From Ronald Hoffman, MD.
We are all familiar with the sensation: You get that empty feeling in your stomach, your appetite revs up, the smell of Cinnabons or pizza or donuts becomes irresistible. It’s hunger, a primal urge to eat, which is relentless.
We tend to eat on schedule. “Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner” is the norm for Americans. However, in her book Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal, food historian Abigail Carroll argues that our current way of eating is merely a made-up historical convention dating back to the Middle Ages, and has nothing to do with our Paleo roots. She argues that it even may be damaging to our health to eat by the clock instead of obeying natural appetite signals.
I tackled that issue in a previous blog entitled Rethinking Breakfast, in which I challenged nutrition orthodoxy about starting your day with a “hearty” breakfast. I concluded that it’s “different strokes for different folks”; some people may need a rich, nutritious breakfast to anchor themselves for the day and fend off cravings for junk, while others may benefit from extending the night-time fast until brunch—especially if they’re morning exercisers like me.
Many people would say, “I just hate it when I feel hungry!” Little kids get that pouty look like they’re about to burst into tears until an astute parent comes up with the diagnosis: “Time to eat!” Some observant Jews approach the fast of Yom Kippur with trepidation and wish one another (somewhat irreligiously) “an easy fast.”
All in all, we are culturally conditioned and physiologically programmed to view hunger as a very bad thing, to be alleviated as soon as possible.
Why not flip the script?
Years ago, I was lecturing on a cruise ship when something possessed me to exhort my audience, who by then were probably thinking about what they were going to order for lunch: “Repeat after me: Hunger is my Friend!”
They were bemused at first, but then I repeated: “Make it your personal mantra: Hunger is my Friend . . . Hunger is my Friend . . . C’mon, repeat after me: Hunger is my Friend!”
Soon, improbably, I had the whole salon gamely chanting “Hunger is my Friend!”
Then, I explained why I had them do that.