Monday, 13 January 2014

"it surprised me, how hard I found it to say those words out loud: 'I'm hungry.'"

So, I'm reading The Ministry of Thin, by Emma Wolf at the moment, and I highly recommend it, it really shows the truth about what we believe as women, and I assume as men (can't be certain about that one...), about our bodies, and about food. I don't just recommend it if you have an eating disorder, or know someone who has, but I recommend it if your a female (or male) living in this society that feels the pressure to be thinner, fatter, different.

I've not actually finished the book, I'm part way through, but what I've read so far I've found myself agreeing with mostly. As a christian there are bits I agree with, but would add on to by saying that it's not just us we have to look after our bodies for, they are Gods. 

But anyway, reading this book, a particular line struck me. Emma was talking to her therapist about suggesting her (Emma) and a friend go out for a meal, and asked Emma what she would say. Emma explains that she felt lost as to what to say! struggling with anorexia and finding eating out difficult, she asked the therapist what she would say, and she said "I'm hungry." The quote that stood out to me was just  after this. It said "it surprised me, how hard I found it to say those words out loud: 'I'm hungry.' "

I'm fairly sure a lot of us can relate to that, especially if you've struggled with an eating disorder. But WHY?! We don't struggle to respond to feelings of danger, senses that this isn't right. (Well some of us do...). But what's the big deal with not being hungry? Why is it so important that we come across as above hunger? Above the need for food? We are humans, humans live off energy, energy comes from food, our bodies tell us we need it, this feeling is called hunger and it is positive because without it we wouldn't know when we needed to eat, and therefore may not eat, and may die. 

I believe, I may be wrong, that the average women will have problems saying "I'm hungry", it may not be that they have a problem with being hungry, but they don't want to be the one to suggest its time to eat. Somehow if someone else suggests it it's OK to do, because it's their hunger, we are just eating because it's the right thing to do, we like to think we could not, if we didn't want to. We like to think we could triumph over our hunger.

Imagine for a minute we triumphed over our fear of danger. Say your at the zoo and they announce a lion has escaped, and everybody should leave. You feel a sense of fear, you know danger is ahead, you know you should leave to avoid something negative. If you said "I will triumph over this sense of danger and stay put" and then you got badly hurt by the lion you'd feel stupid. Your probably thinking, "Lizzi that sounds ridiculous." But think about it, when our tummy rumbles we get embarrassed, we don't want people to know we are hungry. We often say no to that sense, the message from our body telling us what it needs us to do. 

Going a little bit deeper, and I have no idea how this compares to average, but I'm used to people thinking "you just don't get hungry anymore do you?" And I'm used to saying no. It's easier to say no that to say "yes and I am right now but I can't let the hunger win because I'm scared I'll turn into a whale." See how much easier no is? Also, if I let people believe I don't get hungry it's a great excuse not to fight the eating disorder, because I'm just never hungry. Eating disorders do, however, mess with our understanding of hungry, I do get hungry, but very rarely does it register as hunger, it will register as another emotion the majority of the time. So although I am saying yes, we do get hungry, we don't feel hunger in a normal way the majority of the time, and often we don't recognise it. It's there, like an old friend, but you just can't put the name to the face.

We shouldn't need to feel that it's not ok to be hungry. Our bladder tells us when it's full so we can go to the toilet, and similarly our stomach tells us it's empty so we can eat until we are full. But we have got so caught up with emotional and social bits. 

I guess my challenge to myself and to you, is to admit to hunger when you feel it, even if it's just to yourself. If all of you find it easy to say your hungry then it's just me, oh well! But if it's not, share this, talk about it, women and men alike, need to know it's just as OK to say your hungry as it is to say you need the loo. I'm not saying it's easy, I don't find it easy, and having written this doesn't mean I now can do it easy peasy, but why should we live like this?!

For more support for eating disorders, visit Beat's website, they have a helpline. Also, Minds Like Ours cover a range of mental health problems including eating disorders.

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