Let’s Talk About Hunger

I was at the gym today and saw an ad on one of the many televisions for SlimFast. Its selling point, other than a bunch of thin white women smiling, was that it “controls hunger for up to 4 hours.”

It controls hunger.

Let’s think about that. It doesn’t satisfy hunger, it controls it.

We (especially us women but not only) are taught to have an adversarial relationship with hunger. To see it as a problem, an enemy, a danger that must be controlled. 

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We’re told to trick it (Stevia-sweetened sawdust blondies!), to distrust it (it’s probably thirst! Drink two glasses of water before every meal!), to curb it, to control it. But never to satisfy it.

In this adversarial set-up we forget that hunger actually serves a purpose. A really important one.

Well, two and sometimes three important purposes. It fuels us. That is why hunger exists. It also serves as a site of pleasure which, contrary to SlimFast and Special K’s business models, is important. And it provides opportunities for commensality (that is, eating and bonding with others).

But if we’re caught up trying to dodge, weave, avoid and control hunger we miss out on a lot. Not only the ability to feel satisfied and well-fueled, but pleasure, and bonding.

And when you’re taught from a young age to control your hunger, to run from it, fear it, feel like a failure for giving into it, you miss out entirely on the opportunity to develop a healthy relationship to it.

Taking society’s bullshit out of it, the idea that an animal would do everything possible to avoid giving into their hunger is absurd. Have you ever seen a dog lap up a bunch of water to dull her appetite? Witnessed a cat eat cat-gum instead of some stinky wet food?

Hunger and thirst and exhaustion all exist to make sure that we meet our needs. That we take pretty baseline care of ourselves–eat enough, drink enough, sleep enough. We’re not talking fancy supplements and goji berries here, just enough food to keep on keeping on. And yet we fight it tooth and nail.

And then we wonder why so many people have dysfunctional relationships with food and their bodies.

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