Many months ago (before I found out I was pregnant with Baby #3), I discovered something that changed my outlook on my Thin Within journey. It was sort of like a paradigm shift. I’ll sum it up in two words: counterfeit hunger.
It’s obvious that I’ve known about such a thing through my journey of Thin Within, but the way it was described in a book I had been reading at the time (How to Have Your Cake & Your Skinny Jeans Too by Josie Spinardi). It’s a secular book all about the non-diet approach and God used what she said about “counterfeit hunger” to do something transforming. I could tell my body still had some weight to release after having my second child based on how certain clothes fit. I did happen to know my weight, but I wasn’t weighing myself often and only when I felt peace to do so. So once this truth about counterfeit hunger sunk in, I began to experiment and realized that I had been eating based on this fake hunger instead of truly waiting for true hunger (0 on the hunger scale). It wasn’t happening all of the time, but there were parts of my day this was happening more. So I began to distinguish between fake and true hunger and I learned to wait for that true 0. And almost immediately, I released 3 pounds and put me very close or even at my ideal weight (it’s hard to say because shortly after this revelation and release, I found out I was pregnant).
So what is counterfeit hunger? Well, it’s not true hunger. It’s a craving. Something smells good and we eat based on that sense of smell (think popcorn or freshly baked cinnamon roll). There is this urge to eat. It can be a learned response to emotional distress, diet restriction, or conditioned cues. That was one that would get me—even thinking about going on a diet or restricting certain foods would bring on the counterfeit hunger. Counterfeit hunger is also habitually eating such as always eating in front of the TV. One that really got me was the space of time between activities, such as putting my kids to bed and my own bed time. It was like, “The kids are asleep! Now I can eat!” Counterfeit hunger is never satisfied. Think of those times when you’ve eaten one thing after another, but you are still not satisfied. And fake hunger is marked with urgency (hurry up and eat it now!), guilt and indecision.
So what does true hunger feel and “look” like? It’s a quiet, gentle feeling (unless you’ve waited too long). It’s a hollow, warm sensation in your stomach (it may be a different feeling for you—it takes some trial and error and getting to know your body’s signals to know for sure). There is a heightened taste and sense of smell accompanied with hunger. And true hunger comes on gradually (no urgency).
I really like the way Hunger Within describes hunger: “Sometimes hunger is like a snooze alarm: it goes off and on until finally the signal is constant and clear. That’s your 0. It won’t be a maybe or sort of; it will be a definite yes, a clear call for food.”
When in doubt, leave it out! That’s a motto that I’ve been trying to live by for many months now and it makes a huge difference! I’ve realized that if I have to question “Am I hungry?” then I’m most likely not hungry. I like the way the Halliday’s put it in Thin Within, “There’s no such thing as “I’m just a little bit hungry.” You’re either at a 0 or you’re not. Eat only when you are clearly at 0. It’s really that simple.” It really is that simple.
If we could really hold to that truth, just think of the weight that would be released and the changes that would take place.
How do we remedy this “counterfeit hunger”? Something the Lord has shown me is waiting upon Him and being satisfied with His provision. His provision for us is eating within hunger and satisfaction (0-5 on hunger scale). So whenever I am eating outside of 0-5, it’s like I’m saying His provision isn’t enough for me. So I’m learning to wait upon His provision. I pray almost every day that I would be satisfied with His provision for me. I declare daily that His design of hunger and satisfaction is perfect for me. It’s waiting on that 0 and being satisfied with His provision for our spiritual hunger when we aren’t physically hungry, and trusting that He has perfect provision for us in the physical hunger and stopping when we are satisfied, trusting that He will meet our needs.
What are you really hungry for if it’s not true hunger? Is it spiritual hunger? Is it your body needing rest? Sleep? Or maybe you need to schedule activities so you aren’t spending it in idleness and filling it with eating outside of physical hunger. Pray and ask the Lord to show you what it is that you really need during these times. I can guarantee it’s not food if it’s not physical hunger. And if it’s not physical hunger and you choose to eat anyway, well, you won’t release weight. And…you won’t be getting to the true heart of the matter that needs to be addressed anyway.
Can you see how identifying counterfeit hunger can be so helpful? And how understanding what true physical hunger feels like can be so beneficial? I want to encourage you to test this out for yourself. And don’t be afraid if it’s not true hunger because it simply means you need to go to the Lord. He is that well-spring of life. He will quench that thirst and fulfill that hunger. He wants to meet that need with His provision.
P.S. I’ve created a Sound Cloud recording about counterfeit eating. Click on the link below.