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Tummy Hunger or Mouth Hunger?
In reading a book recently with advice from the Dalai Lama, The Art of
Happiness, plus several other articles dealing with New Year's diet
resolutions, it occurred to me to write on the subject of hunger.
Hunger is necessary for our continued existence. We need to replenish
the energy we expend, heal and rebuild constantly. But taken too far,
which seems to be the norm in recent years, obesity and many health problems
What causes this required instinct to go haywire and how can we control it?
By learning the difference between "Tummy Hunger" and "Mouth Hunger".
Real tummy hunger is glorious. Some of the most memorable meals I have
eaten were after a hard bout of physical labor. Who can forget
coming indoors out of the cold to savor the fragrance of Mom's cooking as a
Tummy hunger is a hollow feeling in the middle, perhaps a growling stomach.
Sometimes it includes cold or exhaustion, or trembling from low blood sugar.
A meal eaten to satisfy real tummy hunger is true happiness.
Mouth hunger is something else. We are born with it - stroke a newborn
baby's cheek and see how its mouth seeks your finger, whether it's hungry or
Mouth hunger is caused by a need for something - and not necessarily food.
It leads to munchies, often on inappropriate snacks, to added pounds, and while
it may bring pleasure at the moment, it does not lead to happiness - especially
when you cannot fit into your clothes or keep up with the youngsters.
Here's some hints on controlling this monster - and it truly is a monster
issue for many of us.
Thirst. You may be sloshing from coffee, soft drinks or tea, but
these do not satisfy actual thirst and hydrate your body sufficiently.
Have a drink of water. I find that splurging on a particular brand of
bottled water, and having the bottle at hand all the time, works best for
Mouth fuzz. If your teeth and tongue are coated with plaque,
you may be more likely to seek food, if only to dislodge some of it.
A good tooth-brushing, including the tongue, plus flossing, may delay your
Need for nutrients. If your diet is short of veggies, vitamins,
minerals, antioxidants, Omega 3 and other valuable nutrients, your body
knows! It tells you to eat. Unfortunately, if you continue to
snack on sugary, salty snacks low in these vital nutrients your body is
begging for, you make the situation worse, not better. The more you
weigh, the more of these nutrients are required, pound for pound, in order
for you to feel right. The more you want to eat.
Don't start a regimen of supplements unless you know what you are doing or
check with your doctor, especially if you are taking any medications or have
a medical condition. Instead, improve your diet.
Constipation. This is a low grade discomfort, your body
telling you something is wrong. It may lead to a desire to stuff more
into the top end to shove it out the bottom, to put it crudely.
However, unless the items you consume are water, water-rich items like fruit
or soup, and high-fiber food, the situation gets worse, not better.
Unhappiness. Food is pleasure. Pleasure takes your
mind off the thing(s) you are unhappy or anxious about. But it will
not make you happy. Analyze why you need this distraction.
Perhaps there isn't much you do about some unhappy situations, but at least
recognize what they are and find the strength to accept them. Also,
try to substitute chewing gum, water, and nutritious munchies as much as
Boredom. That's a biggie. You can be bored
watching the same trite shows on TV, playing the same mindless games on the
computer or play-station, working at the same job or doing the same tasks
over and over. Sometimes you can get up and do something
different, take a short brisk walk, try a different activity. Often
items that must be done can be accomplished with mindfulness, not just by
rote. With all the wonderful possibilities in the world, there's no
excuse for being bored.
Food, when you aren't tummy hungry, can only bring you fleeting pleasure, it
will not make you happy, long term. Recognizing the difference
between the two kinds of hunger is the first step to a solution. When the
munchies strike, ask yourself what kind of hunger it is, and why. And keep
in mind that food, after exercise or hard work, satisfies both tummy and mouth
hunger in the most enjoyable way!