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It’s OK to feed your “head hunger” (yes, really!)

August 2nd, 2018 | no comments


There comes a time in our life when we must face the music. To see things as they are and stop pushing against them.

Whether it’s extra weight, negative emotions, or a health condition like diabetes, when something is unwanted, our first inclination is usually to curse it…and then bury it. We may begin with the question “why me?” and then—because it doesn’t feel good to take a long hard look at it—cover it up with food or some other substance. Sometimes we simply push it from our minds and refuse to see it. 

But it never really goes away, does it?

Examine your life. Take a peek behind the veil and I’ll bet you can think of at least one glaring situation you aren’t facing. How can you tell? Because it’s the one thing you’ve yet to get a handle on and it’s ruining your health, or at the very least, acting as a huge barrier to better health. It’s the one thing triggering you to migrate to the pantry, pull out the bag of chips, and go to town. 

It’s lonely. Just you and the chips. But I’m here to tell you…you are not alone.

Look, we all have a dirty little secret buried deep within us and more often than not it involves food. So why can’t we just be open and honest and learn from each other? We’re all members of the same tribe here, so let’s cut the bull. Let’s get rid of the shame by sharing.

How about I start?

For as long as I can remember, tortilla chips were my nemesis. I’d be sitting at my desk working on a project and like a fish to water, gravitate to the pantry as if my next breath depended on it. Before I knew it I was elbow-deep in a bag of sprouted sea salt tortilla chips. Can you relate? I know I’m not alone here!

Determined to get a handle on this, I decided I would explore it some more the next time it happened. The very next day at 10:00 am, the compulsion struck again. It started as a familiar emptiness in the pit of my stomach—a sort of black hole seeking to be filled. It wasn’t hunger, because I just ate breakfast at 8:30. I sat with it for a moment, and just like so many times before, found my way to the pantry as if under a hypnotic spell. The compulsion happened again at 3:00 pm the same day. 

The more I sat with the discomfort, I realized it always occurred while I was working on or getting started on a business-related project. Sometimes I was in the middle of a project and would hit a creative roadblock. And there it was…the black hole seeking fulfillment.

As I became more curious about this frustrating phenomenon, revelations came bubbling to the surface.

Here’s what I learned. See if you can relate.

  • The episodes always happened at 10:00 am and again between 2:00-3:00 pm.
    • Can you relate? What time do these episodes happen for you?
  • They only happened when I was involved in a work project or other business needle-moving activity. 
    • Can you relate? What are you doing when they strike?
  • I was never physically hungry.
    • Can you relate? What does the urge feel like?
  • A slight pause always occurred before I got up from my desk (this pause is critical and if you keep reading, I’ll show you how to make it work for you).
    • Can you relate? During this pause, ask yourself: What am I really hungry for? For me, it’s inspiration and good ideas.
  • No matter how hard I tried to resist it, I always ended up feeding the black hole and feeling awful about myself afterwards.
    • Can you relate? Do you always give in? How do you feel when that happens? 

After some serious contemplation, I could’ve chosen the following conclusion: Oh well, I must be weak. Surely I lack willpower. I guess tortilla chips are my nemesis, but I’ll continue to fight because I am not a quitter!”

But that strategy never worked for me in the past, so why would it now?

Here’s what I did with what I learned. Take notes, because this is huge!

I thought to myself: if I know this is going to happen, why not shed some light and awareness on the “why” behind my compulsion to eat chips? Then, instead of resisting the temptation (because that only strengthens the desire), I’m going to schedule a nutritious snack and give myself permission to eat it. No strings attached.

I will eat thoughtfully and be fully aware of why I am eating.

I will stop looking at this as a negative thing and embrace it as part of my humanness. 

Let’s break this down into manageable chunks:

    1. Give yourself permission to eat, but first take a few deep breaths and shed a light on the “why”. I promise it won’t kill you (it’ll only feel like it at first 😉 ). 
      • Who says it’s wrong to eat in response to your emotions? I see it as part of normal eating. It’s a piece of being human. When we pretend it doesn’t happen or worse, shame ourselves when it does happen, we never get to the “why” and are therefore unable to heal it. Because you are giving yourself permission, you are now able to orchestrate a successful head-hunger eating episode (yes, there is such a thing!). 
      • ACTION: For this first step, make a pact with yourself that you will PAUSE and take fifteen seconds or so to really feel the emotion or situation before reaching for food. Label the feeling: fear; apprehension; exhilaration; sadness; anxiety, etc. Ask yourself: What am I really hungry for?
    2. Schedule a nutritious snack for this now mindful eating episode.
      • Because I knew this wasn’t physical hunger, it wasn’t necessary for me to add MORE food. To make it work for me, I decided I would save a little of my breakfast and lunch to eat during this time (i.e. a hard-boiled egg; a few apple slices; a quarter of my smoothie; half of my raw veggies).
      • ACTION: This food should serve your body in a powerful way and contribute to better health. Explore the time of day you eat to fill your black hole. What meal is it closest to? What can you pull from that meal and reserve for your now mindful eating episode? An apple? Side salad? Spoonful of almond butter?
    3. Eat your nutritious snack as thoughtfully as possible. 
      • ACTION: If you choose to eat, taste every bite and be mindful of why you are eating it. 

An interesting thing happens when you stop resisting the urge for food, and instead give yourself permission to eat in response to your head-hunger. The hold loosens and you find yourself more at peace and OK with not eating.

In a perfect world we would eat only when hungry and stop when satisfied. Look around you, this world is far from perfect. And so are you and I. We are perfectly imperfect.

Your black hole is there to teach you something. Why not work with it? Explore it. I’ve come to terms with mine and yes, I’m 100% mindful when I am filling it with a bit of nourishing food. And I am proud to say that it happens far less often…now that I’ve let go. 

Mel’s weekly food pick:
REAL Peanut Butter

Choosing peanut butter should be simple. I mean, if it says “peanut butter” on the front, it must be peanut butter, right? Sorry Charlie— more often than not, what you think is real peanut butter, is actually peanut spread. Peanut butter (or any nut/seed butter for that matter, including almond, cashew, sunflower, pistachio, walnut, and pumpkin seed) should have only one ingredient on the label—the nut or seed itself. A little bit of salt is OK too.

Take a look at your jar of Jif, Skippy, or Peter Pan and guess what? Sugar is most likely the second ingredient. Jif “Natural” is no better! Yes, sugar is still the second ingredient. Understand, the word “Natural” on a food label means absolutely nothing, so please don’t be fooled. Human gas is natural, but I wouldn’t want to bottle that up and eat it…would you?

You’ll also be surprised to learn that both Skippy and Peter Pan are made with hydrogenated fat (i.e. trans fat). Yes, those artery-clogging, heart disease-contributing fats health experts have been warning us about for years. Seriously? Are these companies still in the dark ages or what? We’ve learned long ago that trans fats are the absolute worst for our health. Please don’t waste your money friends, you deserve better than this!

Here is a list of four brands of peanut butter with only peanuts. Some contain a little salt too. You could also grind your own peanut butter or purchase fresh ground peanut butter in many grocery stores!

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Easy Peachy Peanut Butter Jam

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