You are a four-part person: heart, soul, mind, body; and each of these parts has its own hunger.
Your heart hungers to be known and loved, and to love in return.
Your soul hungers to be filled with truth and peace and to be awed by something bigger than you.
Your mind has a hunger to be challenged by learning, discovery, creativity, or problem solving.
And your body has a hunger for food and water.
All of these hungers are good, natural, and healthy. The more extreme voices of the fitness culture often send messages heaping shame on us for any food craving we have, but that’s false guilt. Your body needs food to survive! Hunger is a built-in mechanism to keep you alive and functional.
Your body needs protein to rebuild the parts and biochemicals that are getting broken down every day by normal wear and tear. It needs fat for the health of your brain, hair, and more, as well as for assimilating most vitamins. It needs carbohydrates for energy, mood, and sleep regulation. It needs vitamins and minerals for millions of different interactions that keep you healthy.
So yeah, natural hunger for real food is not a bad thing!
But our hunger does sometimes get out of whack! When we find ourselves eating too much, too often, or too junky, it’s often because we’re trying to fill our heart, mind, or soul with food, drink, or drugs — things which can never truly satisfy any of these hungers.
(Sometimes there are physical reasons or diet reasons for out-of-bounds hunger, but that’s yet another post.)
Boredom is a result of the mind not being challenged — yet we often eat in an attempt to stave off boredom. Well, I do, anyway. (Anyone else?) And at the other end of the spectrum, mental stress can make us reach for a sedative in the form of something to munch on or something to sip. I’ve been working on being mindful about what drives me to the kitchen, and it’s surprising and dismaying how often the reason is that I just don’t know what to do.
The heart’s desire for love and the soul’s desire for peace are never going to be really quieted by something we put in our mouth.
And yet we try, don’t we? Well, I do, anyway. (Anyone else?) I’m finding that the combination of an empty nest and a full fridge can be dangerous! When I try to find something in the kitchen to soothe the spot in my heart that aches from not having my kids around to hug whenever I want, my stomach may get filled (temporarily), but my heart does not.
So as I pay attention to what type of hunger I’m really feeling, then I can be more effective at actually satisfying that hunger.
Bored? Read a book, play a mind-challenging game, do something creative that you enjoy.
Stressed? Journal your thoughts, call a friend, and/or pray. Take a walk — or a nap!
Lonely? Call, email, or text a loved one. Talk to God. Think about who might be as lonely as you, and how you could brighten their day.
Lacking peace? Pray, read scripture, meditate, soak in something that awes you, like nature or music.
Actually hungry? Eat some healthy, delicious, real food. And don’t spend one second feeling guilty about it!
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