? Absolutely not. 

You should tune in to your body systems and follow your hunger cues. 

However, in this American culture, people are often so out of tune with their bodies, they have no idea what their hunger cues are, or how best to satisfy them. When we treat hunger like an emergency, we typically end up eating way more processed and less nutritional foods in way larger quantities than we actually need. 

When you feel hungry, it is a great time to take a quick 5 minute action and ask yourself some questions: 

  1. What is happening in my mind right now? 

  2. How do I feel emotionally?

  3. Who is influencing me right now?

  4. Am I really hungry?

  5. What does my body need?  

Once you have taken a step back and conducted a quick inventory of your whole self, then you can make a conscious decision about how best to fuel your body.

I recommend this quick protocol:

  1. Pause

  2. Take an inventory

  3. Figure out what your body actually needs

  4. Fuel it with the right amount (only eat to 80% full, don’t stuff yourself).

When you are intentional and mindful about what you are doing (check out our previous blog about catching yourself in the act), you can retrain yourself to view hunger for what it is, the fuel gauge on your body, not an emergency light. 

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