Hunger for Happiness

What are you truly hungry for?

Are you a food addict? Or maybe you call yourself a “stress eater.” Do you eat sometimes for the pleasure of eating, but without really tasting anything? Flip side, do you taste it and then lack any willpower whatsoever to stop when you’re full—or when you know you should?

It is time to consider that food may not be that which is truly causing your hunger. This is big, so take it in. You may be confusing a hunger for something else in your life with an easier hunger to fix—the one in your belly.

I myself have pretty good willpower. I don’t have an addictive personality, and since I live by “everything in moderation,” I don’t have big problems with having to give things up. But about 10 years ago, I had the weirdest problem—something that had never even remotely happened to me before: I was waking up in the middle of the night with an insatiable, real physical hunger. It drove me crazy. I literally couldn’t just ignore it and go back to sleep. It drove me out of bed and to the kitchen, where I would eat a bowl of cereal to calm my belly. In fact, I actually started considering what would be appropriate for my middle-of-the-night eating sessions when I shopped at the grocery store.

Around this same time I began seeing a therapist for the first time in my life. Fresh from ending a disastrous, unhealthy relationship, living in a new place—alone—and with only freelance work to keep me afloat, I felt strong and free—I thought. I was seeing the therapist to discover what about me had allowed the unhealthy relationship to linger so long, or to begin in the first place. Again, I thought this was a perfectly sensible, healthy approach to my healing and starting-over process. I just wanted to have time on the calendar to dig deeper and learn about myself, and how to avoid making the same mistake again.

One day I told the therapist I had been eating during the night. It was a strange new habit for me, worth mentioning, I thought. Her eyebrows went up. She sat up straighter. We were on to something now. She asked me, and I’ll never forget it: What are you really hungry for? I didn’t get it. I don’t know, I said, and I kept it broad and vague: happiness, self-discovery, blah blah. She said, No, what do you hunger for, really hunger for? What drives you when you wake up in the morning?

So the eating was my expression of anxiety. My body was literally shouting out via the growls in my stomach to get to the bottom of an anxiety festering deep, deep down inside. It took some major soul seeking to figure out my “hungers.” I journaled, took long walks, wait for it—exercised, and finally began to figure out what I was searching for, so far through midnight dates with a cereal bowl.

It totally worked. My hunger pangs completely disappeared. I had faced my anxiety head-on, and the embodiment of my hunger shifted from eating to more effective uses of my energy, like taking new enrichment classes, meeting new people and so on.

So forgive my bold prying into your personal life when I suggest to you: It may be time for you to set aside some time for yourself. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, What am I hungry for? The answer just might surprise you.