Wrapping up work the other day, I was eager to get home and eat dinner as I was absolutely famished. On my way to the bus, I ran into an old friend and we ended up catching up for a few hours.
After departing ways, it struck me how my hunger pains had completely disappeared while talking. I still wasn’t hungry when I finally arrived home three hours after leaving my office. The engaging conversation and great laughs I shared with my friend had completely filled me up. The experience was profoundly nourishing.
Have you ever had an experience like this?
Non-food forms of nourishment, such as intimate relationships, meaningful work, joyful movement, creative projects, loving touch, Mother Nature and spiritual practices, feed us on a much deeper level than the food on our plate could ever do. When we’re deeply engaged in these kinds of nourishment, often time stands still and we forget about everything else.
But, what happens when your days are deficient of such nourishment?
Whenever you’re malnourished in an important realm of your life, you may find yourself turning to food when you’re not physically hungry to restore balance, to fill the void, to feed a deeper hunger. I certainly did when I had an unfulfilling career many years ago.
Although it might not seem like it, using food as a symbolic substitute for what’s missing in your life is a way of taking care of yourself, a way of attending to your needs. You may have discovered, however, that food can fill you up, but it can’t fulfill you. So, even when your stomach is full, your hunger for more “food” persists.
Hiding the chocolate, tossing the chips, or white knuckling it through your ice-cream cravings won’t usually alleviate your hunger or lead to lasting change because such actions address the symptoms, not the root, of your malnourishment.
The key is to look upstream for the source of your imbalance. Doing so requires pausing and investigating what malnourished aspects of your life could be driving your cravings, mindless eating, overeating or binge eating. Perhaps it’s a lack of inspiring work, fulfilling relationships, comforting touch, restorative niches, creative pursuits, or unbridled play. It could be one or many things.
Once you tend to the malnourished parts of your life that are calling for some love and attention, you’re much less likely to use food to do something it was never meant to do.