“Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter.” ~Harold Kushner

I’m a woman of many hungers. I hunger for justice for the downtrodden. I hunger to learn new things. I hunger for unconditional love. And like every other human, I hunger for nourishment for my body, mind, and soul.

My natural hunger signals for just about everything from sex to a hot shower have been corrupted by obsessive compulsive disorder to the point where I can’t tell who wants what–me or the disorder. Before entering recovery from Binge Eating Disorder (BED), my hungers made me feel shame and disgust.

In the early months of my recovery, my hungers scared me. After all, if  bite of the wrong food could start the binge-restrict cycle all over again, then how could I ever trust my own hunger? How could I want so much when my body needed so little?

There were times when the thought of eating anything at all paralyzed me with fear to the point where I found myself contemplating restriction again. Taking that first bite–even of abstinent food–might set off a binge, an uncontrollable eating spree that would lead to drowning again and again and again in the food.

What I realized over time, though, was that hunger is not only normal, but it is vital to life, to living. Without hunger we are not encouraged to change. Without hunger we cannot know fullness. Without hunger the drive to become whole disappears.

I accepted that it is not hunger that is destructive for binge eaters. In reality, compulsive behavior is not based in hunger at all. Rather than filling a need, binge eating smothers desire, numbers pain, and blocks emotional cravings. Instead of fearing hunger, we should embrace it. Hunger tells us that we’re alive, and we want to keep on living.

These days I pay attention to hunger. I listen for it. I feel it deeply in the growling of my empty stomach, in the way I miss my son by the end of a long work day, and in the tiredness longing I feel for a good night’s rest.

It’s okay to be hungry. Being hungry tells me that I’ve not eaten compulsively. Being hungry tells me that for today I am being this disease. Being hungry means that I can feel my own emotions because I’m not anesthetized by food. Being hungry tells me that I’m alive, and I want to be here tomorrow.


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