July 10, 2005

False Hunger

There are two types of hunger. Genuine hunger occurs when you need food. You feel a gnawing emptiness in your gut. You think, “I’m hungry because I haven’t eaten in a while.” You eat and the feeling goes away.

False hunger occurs because you’ve been eating – because eating is what you do and you always feel like eating. Because you always feel like eating, you believe you are hungry. You ate a couple of hours ago, and now you feel like eating again because time has passed. If you weren’t eating, you wouldn’t know yourself. Yet there is no hunger in your body.

False hunger is different from addiction. Addiction is true hunger for something destructive. The addict’s body tells him he needs the drug. False hunger is the mind entertaining itself with self–deception.

I have succumbed too much to false hunger lately and I’ve gained five pounds. I’ve been going around thinking, “I’m always hungry,” and yet I haven’t been hungry at all. I couldn’t have been hungry; I was always eating.

Five pounds above my ideal weight isn’t a lot in absolute terms, but on my build five pounds shows. I need to pay attention. I need to refrain from eating when there is no feeling of hunger in my gut.

When I wake up in the morning and my stomach isn’t empty, that’s a sign I’ve eaten too much the night before. A sign not to head automatically toward breakfast. Funny how one can forget the obvious.

We are a culture of false hungers. We watch television not because there is something we hunger to watch, but because we have been watching television -- watching television is what we do. We don’t know ourselves as non-watchers of television.

We lust for sensation, we crave adrenaline. We watch one action movie after another not because they are any good or because we are particularly interested but because watching them makes us think we are excited, even though we are not. We go on a roller coaster or we watch a movie about people being rescued from Mt. Everest, or if we can afford it we climb Mt. Everest. Many people climb Mt. Everest not because they know anything about mountain–climbing but because it is the thing people who can afford it do to get the next adrenaline rush. They don’t know themselves without frequent adrenaline rushes.

There must be people who click from one porn site to the next not because they crave sexual release -- how could they, so soon after the last one? -- but because that is what they do. They believe they are sexually active because they click on a lot of porn sites.

I’m working on feeling emptiness in my gut. I’m also thinking about not reading another book until there’s something I hunger to read, not writing another story until there’s something I hunger to write.

Hunger feels good.