After months of going to work and burning out around 10 AM, reviving after lunch, and coming home starving and cranky, I came to the conclusion that I should probably stock some snacks at work. I picked out a variety of munchables, stashed them in a drawer in my desk, and pulled them out when I found myself slumping and distracted by the rumbling of my belly. Productivity rose, mood found a more even keel, and I was a happy camper.
Last week I went grocery shopping and replenished my snack supply for work. I put the food in a bag and set it next to the door so I’d remember to take it to work with me the next day.
When I got to work and discovered that I’d forgotten it I agonized long and hard about what to do. My snack stash was completely gone. My home is very close to my work. I debated running home and snagging the bag of goodies.
And I found myself thinking, No, I’ll just get through today. I’ll be hungry, but that’s a good thing, right?
I tell you this story for two reasons.
First, to point out to you that this kind of thinking is fucked up. Hunger is not a virtue. Years of dieting and struggling with food and listening to people talk about “good food” and “bad food” has led me (and many others) to conflate hunger and goodness. I’m good if I’m hungry. I’m bad if I’m sated, and I’m terrible if I’m actually full. Many long-term dieters can actually confuse the physical sensation of hunger (especially when it gets to that floaty, shaky point) with feelings of goodness, virtue, willpower and success.
Being hungry is none of those things. Being hungry is your body’s way of demanding energy to perform the necessary tasks of keeping you alive. The physical sensation that you feel is your body crying out for food. The satisfaction you feel is our thin-obsessed society imposing itself on your brain. Being hungry doesn’t make you good. It just makes you hungry.
Second, I mention this to remind you that we all backslide sometimes. I’ve been doing the size acceptance thing for a few years now, and I’m into it as hardcore as anyone. I am proud to take up space. I am unashamed of my body. I speak out for size acceptance every chance I get.
But sometimes the culture wins. Sometimes I find myself thinking that hunger is virtue, or that I’d be happier if I were thinner, or that I wish my body were different. That doesn’t make me a bad activist. That makes me a human – specifically a human that was brought up in a deeply body-negative culture.
I find myself thinking that hunger is virtue, and then I stop. I think about why I draw that association. I examine the assumptions that lead to that thought. And then I decide I was wrong. I remind myself of what I know: that hunger is hunger, and is completely unrelated to virtue. And I move on.