Something that a regular reader of this blog may notice is that I talk about being hungry a lot.
I do this because for most of my life admitting to being hungry, or having any bodily functions for that matter, was a source of shame for me. Somehow it got drilled into me that girls were supposed to be lithe, ethereal creatures who live on light and air and who never feel such base things as hunger, need to use a bathroom, or get sweaty. To this day I become distinctly uncomfortable if anyone knows when I’m having my period.
I would listen in envy as other girls talked about forgetting to eat (this has, to date, never happened to me) or watch as they picked birdlike at food with little apparent interest in it. This, I thought, is how girls should be. Not like me, constantly starving and prone to considering my next meal, or even the next serving before the last bite had even been finished. I was wrong, screwed up somehow, more like a big, sweaty monster or a voracious animal. I was unkempt, unclean, base and constantly greedy for food – as though I were more pig than human.
I don’t know exactly where this extremely messed up self-image came from. Maybe it was television, maybe magazines, maybe just growing up in the 80’s and watching most of the girls in my school compete to stay under 100 pounds on the scale (a body weight I would have to have been dying to achieve). I know now that it’s insane to feel shame of any sort about the biological functions that keep us alive. They are normal, natural, and quite healthy. I am legitimately hungrier than my body needs me to be to achieve my personal ideal body weight – but since I didn’t choose that or do anything to deserve it, it should be no more shameful than being a chronic allergy sufferer or having flat feet.
Still, the shame is lodged deep within my psyche. It persists.
My friend’s young daughter reminds me in some ways of myself at her age. She struggles with feeling hungry all the time; although for all I know at her age while she’s rapidly growing taller it’s not really a bad trait to have. Where she differs from me is in a total lack of shame about being hungry or anything that her body naturally does. I watch her in both awe and admiration being bold and unembarrassed about anything and everything. Granted, this trait on occasion can cause some face-palming on her mother’s part as some things really are more polite to do in private (like farts for instance). But I cannot remember ever being so wild, free and unapologetic about my body as this little girl is. I fear it will go away in time, I fear that eventually this world will beat into her the same innate shame about bodily functions that I had. As time passes she’s already starting to show concern about what the numbers on the scale say (and she’s not yet ten years old), but she’s still doing far better than I was at her age, so I have hope.
As for me, I keep on telling everyone that yes – I am hungry. I’m hungry a lot. Despite the shame that still causes me I will no longer pretend I’m some kind of aether sprite with no nutritional requirements or bodily functions. I am a human, a mammal, and I live in a body with needs that require tending. I am not the only one that suffers in exasperation with feeling inappropriately hungry all the danged time. The more I come to grips with that, the more I set aside the shame and admit it to the world, the more I can hopefully give others like me the courage to stop pretending too.
Hunger-shame is part of what causes me to eat in secret, and eating in secret is addiction behavior that also leads to binge eating episodes. If it’s ever going to stop, if I ever want to have a truly healthy relationship with food, I’ve got to come to grips with myself as a member of the human race once and for all.
|Cool? Yes. Realistic body image for me to aspire to? Not so much.