Last week I picked up the book “You on a Diet: The Owner’s Manual for Waist Management” by Michael Roizen MD and Mehmet Oz MD. Only a few chapters into this massive book, I have learned some new things, especially about the biology of hunger. They depict ghrelin, the hormone secreted in the stomach which signals that we’re hungry, as a little gremlin. I have been making peace with this imp – it turns out, he just wants me to pay a little attention. I am learning to distinguish his voice from the voice (originating in my emotional self) urging me to eat.
The other day, I had a conversation with a friend who recently caught up on reading this blog. He said, “I’m just going to be blunt, I don’t always understand the way you think and, frankly sometimes its just stupid”. I started laughing, because I couldn’t agree more — the way I’ve thought and acted has been not just stupid, but irrational. That, dear friends, is the point. I surprise myself when I discover just how weirdly I’ve mixed signals in my life.
Which brings me back to ghrelin and his competitor, my emotional self. Most of my life these two have been busy trying to out-shout each other, and as a result I’ve completely confused their voices. As I’ve changed my diet to eat healthier foods in appropriate amounts, ghrelin and I are developing a natural alliance. I am learning to manage my physical hunger.
My emotional self, though, struggles to be healthier. There are 48 years worth of accumulated detritus to clean up and it is slow going. I have to say, though, there are marked signs of improvement. Whereas in the past my emotional self has craved comfort, security, and love — and sought these through food, I am discovering that my emotional hungers are changing, too. Same categories, different contents:
- Rather than craving comfort food, I am hungry to feel comfortable in my own skin…and my own clothes. I want the exterior to be a closer approximation of the interior self. In the not-too-distant future I will be able to shop in all, not just specialty, stores for clothing. This will not seem like a big deal to people who have always had options, but believe me, if you’ve ever tried to put together a fashionable wardrobe when only one store in town carries your size, you’d know it is!
- I never expect to be comfortable in airline seats or amusement park rides. But I am hungry to actually fit in the seats without the humiliation of asking for seatbelt extensions or being kicked off the ride because they can’t fasten the safety harness. (I’ve avoided this humbling experience by not going to amusement parks — but I have a secret love of roller coasters and I’ve missed them!)
- After a lifetime of playing it safe, I find myself hungry to take some risks. No bungee cords or skydiving — but risk taking none-the-less. Try new things (new music, new hobbies, snowshoeing), go new places (travel overseas, hike the Grand Canyon, eat at the Linn Street Cafe), push my own boundaries (Run the Flood, take a yoga class, speak truth to power).
- Open up to deeper friendships, even if it means feeling vulnerable, even if it means entering into other people’s messy lives towing my own messy-ness. And seeing that as a gift rather than a burden or something to fear.
- Admitting the truth: I have desires…let’s leave it at that for today!
It is 7:36 a.m. as I write this final paragraph for today’s blog post. I took a 6:00 a.m. core exercise class, then completed my usual weight training regimen. I feel great — but my friend, Ghrelin the Gremlin, is grumbling for me to pay attention to him. What I’m truly hungry for at this moment is breakfast. I could murder a breakfast burrito! But I’ll be happier with something a little healthier. And that is some unusual thinking for me — very rational!