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Fear of Hunger

By Charlene Rayburn

woman very afraidOne of the things I learned very shortly after beginning the Am I Hungry?® program, is that I have a fundamental fear of hunger. As I’ve continued to practice the concepts, I’ve come to understand how deep seated it is, how much energy I’ve expended, and how much overeating I’ve done trying to prevent hunger throughout my lifetime. I just flat don’t like feeling hungry. It provokes insecurity.

Then, I learned something else last night. My stepson, who lives in Texas, arrived for a visit. After I came home from work, he, my husband, and I had a wonderful time catching up. Suddenly, we realized we were hungry and decided to go to one of our favorite Italian restaurants. As it is also a favorite for others in the neighborhood, there was a bit of a wait time. We continued to chat, laugh, and tell stories.

Once we were seated, and I gauged my hunger, I was very surprised to discover I was a 2 (starving) on the Am I Hungry? Hunger and Fullness Scale. How had I allowed myself to get that hungry without feeling anxious? Of course, it’s because my attention was elsewhere; I was absorbed. It was fascinating to realize that my hunger experience hadn’t been the least bit scary.

So, it really isn’t hunger that triggers my fear, it’s my thoughts and beliefs about hunger. Now, I suppose if I’d waited much longer to eat, my hunger would have demanded my attention, but knowing that I can reach a 2 and barely notice has given me “food for thought.”

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About the author

Charlene Rayburn, CVCC, lives her passion for mindfulness and intentional leadership by serving as a personal and professional leadership coach, by managing a department of dedicated employees for a Fortune 500 sized health insurance organization, and by facilitating Am I Hungry?® workshops and coaching sessions. She has coached extensively with individuals and groups outside the corporate world, as well as with executives, leaders, and teams in non-profit, private, public, governmental, and educational organizations spanning the globe. Charlene received her coaching certificate through the Center for Coaching Mastery at Coachville, LLC, and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Management from Davenport University. She is a member of the National Management Association. One of her most emotionally challenging and rewarding experiences was serving as a volunteer at the Center for Battered Women. Charlene currently lives in Michigan and enjoys spending time with her husband of over 20 years, reading, learning, cooking, practicing yoga, and watching her grandson grow, who lives with his dad, her stepson in Fort Worth, Texas.

6 Comments

  1. L says:

    I wonder if you lot can help me help myself with a little advice. After a week-long period of too-restrictive dieting and stress, both of which exacerbated a stomach acid problem I was having at the time that I didn’t know how to take care of, I now associate hunger with intense pain, self-deprivation and fear. Possibly because of how I’ve been feeding myself (small, frequent meals/snacks 200-350 or so cals a meal), I get hungry every three hours but could go to maybe four or five if I’m happy and distracted but five is my absolute limit and then I must have eaten. I’m taking an antacid and it’s been helping the stomach problem. Recently, however, I’ve gone back on my diet after taking a three-week break. I want to stop feeling scared every time I get close to mealtime. (It usually hits me 1/2 hour before.) Do you have any suggestions in regards to calming myself without having to eat something?
    Also, how do I figure the difference between eating because my emotions tell me I’m low on blood sugar and eating for comfort?

    • Charlene Rayburn says:

      Thank you for your comment! I’m sorry to hear that you’re experiencing the problems that you’ve encountered. I completely understand why you might have fearful thoughts associated with hunger after having severe pain while dieting. Possibly there is more going on for you physically and since I’m not a physician, please take only the parts of my suggestion that work for you.

      My best experiences (meaning no fear of hunger) are when I really don’t pay attention to a clock or diet rules. When I really focus more on my body signals and eat accordingly, I have no reason for fear and I feel satisfied with my meals. I eat when I’m hungry (even if it doesn’t make sense according to a clock); I eat what I’m hungry for; and I stop eating when I’m no longer hungry. When I’m successfully following that approach, I do not feel fear, I rarely get overly hungry, and I feel well physically. The more I practice, the better I’m getting at telling the difference between physical hunger and a craving, between an emotional calling for food and an actual need for fuel. I’m also becoming more aware of what my body actually wants, and as it turns out it is usually healthier food choices. So to “bottom line” it, I’d say that I now do my best to pay attention to my body signals, rather than my fearful thoughts. Mindful eating is such an opposite approach from deprivation and dieting, and I’m so grateful that I found it, because it works so much better for me! I wish you wholeness on your journey as well. I’d love to hear updates on how you’re doing.

      Warmly,
      Charlene

  2. Si says:

    I’ve read quite a few personal stories about FOH, but none of them really seem to fit me. I absolutely have a fear of hunger, but it’s not the twinges that scare me, it’s the nausea and the feeling of being eaten from the inside by your stomach acid, and the light headedness so bad you have to sit down.
    I have never been deprived of food, but I suffered with undiagnosed lactose intolerance. Often, I would for go eating because hunger was less painful that eating. Unfortunately, this led to me often eating only one meal in the morning, and then a very small meal 10 to 12 hours later in the late evening. Often I would feel weak and shaky, sometimes I would see my ribs sticking out of my skin. (I never reached a BMI that would be considered underweight.) My fear then and now is the fear of very real physical hunger pains.

    I’m at a sales job now, and I rarely get to eat lunch, and my dinner typically falls around 8 or 9 pm. I always eat breakfast, and I have a box of granola bars in my car, but when i work late, I often get a scared. Around this time, my slight twinges turn into loud gurgling and nausea. I know logically I wont die from this, and that I can eat when I get home, but I can’t help but get unreasonably scared, and that fear carries well into the next day.

    • It is totally understandable why you would be afraid of getting hungrynsjnce you’ve had such dramatic symptoms in the past. The symptoms you are describing are of extreme hunger (we would call that famished a “1” on the Hunger and Fullness Scale that goes from 1 to 10). Obviously the solution is to feed yourself more regularly when you are a 2, 3, or 4 instead of waiting that long. Granola bars are one flexible way to address this.
      As for the fear, it’s good that you recognize that this is based on the past. When you notice the fear come up, you can reassure yourself by saying something like, “I know this was scary, but that was the past. Now I know what to do and I am in charge of taking action because I have learned from. Y past challenges.” Repeat as often as necessary; you will rewire your brain!

  3. z says:

    recently, I have discovered my fear of hunger. at first I thought my behavior is part of being healthy taking sandwichs , fruits , some sweats with to work since that I spend 12 hours daily at my work and though I have hearty breakfast but I consume each item in my bag at 2 hours interval though I might not be hungery just stressed or feeling bored .
    then the second fact hit me when I do shopping for food , I noticed that I do that as if I am shopping for a full house though I live by my self and even when I am at home I try to consume my supplies at a regular way .
    the wrost part that I do not feel generous with food I never give anybody food , I gave money but never food
    that does not even discribe it , I do not like any body eating my food
    I hate this fear for what it makes me feel , I do not like the way I am as behavior , person
    and that does not help me lose weight

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