It’s no wonder to me when clients tell me they feel guilty, weak, ashamed and/or embarrassed for feeling hunger. You don’t have to have an eating disorder to feel that way (although, depending on the severity and other symptoms, it could be a sign of one). Everywhere we turn we hear about diet pills that reduce hunger and cravings, books that talk about ‘willpower’ and even medical doctors doing research aimed at finding a way to suppress our hunger via our genes. There must be something wrong with hunger since everyone wants to get rid of it right!? Wrong. True physical hunger is a biological signal, nothing more, and nothing less. It’s one of the most important signals we receive as it is telling us we need more energy, the fuel for every teeny, tiny cell in our bodies. You must feed your body!
If you’ve explored my site and blog you know I’m a genuine ‘hater’ of diets. However, let’s just pretend for a moment that I’m going to put all of my readers on a diet; not a food diet, but an air diet. I think we all need to exercise a little control and start using less air. It’s important to go green these days right? In order to do this you must participate in a little activity, so get comfortable.Warning: do not participate if you have respiratory (breathing) issues like asthma.
Ready? For the next 60 seconds I’d like you to close your mouth and plug one nostril. Now breathe through that one nostril for the next 60 seconds. Notice the physical and mental changes that start to happen. Keep going…no cheating…use that willpower! What did you notice? Most likely you experienced one or more of the following:
- In a matter of seconds your breath got slower and deeper. Why do you think your body responded that way? Restriction. Your mind got the message that your breath was restricted and wasn’t quite sure when you were going to get a full breath of air next. To compensate it told your lungs to slow down and get as much air in as possible just in case regular breathing didn’t resume anytime soon. Can you imagine if you denied your body of that deep breath in that moment? You might have passed out! Hmmmm… we do this to our bodies with hunger and food all the time. It just takes individuals longer to pass out. It happens though. Trust me. We can’t simply give our bodies less food than what our bodies need. Things go wrong when we do…sometimes very wrong.
- Your mind started focusing on your breathing more than anything else going on. When you restrict your body from something it needs to survive it will likely put more thought toward that which is being restricted. Sound like the last time you rigidly cut something out of your diet that you really enjoy?
- You stopped the activity early due to discomfort or even some weakness or dizziness. And we think ‘willpower’ is the issue! Denying biological needs is silly, yet encouraged in our culture every day. It can really hurt you!
- When you stopped your ‘air diet’ you took a deep breath. Did you feel any judgement when you took that deep breath? Would you think it was strange if someone came out of this pretend experiment striving to take very small breaths despite the fact that their body had clearly been deprived of air? How often have you judged yourself for overeating or bingeing after dieting for several weeks, days or hours…?
The next time you feel badly about feeling hungry I hope that the ‘air diet’ will help you make sense of your situation. I hope you’ll decide to feed your body. I hope you also realize that the ‘air diet’ was simply an exercise to highlight some parallels of food restriction without judgement. No one judges themselves for needed to breath! Note: I have to give credit to Kathy Kater, LICSW who originally introducing me to the “air diet” activity. I was lucky enough to listen to her speak in San Diego back in March of 2010. If you have children or work with children I highly encourage you to check out her website http://www.bodyimagehealth.org/ and purchase her healthy body image curriculum book!