Assessing Hunger

Published on: 2018-03-09 9:54:03 AM | Motivational Letters

Assessing Hunger

We all know the importance of trying to differentiate between true head hunger and true stomach hunger, or at least I hope we are working to understanding the difference between the two.  We should try to only have something to eat when we our stomachs truly give us a signal of hunger, as opposed to the infamous 'want' hunger that comes from the brain when bored, stressed or anxious.

However, what I do want to talk about is the quality or quantity of hunger. If someone is in pain, we might ask the person "on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being minimal and 10 being excruciating, what level of pain are you in?"  Now this is very subjective as some people have a higher pain threshold than others.

It led me to thinking though, that if we are truly 'hungry', how 'bad' is it?  Could we survive without food another 4 hours?  Is it so bad that we must eat something 'right now?'  If we use morphine for pain levels of 8 or higher, what food and how much of it do we need to settle that 'hunger' discomfort?  

In our society, with our tendency to expect immediate gratification, I believe that we are truly sensitized to eating food (and not just a small quantity) at the first sign of hunger.  This also begs the question: How much food do we need to settle that hunger?  Two bites of something? A full plate?  A bag of chips/ nachos/popcorn?  If we were truly honest with ourselves we would admit that only a very small quantity of food is needed to settle this minor discomfort.  

When we are distracted, such as at work, working in the garden, or on a long walk, our brains override any sensation of hunger.  We are more focused on what we are doing. However when we are sitting, bored, watching T.V. we will use the excuse of hunger and nibble on something.  That ‘something’ is not necessary for survival. We have plenty of stores of fuel to survive till the next morning. 

My challenge therefore, to myself and everyone else, is to try and be objective about hunger.  How bad is it?  Do I really need a high dose of food to settle it?  Do I need anything at all?  Maybe a glass of water or tea is all I need.  If we do reach for food, see if just a small amount is all that’s needed to help.  If you were having a heart attack, I likely would use a higher dose of morphine to help the pain than a bruised toe (well, truthfully , no narcotic would be given in the latter circumstance, just as no food should be given for a small 'hunger discomfort').

We need to put food in perspective.  Almost all of us at some time eat mindlessly.  Try to tune in to your body.  How bad is the hunger?  Can you resist the temptation of food?   I know you can. 

Stay aware.  Be more in tune with those hunger signals.  I'm guessing that rarely do you reach a level 10 of hunger discomfort unless you haven't eaten for a few days.  So, work on reading your body sensations more objectively.  Try not to give into food, just because your head says you 'want ' something.  Use food as a fuel. 

Stay in tune with yourself.   Avoid eating mindlessly.  Just keep trying.  It’s never easy. Just don't give up.

Dr. Doug