day as I was carrying a load of laundry into the garage, I was
arrested by the sound of avid munching. There is no other way to
describe it. Not the placid chewing of the herbivore, or even the
fierce gobbling of the carnivore, this feverish crunch-crunch is made
by a particular creature – the nyom-nivore. In this case,
Sam the Bad Cat. He had discovered our store of dry cat food and had
broken into it.
you can see, Sam the Bad Cat was well named. Even when he spotted
me, he didn't pause in his pursuit of satisfaction. As I watched him
relentlessly reduce our stock of feline nutrition, I realized he
reminded me of someone – myself. Not that I'm into cat food. But
I'm also capable of diving into a meal with irrational exuberance.
Yet Sam was a cat with diabetes. I've been overweight many times in
my life, but I've never been diabetic. What was it we really had in
might say, Well duh! How about hunger? You know, like –
I've had far too much experience with hunger to dismiss it that
quickly. Hunger can be much more complicated than it seems. In
fact, after years of over-eating, fasting, dieting, and struggling
with hunger itself, I've
identified four different types of hunger, each with its own special
challenges. The first and most common type is the least complicated.
really is the most straight-forward (and dangerous) hunger, provoked
by an empty stomach and the need for calories to stoke the furnace.
I have known people who only
feel this sort of hunger a few times a day, and who satisfy it easily
with small, simple meals. When they aren't feeling it, they don't
even think about food, and they honestly can't understand why anyone
else would. They think it's all just a matter of common sense. How
hard can it be?
– those people are really annoying. And they never seem to feel
the second kind of hunger, the one that demands comfort.
is the hunger that tends to erode my self-control. It's triggered by
stress, exhaustion, frustration, and a serious passion for cake.
Empty Hunger may be a factor in triggering Comfort-Me Hunger. But
while Empty Hunger can be satisfied by eating nutritious food, if I
don't find just the right thing to satisfy Comfort-Me Hunger, it's
just going to get madder and madder, like a peevish zombie who's been
offered a plate of toenails instead of the yummy cranial stuff. That
madness can lead to the third kind of hunger I've felt.
really is the food version of a heroin habit. It shares enough
symptoms with drug and alcohol addictions that I can often recognize
myself in testimonials I've heard from people in recovery, like
hiding my food purchases from family members, lying about what I'm
eating and how much, and lost weekends where gallons of ice cream
mysteriously evaporate. But the most disturbing thing about Junkie
Hunger is that it can't be satisfied. It's the rush from
eating that I crave, and often the only thing that will stop it is
feeling uncomfortably full. Comfort-Me Hunger can pack the pounds on
gradually, but too many episodes of Junkie Hunger have sometimes
caused my weight to balloon in a fraction of the time it takes to
lose the same number of pounds.
when I saw poor old Sammy munching away at the kitty crunchies, I
thought I was seeing something akin to Junkie Hunger. But I was
wrong. His appetite was caused by something just as voracious, but
When you have diabetes, your body has trouble
absorbing nutrients from the food you eat. That triggers Empty
Hunger, because your body really craves those nutrients. It was
awful to see poor Sammy eating bowl after bowl of cat food, yet
slowly starving to death. Regular insulin shots and a high-protein
diet helped him with that imbalance.
But I don't have diabetes; my blood sugar has
always been within the normal range. Yet I've experienced Overfed
Hunger too, a craving for nourishment that over-eating can't satisfy.
That's how it differs from Junkie Hunger, which is more like a
craving for sensation. It feels as if my body is so overwhelmed by
the extra calories, it becomes less efficient at processing them.
Sure, I put on some fat, but not as much as you would expect – and
the Empty Hunger is still nagging at me, claiming that it never got
fed. The more I eat, the louder it complains, and that's what made
me realize the only way to curb both Overfed Hunger and Junkie Hunger
– is to starve them.
Did I Just Use the S-Word?
never a word that should be used lightly. It evokes thoughts of
malnutrition, anorexia, hypoglycemia, and of countless weight-loss
diets sabotaged by the stress of too much Empty Hunger. So I'd like
to make it clear that I'm not talking about actual starvation. What
I mean is that I control Junkie Hunger and Overfed Hunger by
satisfying Empty Hunger and even indulging Comfort-Me Hunger from
time to time. But I count my calories, don't exceed sensible limits
(usually), and keep sugar and fat consumption levels within
reasonable boundaries. My body seems to have an easier time
absorbing nutrition when it's not struggling to process too many
calories. I've lost weight, but don't feel like I'm starving.
I'm no saint. But I've been more successful
at controlling my eating habits than I used to be. Bouts of Junkie
Hunger are fairly rare these days, and I haven't felt Overfed Hunger
in two years. And I'm pretty sure that recognizing these different
types of hunger is what got me on the right path. For that, I thank
Sam the Bad Cat and his munch-mania. If I hadn't witnessed what was
going on with him, I might not have seen the bigger picture.
Sam the Bad
Cat passed away a few years ago, at the age of 16 – old for a cat,
and very old for a cat
with diabetes. His illness had enough in common with human Type II
diabetes to be a real object lesson. And it's not lost on me that
many people in this world really are starving. I would never compare
my problem to their suffering. Yet the hunger I've felt has
sometimes been very stressful and challenging. And trying to
understand the underlying cause of that hunger has helped me to get a
handle on it.
I stole the illustrations for this post from my husband, artist/writer Ernest Hogan, but that's not the worst thing I've ever done to him.
Post a Comment