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By Michael Sharp, MD

Five things I know about hunger:

Michael Sharp, MD
  • For some of us, it is almost always present. In addiction circles it is called “the hole.” It is a deep feeling of emptiness that we try and fill in many different ways—a lot of them unsatisfying. Your belly may ache from trying to fill it and tell you it is full, but the hole is down there, waiting for the next opportunity to make you feel less-than.
  • Sugar inflates it. And potato chips, and if it sneaks its way into your freezer, Amaretto Black Cherry Almond ice cream.
  • Here are other things that don’t fill the hole: new car, a promotion, getting into a good college, checking off all the boxes on your list, cheap sex, winning the lottery, your team winning the super bowl, being better than your neighbor.
  • Starving it causes weight gain. There is always a rebound.
  • Feeding it causes weight gain. The hole is bottomless; there is not enough food in all the world.

Here are five things I don’t know about hunger:

  • Where it comes from. Although I suspect it comes from childhood in most of us. How did you get taught about “no”? For many of us, “no” is deprivation rather than an embraceable ally.
  • What satisfies it for more than 30 minutes.
  • The role of love: I hear people say “you need to love yourself.” I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t know how that works.
  • The nature of the relationship between hunger and anxiety—other than the obvious one. If we don’t know where our next meal is coming from—we might worry. But how many of us don’t know where our next meal is coming from? I know there are many—especially in this time of extensive job losses—but for most of us, we know where the food is. Just like we know where the bottle of liquor or wine is; or the joint. Our radar for these things is impeccable.
  • What satisfies it from more than a little while.

Things that satisfy it for a little while

  • The smell of fresh pine sap
  • The sound of the ocean
  • Calling the sister you love
  • Discussing the hole with your best friend
  • Finding space in your day to sit outside

My stab at the role of self-love:

  • I get scared of this one because love in my family of origin was about a new car, getting into a good college, checking all the boxes, etc.
  • Love is too big a word
  • I like “befriend” better than self-love. It is a thing to do instead of a feeling. We know how to begin to teach this to three-year-old children: don’t hit or bite, take turns, share, don’t interrupt, don’t be bossy. This applies to others and to self. Try going through that list and tell yourself not to do those things to yourself. Seriously—try it!
  • Good ways to befriend: be quiet and be with, be more interested in listening than being heard, seeing rather than being seen.  Do not try and fix.
  • Making mistakes—even big ones—is human. We are all OK, just the way we are. Seriously.

To Your Health!