Hunger’s Not An Emergency
Here’s what to do when you feel hungry, rushed, or just plain irritable.
You’ve just spent two hours waiting to go through security and you’re finally in the airport terminal.
You speed-walk to your gate and see that your flight is just getting ready to board.
You don’t have time to sit down and eat anything, and you’re not sure if they’re serving food on your flight.
Suddenly you smell the unmistakable perfume of Cinnabon.
Unlike the plane, which is statistically unlikely to nosedive, you know a crash is imminent.
Ten minutes later, you hand the attendant your passport, which is covered in sticky cinnamon-scented fingerprints. You get on your flight, already flying high on a sugar buzz.
In the stress of the airport rush, unfamiliar people and environments, and uncertain circumstances in the day ahead, hunger was an emergency.
It’s normal to feel that way.
Physiologically, when hunger’s setting-in, our brains notice our blood sugar dropping, our bodies release adrenaline. Adrenaline is our “fight-or-flight” hormone.
When it’s unleashed, it feels like panic. Hearts race and senses are on alert.
This feeling will be especially strong if you’ve had a lot of sugar or caffeine beforehand.
(Ever wonder why donuts and coffee go so well together? It’s pretty much a perfect, self-sustaining life cycle: caffeine, crash, sugar, crash, caffeine, crash…)
Many people aren’t used to doing without food for long periods. We can access food pretty much 24 hours a day, unlike our ancestors who had to go hungry if the hunting and gathering sucked. And there’s almost no situation where food is off-limits (like in cars, at desks, or walking down the street).
When the sugar shakes and the social norms collide, we have the perfect storm of “Oh my gawd I gotta eat NOW.”
Hunger is NOT an emergency
When we asked some weight loss experts what they did when they were hungry, their answers were revealing:
- They would decide if they were physically hungry. If not, they would ignore the feeling.
- If they had food around, they would eat until they were satisfied (not stuffed).
- If they didn’t, they would shrug and go about their business.
In no case would they panic.
Lean people aren’t skinny by magic. In part, they think differently than over-fat people about food.
Being lean may mean feeling less afraid of feeling hungry. Of acknowledging hunger as a temporary discomfort, staying calm and not panicking.
They can tell the difference between full-body physical hunger and head hunger or cravings.
If you’re feeling hunger as an emergency, try practicing slowing down and noticing.
- Slow down for a second and pay attention. Are you really, physically hungry? Or head hungry and craving?
- Relax. Don’t panic. Unless you’ve been lost in the desert without food for days, this is not an emergency. You might be feeling an adrenaline dump more than hunger. Breathe. You’re OK.
- Rank your discomfort on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 is perfect comfort. 10 is being stung to death by a swarm of killer bees… that are on fire. If what you’re feeling is a 5 or less, try to keep waiting and relaxing.
- Take an extra 30 seconds to ask yourself: What would be the best, most self-aware, most thoughtful* choice possible under these particular circumstances? (*Note “thoughtful” doesn’t mean “perfect”.)
- As well as you can, make that thoughtful choice.