April's CR Diary

A diary of a 30 year old woman following CRON, or Caloric Restriction with Optimal Nutrition, for health and life extension.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Good Kind of Hunger

Mary wrote the other day about three kinds of hunger: low blood sugar, food cravings, and genuine hunger. I was thinking of that this morning when after writing for two hours, I was beginning to feel very hungry for my eggwhites. That was real, genuine hunger, and it felt good. I had eaten very little the night before, slept well, written well (I think!) and I was ready for breakfast. So I went home and sizzled up my 1 cup eggwhites, this time with a little Texas Pete (which is the best hot sauce ever invented) on top. I felt satisfied but not stuffed... kinda like being 80% full!

The difference between real hunger and crazy fake terrible hunger is that real hunger is really about what it seems to be about. Low blood sugar hunger is about low blood sugar, and you can have it even if you're not really in need of the calories. Look at all those people on the high carb roller coaster!

Food cravings are often not about food at all... they're replacements for other things, like love or sex or interesting things to do. Witness the millions of people eating themselves into obesity... is it really because they love food? Somehow I doubt it.

I find that unlike low blood sugar or food cravings, real hunger is not self-destructive. For example, when I'm really hungry, I genuinely want the things that are good for me. Don't take that as any endoresement of the idea that people "just eat better" because they're eating less -- that is definitely far from the truth. It's taken tons of ongoing conscious effort for me to evolve a diet that gives my body what it needs in as few calories as possible. I couldn't have done it without nutritional software, or the advice of those who know more than I do (with a heavy dose of fire and brimstone, which I find intoxicatingly compelling.) So I'm not suggesting that people just naturally eat healthier foods when they're genuinely hungry. I'm observing that at least for me, I feel more inclined to eat the foods I know I need when I am genuinely hungry.

This morning, I didn't want a bagel, I wanted eggwhites. Granted, I really, really wanted eggwhites because I was really, really hungry, but the fact that I passed by a sample of chocolate chip bagels with creamy whipped cream cheese on my way to get my morning coffee at Panera Bread Company is not just progress, it's a revolution. In the old days, it would have been inconceivable for me to pass up such a tasty little treat. But now, it's not that I would feel guilty or beat myself up for eating something "bad" in that eternal guilt game that American women play with food. It's that I didn't see the point of eating something that would not do anything good for me, when I had eggwhites waiting for me at home. (CR Hacker Boy brother says "Information loves to be anthropomorphized." I say, "Food loves to be anthropomorphized." I mean, are the eggwhites really waiting for me, staring up at me from their little carton in the fridge, wondering when I'm coming home for breakfast? Considering the possibility that I might skip breakfast for the third day in a row? Feeling happy when I finally open them up and pour them in the pan? Expressing a preference as to whether they want to be eaten plain or slathered with Texas Pete? No, I don't think so.)

CR has definitely changed the way I think about hunger, and I suspect that it will continue to evolve. Last night I definitely could have eaten more, but I felt satisfied enough, and I was already where I wanted to be in terms of calories. Had I eaten all those calories in the form of oat disks and boca burgers (CR list inside baseball -- apologies to the non-subscribers) I probably would have felt like crap and eaten the neighbors' pets.


  • At 5:34 PM, Blogger Mary Robinson said…

    Good observation - on true hunger, your brain is clear enough that you actually want the things that are good for you.

    I totally disagree on the food cravings. Maybe you have never actually had these. For me, they went away almost as soon as I got my RDAs up to normal or better. Lots of food cravings are related to deficiencies. For instance, iron deficiency makes some people chew ice. I have had fierce food cravings for olives, mints, and meringues. I think the olive thing was a salt craving. The mints thing - who knows? I ate a lot of mints over the years. I have no food cravings any more at all now.


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