The Many Faces of Hunger

What are you hungry for?

In Dr. Anita Johnston’s book, Eating in the Light of the Moon, she describes two containers we carry through our life. One for food and one for all the other things we need to ‘fill’ ourselves.

“Imagine that within us we all have two containers that we carry on our journey through life. One is a gourd-shaped vessel for carrying food and water, and the other is a heart-shaped basket for carrying all the things we need to make our life meaningful and fulfilling. The gourd is what we fill when we need physical nourishment. It is to be filled with food. The basket is what we fill when we need emotional nourishment. It is to be filled with attention, affection, appreciation and other 'foods' for the heart and soul.”

Scenario 1: Deserved hunger

The children are finally asleep and her husband’s snoring reveals it’s her time to have some “me” time. She doesn’t feel hungry, but she deserves some attention.

What does this entail tonight? Is it ice cream carefully hidden behind the frozen vegetables, or is it the bag of chocolate covered almonds calling from the back of her drawer?

Scenario 2: Never enough

It has been a very long day and an hour commute. After disarming the house alarm and throwing her briefcase on the couch, she kicks off her practical heels and heads for the leftover cheesecake from her staff meeting last night.

Quickly, as if all the woulda, coulda, shoulda people in her life were coming in five minutes to criticize her, she takes a bite. The taste is smooth and sweet. Bite after bite, she goes into a sugar-induced numbness as the stress of the day blurs.

Now the cheesecake is gone. She feels sick to her stomach, and what was a rush of sugar is now a nauseous headache. What’s worse, she’s still wanting to eat. She’s still wanting more, but physically full.

Scenario 3: Comparison, the thief of satiety

She’s a beautiful, young woman who has an hourglass figure and dark, smoldering eyes. Her beauty stuns and her confident walk keeps the non-serious men away. She is admired by all. With all of this, she is still unaware of her transformation from ugly duckling to swan.

Her best friend's thin and curvy body, long blond hair, and sun-kissed features have always attracted attention. She appears to not ever be interested in food, so it seems she doesn’t struggle with her looks or weight. She flashes by enjoying the glances from every man in the room.

Both friends love each other and know that they are completely different, yet the comparisons happen. One goes home and munches on her chips while the other goes another day without food. They both are hungry, and they both aren’t getting full.

Getting to know our hungers

These different types of hunger can be difficult to identify one our own, especially when we are in the throes of an eating disorder, but understanding what we are truly hungry for is key to a healthy relationship with food and with ourselves. Through group and individual sessions, therapists at the Ai Pono Hawaii treatment center for women with eating disorders are here to help you distinguish your containers and recognize which one needs satisfying.

If you are interested in learning more about our program or intuitive eating approach, you can read about our philosophy here.

Auntie Pearl

Staff Contributor