Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fear of Hunger

During the entire time that I've been losing weight, I've had the luxury of setting my own food schedule. This is because I work from home and can eat whenever is most convenient for me as well as prepare food easily from what is on hand. I've had the advantage of time, scheduling flexibility, and access to fresh food and cooking equipment. The value of this when you need to control your intake is immeasurable.

All of that being said, as my previous post indicates, I have been making efforts to introduce flexibility and variety into what I do so that I can approach food like a "normal" person. In addition to my cafe experience in which I spontaneously stopped for cake and tea, I have been attempting to eat out at restaurants more often (about once or twice a month). For a lot of people, this is the most scary element because they have no control over the ingredients and have to make broad guesses at the calorie counts based on their accumulated knowledge. Frankly, this also hasn't been a big issue for me. I just tend not to eat all of what I'm served, particularly leaving behind quite a bit of the copious amounts of carbohydrates that tend to be served.

At present, I'm looking into some part-time work at an external location (outside of my home) in order to supplement my income. I've lost enough weight now that I'm not afraid to at least apply for jobs for fear of being denied work based solely on my weight. I may not be hired, but I doubt it'll be because of my body size. As I've pondered working at a location in which I have only access to external food sources and, more importantly, will have to eat according to the schedule someone else gives me, I find a fear of hunger issue creeping up on me.

This fear of hunger doesn't have to do with being afraid of putting up with the discomfort I feel, though obviously, that isn't pleasant. As I've said before, it's not supposed to be because humans are driven to survive and being driven to seek food by physical discomfort enhances the survival of the species. Since I've been practicing hunger conditioning, I have learned to endure hunger pangs with more equanimity. My body has also made some biological adjustments so that I don't find that I "crash" so hard when I'm running on empty. I used to get headaches, feel very tired and crabby, and generally miserable when I was hungry. Now, it takes longer to get to that state and mainly it's just the grumbling stomach that I have to deal with.

Rather than my fear being related to physical issues, it's connected to psychological ones. I'm afraid that becoming too ravenous as a result of an imposed schedule will result in making bad choices when I finally can eat. That being said, I'm actually keen to be put in this situation because I've been testing myself on this for quite some time. There are times when I am out of the house and start to feel quite hungry such that I'd like to come home and chow down on what is easiest, or grab a quick snack at a store or bakery.

In such situations, I have been consciously delaying eating until I can put together a proper meal or snack. I remind myself that I will feel more satisfied, get better nutrition and enjoy the food more if I wait just a little longer. This may sound a little like trying to get comfortable with starving myself or feeling ravenous, but it's really an exercise in self-control. Most of the time, I'm looking at a delay of no more than 30 minutes before I can eat if I simply wait until I get home and prepare something. Often, the delay is much shorter than that (5-10 minutes) since I usually have food on hand. If I was looking at being ravenous and delaying for an hour or more, I'd probably opt for a less nutritious externally acquired snack.

This is all about reshaping my relationship with food such that I continue to master it rather than have it go back to mastering me. The little delays are actually very important because even just waiting 15 minutes (when I'm quite hungry) to put a meal together rather than impulsively grab something on hand which is easy to just cram into my mouth (like Triscuits or cheese) extends my control over my body and my control over my intake. It helps me form an increasingly casual relationship with food rather than a dire one in which I must act on hunger expeditiously.

So, while I'm a little afraid of the prospect of having less control over my eating, I'm also a little excited to face the challenge. It's one thing to delay eating of my own volition because I choose to, and quite another to have no choice. I think that I'm ready to surrender some control, and to submit myself to an external schedule. The only question now is whether or not that opportunity will present itself (if I get the job) or if it will continue to remain an abstract notion for a bit longer.