When I met Twisted Barbie last week, something that she said about fat girls and hunger has stuck with me. Her words, paraphrased: "I wasn't supposed to want to eat, because fat girls aren't supposed to be hungry."
What a strong injunction! To pretend that you are not hungry, or not interested in food, merely because you look a certain way. Yet, I have also had similar feelings about hunger in my day, like my belief that I had a terrible metabolism and just couldn't eat the way that other people seemed to eat. Dessert was for them, never for me.
Now, when I look at what other people eat, I always remind myself that I just catch glimpses of their diet: a spot of food at lunchtime, an after-dinner snack, a coffee-break midafternoon that I happen to share with others. My husband, whose diet I know best besides my own, possesses entire culinary worlds that are unknown to me once I leave the house in the a.m. Most days I would be hard-pressed to tell you what enters his mouth before dinner, so when it comes to guessing what other people eat -- really, I have no idea. It is such a partial picture that I receive that to venture a guess is just plain foolishness. After all, you can never tell if your companion is eating seconds because she ran 10 miles that morning, or if she is picking at her dinner because she ate a late lunch.
This kind of reasoning has helped me to stop comparing what I eat with what other people eat, so that I can just focus on my own plate and my own food. It is so much more satisfying, in the end, to eat for me and not for those others; to eat to fill my own gut and not to impress them with how much or how little or what kind or how fast or anything like that. I have also learned to stop feeling ashamed of my hunger, meaning that if someone asks me, I will admit to being hungry if I feel that way. There's no shame in it! Moreover, I have learned to bring up the topic (my hunger) if it seems like a meal is about to be pushed away.
Learning to own my hunger also means that I have to be responsible for feeding myself now. I have to plan ahead each day to know when I'll eat, how much, and what it will be. I can't let myself go hungry for long or I will grow irritable and despondent, and it will be all that much easier to eat too much at the next meal, and start off a cascade of feelings and actions that I'm not so fond of anymore. It is much easier to look my hunger in the eye and come to terms with it: I will be hungry every day, for the rest of my life, so I might as well make peace with the fact that this is my body's way of reminding me to take care of myself.
These next few days are tricky for those of us recovering from eating disorders, and although I wouldn't wish hunger on any of us in the midst of such bounty, I think that cultivating an awareness of fullness, hunger's complement, also has its place.