His race started at 7:30 a.m., not early or late for an endurance event. I dropped him off at 6:30, so he could hop on the shuttle and head to the starting line and get his adventure going. He had approximately 30 miles on deck—his third 50K in two years—and he was calm, wide awake, and ready to get going! He snacked on an apple with peanut butter and a Picky Bar while he double-checked his supplies. Water, Skratch mix packets, chews, salt tablets, watch, socks, and shoes. All set!
I had a full water bottle in the console to sip on during the drive. An early alarm and hopping right in the driver’s seat doesn’t welcome a breakfast appetite right away, so I didn’t even bother to pack a snack for my one hour round-trip ride. As soon as I turned the car around to drive us back to the hotel (Banana pup in tow), I felt a deep hunger pang.
“Why am I hungry right now?”
That was my mind’s first reaction. Instead of noticing and accepting my body’s clear hunger signal, I questioned it. I didn’t trust it. I did some math—how long have I been awake? What time did we eat dinner last night? All I’ve done is roll out of bed and sit in the driver’s seat for forty minutes (and operate a car responsibly). Why would that make me hungry?
In the same moment that I questioned something as simple as hunger, I also noticed what I was doing. I’ve had these inner monologues many times. I’ve convinced myself out of hunger many times. I’ve questioned these signals, ignored them, and powered on. That’s part of my eating disorder (ED) aftermath. That’s my ED voice perking up, dusting itself off, noticing a moment of weakness and jumping right in, armed and ready to duel my rational, now-Intuitive Eating-focused voice. In times of high stress (hi, that’s right now!*), the structural integrity of the walls I’ve built through years of recovery seems to waver. One day, that wall is strong and stable, reliable and durable. The next, it cracks so quickly under a simple signal from my body that says, “I’m hungry. What’s on the menu?” It gives in so unexpectedly.
As I drove, I wondered why my mind’s reaction is so quick to judge and question physical hunger. Why did it matter how long I’ve been awake, or what time I ate dinner last night? Why does the ED voice question natural hunger so quickly and confidently? How can I flip that reaction on its head?
This is a labor of self love and recovery.
It’s remembering that it’s NATURAL to feel hungry, any time. It’s not a signal we should question, for any reason other than pure scientific curiosity (which may only apply to a select few of us who like to explore scientific curiosity). For example, as a nerdy dietitian, I might wonder why hunger strikes soon after a meal or snack and I might do the math to see if I paired nutrients well, or if I ate something that I expected to be satisfying but, in fact, wasn’t. I’m okay with that kind of curiosity, from an investigative self-researcher POV. But to question it in a way that says, “Hey body, WTF?” is not okay with me. That’s a sign that I’m not trusting my own body to tell me what it needs. I’m not fully honoring hunger, all day, every day. And it’s something that, clearly, I still work on quite often.
I got back to the hotel and went straight to the continental breakfast. Banana ate her kibble up (girlfriend was hungry, too); I enjoyed my waffle-from-a-machine and hard boiled eggs. Then we took a nap, because one thing I almost never question is when it’s time to get more sleep.
If this sounds familiar, learn how to honor hunger and trust your body with our Fit Fueling: Intuitive Eating for Female Athletes course. The next round starts July 10th!
*A few personal and business updates are coming to the newsletter in the following weeks. I’m saving this blog space for nutrition, coaching, and running things. But I’ve “known” many of you for a long time, and these are things I want to share with you in a new way. Subscribe here!