Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hunger Week: Day 3

I felt very little 'hunger' today in the sense that we usually mean it: that somewhat annoying, somewhat exciting twinge in the stomach that calls for immediate attention. It's that feeling you get thirty minutes after your morning coffee, or an hour before your lunch break, or later in the evening when you get home from work. It seems we've trained our bodies to expect three meals a day, and when we miss one, our body complains loudly.

It has surprised me again to discover that the body can adapt to other patterns of feeding, like, say, one meal a day. By this third day of Hunger Week, I've already adapted quite a bit. In the evenings I would normally be planning to eat, feeling 'hunger', eating, cleaning up after eating, planning what to eat for the next day, etc., but this evening all that was just...not there. In the mornings, I would normally look forward to breakfast from the time I get up (I love breakfast!), but this morning I just had a cup of tea and then went to church. No problems there.

By lunch today, I still wasn't 'hungry', but I was feeling irritable and incapable of dealing with cross-cultural interactions. I felt somehow weak, empty, frail, and...diminished. So I munched on a few handfuls of trail mix. Good thing, too, because we didn't get to have our 'lunch' until 4:30. That was 26.5 hours since our last meal. 

But it's incredible how the body adapts to a decrease in food intake. I am realizing what it's like to live in a state of hunger with occasional satisfaction rather than in a state of satisfaction with occasional hunger. And honestly, strangely, scarily, I kind of like it. I mean, I don't like losing weight, and I don't like feeling weak, but I do like feeling empty (not 'hungry'). And I love eating out of bodily need rather than sheer habit. Maybe it's a primal experience, a deep truth about human and animal life that we've easily forgotten in our privileged society? 

This all leads me to a perhaps controversial observation: maybe those we so pity for being hungry really aren't as miserable as we think they are? Now, of course I don't mean people starving to death or those suffering from malnutrition, but rather people like the Karimojong and Ik who may have one meal a day, or two at the most. I well know that feeling when you're just so hungry you could devour a horse. Maybe it's because you ate cold cereal for breakfast that was too sugary, or maybe you drink a cup of sweet coffee at the wrong time of the morning, or maybe you're smelling the BBQ steaks sizzling on the grill...or whatever...and you're HUNGRY. Then, thinking how miserable people must be if they feel that way most of the time, we rightly have compassion on them. But, if my observation is correct, then people like the Karimojong and Ik don't feel that type of hungry much of the time. Instead, they feel a vague emptiness and a slight weakness of the body. I'm not sure yet, but it's a thought.

It's hard to articulate. There is just something pure about taking foods into your body when you know you need every calorie. You're not eating out of habit or compulsion or addiction or whatever. You're eating because you need to feed. I guess it feels right somehow because not only is that the level of hunger/fullness that much of the world's human population lives at but also the vast majority of other living creatures. And even though I know Amber and I won't stay at this level, I'm really grateful for the chance to experience it and learn from it. 

1 comment:

Cassidy said...

Terrill, I am really enjoying these posts! I resonate with Sunday's post a lot and had not pieced the following together until now. I love back packing- pure, hard, strenuous, crash onto your sleeping bag at night kind of hiking. And I love how food tastes in that state. There is dependency and purposeful eating, thinking thoughtfully about nourishment, not just taste. And so while I always feel more attuned to creation and the Creator in this state, I had previously attributed it to my surroundings. Not so much to my eating, or feeding. Until now. :)