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Anxiety and hunger – are you listening to your body?

Written by: My Chakra Life - Jul 7th, 2020

But I’m just not hungry…

For years I thought I was really ‘evolved’ and in-tune with my body because I existed on huge amounts of tea (at home – badly made tea is literally unbearable) or coffee (in an office or out and about) and little else all day.

“But I’m just not hungry” I would say as people stood open-mouthed at my ability to refuse food all day.

Only when I got home. Finished with work.

When I was ‘safe’, comfortable, and relaxed would I feel hungry.

And then it hit me like a wrecking ball in the stomach! Let’s just say it was difficult to make ‘good healthy choices’ in that state!

I didn’t really make the connection between anxiety and hunger (or lack of) until I was talking to my hypnotherapist last year. We were talking about planning my ‘perfect day’ and she mentioned I hadn’t made any room to eat breakfast.

“Oh, I don’t eat breakfast”, I casually said.

“Mmmmm… ok.” She said. “When will you eat lunch?”

“Sometimes, I eat something around 3.00pm. To be honest, I prefer to wait until I’ve finished working to eat.”

The look on her face told me this was not ‘normal’!

I went on to explain how I had done lots of reading about mindful eating and listening to my body – acting on hunger cues, listening to my body, not eating according to the clock etc. etc.

The conversation we then had, changed my life.

Seriously.

It blew my ‘holier-than-thou… I’m listening to my body’ bullshit out of the water!

 

Your Subconscious Mind

I’m no ‘brain-expert’, but I know that your subconscious mind is responsible for lots of things.

Memory, recalling faces and facts, regulating your heart rate, digestion, telling you when you’re hungry – all kinds of things.

It’s also responsible for your Fight or Flight reaction – obvs!

When you’re existing in Fight of Flight; or Survival Mode; or a general state of anxiety, everything else – all that other stuff it does, pretty much goes out of the window.

Fight or flight trumps them all!

The need to keep you alive (which is what your subconscious mind thinks it’s doing) over-rides everything. So, all the other functions it’s responsible for take a back seat in the face of impending physical destruction.

Stress-related indigestion totally makes sense now, right? Mind freeze? Yep.

 

Hello? Is anybody there?

So, we might think we’re not hungry, but maybe our body just can’t tell us? It’s got other (really important) stuff going on!

It wouldn’t be particularly helpful if when we were actually running away from a tiger, our subconscious mind was sending ‘oooooh, I could really do with a snack right now’ messages to our body!

It might be ‘general anxiety’ to us and our clever, reasonable cortex, but our poor subconscious mind can’t tell the difference.

To her? That tiger is real.

 

Oh, the irony!

Ironically, high on your subconscious mind’s list of threats to your survival is lack of food.

Back in caveman times, a lack of food represented a real threat to survival, so not eating can really send your Fight or Flight response into a tizzy!

 

The hilarious vicious circle is:

Anxiety and Hunger - Vicious Circle

 

It seems that if you experience feelings of anxiety on a regular basis, you can’t trust your body to know when it’s hungry or not. So, anxiety and hunger become mutually exclusive.

I had a pattern my whole life of only being able to eat when I was happy and relaxed. I reinforced this by using food as a reward for finishing something stressful or getting something done – all my celebrations centred around food and drink!

If this ‘inability to eat’ occasionally manifests as not being able to eat lunch before a big meeting; nibbling at a slice of toast instead of a Full English at a breakfast networking event; or pushing food around your plate on a first date, then it’s not too much of a problem.

But if you are consistently skipping meals because you are living in a constant state of anxiety and can’t hear the hunger signals your body may be sending (or if your body has stopped sending them altogether), then you could actually be contributing to your feelings of anxiety.

This is a revelation if you’re learning to live anxiety-free.

Side note: if you’re wondering why people who experience anxiety aren’t all a size 6 – there are lots of reasons – skipping meals is never an effective way to control your weight, the cocktail of hormones involved in keeping you in an anxious state can make you gain weight, and everyone’s physiology is different and will respond to anxiety in different ways.

 

So, how do I deal with anxiety and hunger?

Since I started looking into all of this, I make a point to eat!

Well, it sounds crazy, when you say it like that!

But I take time to tune in to my body and really think about whether I’m hungry or not and try to make a ‘healthier’ decision.

I always eat breakfast – even if I’m not feeling hungry.

It might just be a slice of toast or a small bowl of porridge, but I eat something. This is usually enough to convince my subconscious mind that I’m not starving, so I can start the day on an even keel.

Croissant - anxiety and hunger

As I have progressed on my anxiety-free journey, I find I am able to feel hungry at the appropriate times. So, by lunchtime, I usually feel like eating something again.

But if I don’t? I still try and eat something.

Dinner has never been a problem! Other than eating too much!

I can hear all the ‘mindful-eating’ fans screaming at me right now!

And I totally agree that we should listen to our bodies and react to those natural hunger cues, but when you’re experiencing anxiety it’s virtually impossible to hear them, no matter how hard you listen.

My advice is to eat, learn to live anxiety-free, then commit to eating mindfully once you are sure you can hear your body again.

Eating regularly might seem counter-intuitive, especially if you’re not actually hungry, but it is the kindest thing you can do to reconnect with and start listening to your body again, and help deal with anxious feelings.

Not forgetting eating is actually a grounding activity.

So, it’s over to you – do you find feelings of anxiety affect your ability to connect with your hunger?

Do anxiety and hunger affect the way you eat or plan your eating?

 


What next?

Hi there, my name’s Kathryn and I’m an Anxiety Release Coach at My Chakra Life.

My mission is to help women live anxiety-free; reconnecting with their inner light, so they can shine in their career or business with CONSCIOUS, CALM, CONFIDENCE.

Over the last ten years, I have honed and tweaked the tools and techniques which worked for me, into my three-stage Anxiety Release Process:

  • CONSCIOUS: gain clarity around anxious feelings, your life, and the actions that brought you here; and how you would like to feel instead.
  • CALM: understand how to access your calm inner state at will throughout your day, no matter what you face.
  • CONFIDENT: know that you are capable of living a life full of joyful awareness and feel totally assured in your ability to create it.

Why not join us in our Facebook Group – our community for creative women learning to live anxiety-free, reconnect with their inner-selves, and shine in their career or business with conscious, calm, confidence.

Or you can download my guide: ‘Journal your way to CONSCIOUS, CALM, CONFIDENT‘ to give you a little ‘Consciousness Jumpstart’!

Keep up to date with our blogs and if there is anything you would like to know or anything I can help you with in relation to learning to live anxiety-free, please let me know.

*Disclaimer: The meaning of ‘anxiety-free’ will be different to each person I work with. I further explore what anxiety-free means to me in this blog. Each client commits to attending the number of sessions and to completing the work required in each programme. Living your own anxiety-free life will be a long-term pursuit and will require continued commitment after the programme is finished.