Is hunger good or bad?
The word “hunger” causes a lot of confusion. Some people see hunger as a good thing and others see it as a bad thing.
Hunger is a symptom that has many possible meanings. Sometimes it’s not ideal to be hungry. Sometimes, it’s ideal.
If you’re malnourished and constantly hungry, that’s different from being hungry because you haven’t eaten in 6 hours, but are otherwise well nourished.
There should also be a distinction between physical hunger and emotional hunger. Emotional hunger can manifest as physical hunger, but your body doesn’t actually need food. Learning to feel the difference is critical to long-term success.
If you think physical hunger is bad, you’ll try to avoid it. The tactics used to avoid it are namely:
- Eating before you’re actually hungry (pre-emptive strike and/or eating on a schedule).
- Constant grazing.
- Eating *anything* just to make the discomfort go away (convenience).
These tactics can lead you to overeat, make destructive choices, and can foster a disordered relationship with food.
At the end of the day, hunger is a signaling mechanism. The only way to win without counting calories, tracking food, and following conventional dieting tactics is to embrace hunger and let it inform your behavior (I said inform your behavior, not manipulate your behavior).
You also get a complete experience when you allow for hunger. How can you appreciate food when you’re never truly hungry? That which you have in abundance quickly loses its magic and appeal.
Exploring the varying degrees of hunger is empowering. When you know what to expect at each degree and you know where the boundaries are, you start to develop the ability to replace reactive behavior with proactive behavior.
Hunger is a wonderful tool for dialing in your meal sizes and timing. How else can you learn to eat what’s needed and not always what’s wanted?
Your biological programming (optimal foraging theory) wants you to eat more than you need because hunger is the default condition of humankind.
You (all of us) are all currently living in a constant state of tension that’s referred to as an evolutionary mismatch (unlimited supply + fear-based genetics = consume the supply). Hunger is the device that allows you to manage that mismatch.
100,000 years ago, hunger was interpreted as, “find a supply, you’ll die soon if you don’t.” Today, hunger should be interpreted as, “congrats, you’re properly managing your intake from the unlimited supply.”
The absence of true hunger, the unawareness of the boundaries of it, the disconnection from it, etc. are symptomatic of:
- Optimal Foraging Programming manipulating intake. Your lizard brain is controlling your eating decisions. Or maybe you’re leptin resistant.
- The supply being used for the purposes of mental and emotional medication. Your emotional metabolism is not adequately processing inputs.
Lastly, your physical response to the far-reaching boundaries of hunger provide clues to your current metabolic condition. If you skip a meal and feel like passing out, that’s a poor metabolic state. If you can reach the boundaries of hunger without significant consequences, that’s a healthier metabolic condition.
If you’re never hungry, you’re never learning.
Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s helped tens of thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and now offers all of his signature programs through a “pay what you want” model.