Our culture’s perception of hunger is unfortunately flawed. From a young age, some of us are taught to ignore the natural hunger signals our bodies send to us. Instead of learning to listen to what our bodies are asking for, we learn to tame our natural responses to our bodies’ need for fuel. We’re even taught to feel embarrassed by the sounds of stomach growls as if hunger is something to be ashamed of feeling. Let’s take a closer look at hunger, our cultural views surrounding hunger, and the consequences of these norms.
It should be obvious, but due to our culture’s contradicting views on health, some people lose the ability to naturally recognize hunger. When people severely limit their food intake, their bodies eventually stop being able to identify the feeling of hunger. In fact, some people who struggle with Anorexia begin to associate the feelings of hunger as “proof” that they’re succeeding in limiting their food intake. Real hunger is the body’s biological response to needing fuel, and similarly to breathing, it’s an impulse that’s vital to survival. Yet, some people’s bodies are unable to recognize the basic need of hunger.
There’s not a definitive reason to blame for our tendencies to ignore hunger or the perpetuation of this harmful practice. Instead, it’s a combination of many factors, including our culture’s unrealistic beauty standards and conflicting messages on body image. While the body positivity movement has made great strides in shifting the cultural narrative of what’s “normal” and “beautiful,” there is still an unrealistic pressure to fit into certain categories our society deems as ideal. Therefore, people whose bodies don’t align with these standards continue to take extreme measure to alter their appearances, including ignoring their body’s natural hunger pains.
There are unfortunate consequences of our cultural acceptance of ignoring hunger. As mentioned above, our bodies’ natural rhythms become off-balance when we ignore hunger for too long. When people skip meals, their metabolism slows down, which can actually cause weight gain in some people. Additionally, people are more likely to overeat after skipping meals, which can actually lead to weight gain, making the practice of skipping meals counter-intuitive.
Instead of ignoring hunger pains, we should be teaching children to pay attention to what their bodies are telling them. By listening to our own bodies, we can develop healthy eating habits that support happy and healthy lifestyles. Despite what expectations our culture places on physical appearance, health should be the priority. To find out more about issues with hunger in our society, contact us today.