Last week, as part of an ongoing invitation to overhaul your definition of hunger so we can develop a more allied, than adversarial, relationship with our own hungers, I wrote about physical hunger. This week I’m writing about emotional hunger.
In nutrition school I learned an interesting way of conceptualizing nourishment as “primary and secondary foods” that was extremely helpful. They taught us that our primary nutrition comes from the non-food elements of our life such as relationships, career, financials, spiritual practice, relationships etc. Basically, all of the ways we are nourished when we are doing things that have meaning or directly support our lives.
Actual food is secondary, important, but optimally, it would be what happens, thoughtfully, after the emotional cup is full, we are stable and our lives have meaning. This theory highlights the importance of feeling seen, heard, appreciated, supported, and having the opportunity to reciprocate those things.
It also highlights how unrealistic “holistic” health can be. Having all your needs met at the same time in a perfect pie chart kinda way so you can eat mindfully IS A LOT TO ASK OF MODERN LIFE.
And, of course, even in writing this I’m making the assumption that those of you reading aren’t starving in a literal way and have *somewhat* abundant access to healthy food and clean water. The conversation in a context of poverty is bullshit. Hopefully the takeaway here is that, yes, it’s fucking hard and “balance” is a moving target unique to you. Also, there’s always room to deliver awareness to the care and maintenance of our bodies and using food to heal holes that could be filled with art or friendship, may be unhealthy. If for no other reason than to stand up against the bullshit that is (our/the) U.S. healthcare system. Clearly we need to take our health into our own hands. Clearly eating all of the things will not lead us closer to free. So, yeah.
Hunger is a powerful force whether physical or emotional. Having needs that have once (or always) gone unmet can feel unbearable. Many of us do not take for granted that we are entitled to certain things and the anxiety can result in a run to the supermarket or drive through, am I right? It can be hard to manage or own hungers. Our needs can be a source of shame, a feeling of weakness. It’s often something we’ll do almost anything to avoid.
But, hunger can be a powerful informant about the next right thing to do. That next right thing might be eat food, but it may also be making connections or ending them, letting yourself rest and digest, bolstering your support system, or reckoning with your economic situation. It might be the willingness to just look at your needs long enough to accept they exist and aren’t going anywhere. Because you are human.
Again because it’s so important: There is nothing wrong with you. You are simply a human being, which is inherently complex and messy, full of incredible imperfection and muddling through. There is no real thing you need to be other than kind. Maybe curious.
As a society, we are so hungry, maybe even starving, for love, for connection, for support, for intimacy, to feel held rather than free falling through space. We’re taught more about cognitive, than emotional, intelligence, we’re taught pride around productivity and punishment around tenderness. The pain of this is pervasive.
Unless you feel/have received the message that you deserve to/are capable of being well nourished, fully fed, healthy, radiant, powerful — it’s always a fight.
We need love and touch to survive, support and validation, someone out there who can see us for who we are and not judge our way of being in the world.
We need these things just like we need food. Babies who don’t get held, will die.
For some people, perhaps food is the only pleasure they have – sugars and fats release opioids and oxytocin in the brain… look at someone’s face when you say “ice cream” or “cheese plate”. It’s legit mother’s milk.
It’s also crucial to remember that all eating is emotional. All hunger is emotional. Social connectivity is emotional. Celebration and feasting is emotional. Comforting with food is emotional, and on most levels JUST FINE. Emotional eating has become a catchphrase for a thing we aren’t “supposed” to do if we want to be disciplined people. Another way productivity is praised over people. Don’t believe the hype. It’s all emotional, and emotional is not a bad thing.
What’s important is being able to identify what you’re actually hungry for and feed yourself accordingly. Even just having awareness of what you’re eating and why. And do this the best you can, when you can, with your eye on the big picture of global health.
Feeding yourself accordingly means accepting and appreciating the fact that you need feeding in the first place, that you require both food and love. And that, you deserve it.
Total acceptance might be an aspiration, but it’s a practice of releasing unnecessary shame and, in doing that for yourself, it’s possible we’re shifting our cultural perspective.
While so many of our fears and challenges with attachment, are rooted in our childhood, it’s important to remember that we’re now adults. We can parent our sweet selves. We can learn to provide the security and tender love that we crave. Our security in ourselves will also be a powerful force into the world, attracting others to join us in the love of us. Parenting, and continuing to parent, ourselves can be the foundation of strength that helps us feed each other, lift each other up.
It’s not a perfect system, we don’t have all of the answers. Hell, we barely know what questions to ask. We are quite possibly tasked in this lifetime with a total rehabilitation and reset of collapsing institutions – the nuclear family, government, eradication of the -isms, and a restored system of equality and justice, which has us roiling around in some serious liminal space, painful uncertainty.
Please give yourself some credit for hanging in, for your continued kindness and curiosity. We are still here. Doing our best. As always, maybe the answer (for now) is to just keep doing it.
Do you eat from a place of joy, excitement, satisfaction, self love?
Or fear, shame, guilt, self loathing?
There’s no “right” answer and probably you’re doing a combination of things. What I want more than anything is for you to realize that you’re normal. You’re successful already. You’ve been broken and you’re still here, whole.
You’re perfect just the way you are, and you sure could use a lot of work.
Being a human is a lot of dichotomies.
So I’m sending much empathy to your fears of failing and success, so much empathy to the very real sources of oppression and belief systems that interfere with your nourishment.
What will it take for you to let go, love your life a little more, love each other a little more, be willing to release your ideas of reaching an emotionless state of productive nirvana and just be in this sweaty, bloody, tear-stained beautiful world…. together?
I’d be happy to help.
Here’s something you might or might not know about me:
Yes, I’m a health coach and I supposedly help people lose weight and blah blah blah. But I *actually* deal in the currency of humanity.
The humanity of hunger.
I help people develop a more allied, than adversarial, relationship with their bodies, their hungers, and ultimately, their satisfaction
Because “losing weight” is not actually synonymous with “health”. In fact, it’s often counter to true wellness. Living light is lovely, but the relentless deification of thinness hurts us all.
The message that deprivation equals control and piousness denies us access to one of our most powerful allies: our hunger.
What if your hunger was normal, beautiful even?
What if your hunger wasn’t weakness at all, but one of your greatest sources of strength?
Perhaps we should be working together. I have space in my practice and am happily accepting new clients.
More info on coaching + costs here.
Click here to schedule a 30 minute discovery session to see if we’re a good fit.
Note: Although there is no commitment at all, this free call *is* specific to see if we’re a good fit for a deeper relationship. It is not a free coaching session. Thank you for your respect.
Next week I’m writing about: Hunger as desire drive and using it wisely.
You are so dearly loved,
please contact me with credit for featured image if it’s yours