• On Being Hungry.

  • How skipping a few meals may not just be good for your waistline, it may carry more philosophical benefits too.

I’ve never liked being hungry, but lately I’ve started to understand that being hungry as some really awesome benefits. I’ve been skipping breakfast the last few months, and I have found the results quite interesting.

The main benefit for me is that it makes meals taste so much better than normal, and it also allows me to distinguish between real hunger and just passing hunger.

Before, I used to eat whenever I had the urge, and I ballooned to 110kg, or 240 pounds.

Now I regularly skip meals and sometimes even take part in one day fasts, so I know what real hunger feels like, and so this allows me to discard the passing hunger pangs for what they usually are: just habit.

I understand the real hunger, such as when I’ve been out for a run and I come back famished, against the habitual hunger pangs that one gets if you just see someone else eating, or if it’s the usual time to eat even if you had a heavy meal recently.

The idea behind waiting to get quite hungry before eating is encapsulated in the general philosophy of delaying pleasure:

A pleasure delayed is a pleasure enhanced.

This applies very well to food, and in fact, because we have to eat food to survive, it’s a great place to start practicing delayed gratification.

The type and quantity of food has an amazing amount of potential to alter our physiology, which in turn can alter our moods and behaviour, and even the way we think. So there is potential for both good and bad here, if we let hunger rule our eating habits, we might have mind dulled by food, or we can pay attention to what we put into our bodies, and then reap the benefits.

For instance, have a heavy meal, and you’ll probably feel sleep for a few hours after, as the body diverts blood from the extremities to your digestive system to handle the unusually large amount of food.

We can use this knowledge to our advantage, and eat slightly heavier meals late at night to promote a good night’s sleep. Again, note that this needs to be a calculated effort, not an all out binge.

I am beginning to study the relationship that I have with food very carefully, because it is one of only a handful of things that we must do, and yet there are so many ways to do it well, and so many ways to do it badly.

Developing an appreciation for hunger, and accepting it as part of my life, has really made me change the way I think about things that I label “unpleasant”.

Generally speaking, in life, nothing will be ever as good, or as bad, as you imagine it will be. Not eating for a day won’t be the end of the world, just as taking that person whom you’ve desired for the whole year to bed won’t necessarily end in mind blowing sex.

Another example, is that I am currently trying to run 10km. I haven’t done this since I left high school, although I have done a lot of cycling since. I manage to do 5km runs quite regularly, even twice a week, and I’ve once done a 7km run, yet 10km still feels like a mysterious and potentially unpleasant experience.

In reality, of course, it will just mean gritting my teeth and getting through it, and then having a wave of achievement flowing through me once it is completed.

While I know and understand this while I am sitting writing at my desk, after I’ve just completed 5km, and I have another 5km to go, it’s very easy to forget.

So that’s why it’s important to start to train our mental endurance with something as easy as skipping a meal, which actually requires non-action. This is a really interesting concept, and something that I am currently drafting an essay about. It’s the fact that to develop a positive habit, you just have to not do anything.

That’s why giving up junk food is easier than taking up exercise. To give up junk food, you just stop buying it, which is far easier to do than to constantly motivate yourself to wake up an hour earlier than usual and go running.

So try it, try skipping a meal or two, and you’ll find that while you’ll be hungry, it won’t be anywhere as bad as you thought it might be, and that you’ll also enjoy your next meal far more.