Don’t Worry; be Hungry

I was just at the library browsing shelves. It’s a small library yet it has multiple shelves of books on the topics of food and health, many emphasizing weight loss and “eating right.” This is clearly a topic that has deep appeal. And yet we live in a time of abundant food. Certainly in a US urban area. I personally can feed myself on food stamps. It would be hard to eat really well on my allocation. In the past I relied on food banks. Since then I’ve branched out and no longer need them. I can easily dumpster dive for all sorts of nutritious food. I grow a lot of food in my backyard garden. Also I get free food from people quite regularly through my various social engagements and volunteering. And I’ve learned that there are many very nutritious edibles growing all over the place even in dense urban areas, certainly in the not as dense suburb where I live. Indeed every summer and fall it’s a common sight around here to see trees standing over large quantities of rotting fruit.

So it seems to me that there is immediately something very peculiar about the ubiquity of anxiety about food. Perhaps we don’t often reflect on its strangeness because this worry is so familiar to all of us. Likely hunger and anxiety are deeply linked in the way our bodies function. Perhaps they overlap to some extent. Certainly I think so.

There’s a lot more to say on this topic. And I will say a lot more, eventually. I’m starting to get hungry 🙂 For now I want to reflect a moment on the other side of hunger: satiety, fullness, satisfaction. It seems like junk food can never fill you up no matter how much you eat, though it can make you sick. Which is weird because it’s also very high in calories. Like eating a whole bag of chips or hershey’s kisses and then you don’t feel satisfied until a few hours later when you eat dinner. Anyway, that’s something that I’ve done– more than a few times 🙂

And yet on other occasions I can make a meal of ice cream and be perfectly happy. We are all familiar with the concept of comfort food. For decades now major food manufacturers salivate at the sight of an unhappy person, seeking to feast on souls. Michael Moss is only the most recent journalist to eloquently describe this phenomenon. But anyone who has ever felt a bond of kinship with Tony the Tiger knows at a gut level what’s going on.

The trouble I’d say is getting that gut feeling to go up the spinal column and take up residence in the penthouse. Where the view is distant and broad, encompassing a wide perspective. And one can feel safe above it all.

Of course, that doesn’t sound like much fun. Satisfying, perhaps. To be secure and to know it.