What is shadow hunger? Some call it head hunger, but I prefer to call it shadow hunger because it’s just like a shadow. It’s dark, it looms around and follows you everywhere, and can be very difficult to evade or eliminate. Shadow hunger can be caused by a myriad of things…depression, loneliness, heartache, anger, sadness…and the list goes on. It takes some doing to overcome it.
Let’s start by determining how you get rid of a shadow. You either fall into it, by succumbing to it and laying flat on the ground in an act of defeat…OR you step into a bright light from straight above you…and it’s gone…you've conquered it! Carry the light with you, and you can avoid the shadow for as long as you carry the light.
How does that figure into making choices that overcome shadow hunger? First of all, it all always comes down to choice. Never forget that…it’s a choice. Making the choice to succumb to shadow hunger is to eat whatever and however much we want to eat (comfort food) at that time in an effort to get rid of that dark, unsettling feeling. It works to get rid of the shadow hunger for a little while. It’s a temporary fix because you must get up and eventually that shadow is going to return. Carrying a “light” with you allows you to overcome that defeat.
What is a light in terms of shadow hunger? A light is sometimes difficult to find, but it’s possible! A “light”, as it pertains to shadow hunger, is an arsenal of actions that help you to overcome that feeling of depression, loneliness, discouragement, etc. Let’s determine how you can “step into the light” of healthy choices and get rid of that shadow hunger. First, develop that arsenal of weapons to fight the shadow! You must determine what it is that makes you feel the way that leads to or is causing the shadow hunger. Is it loneliness? Perhaps picking up the phone and calling a friend or family member (or a Spark buddy!) is a great way to start by eliminating that loneliness. Even writing a letter is a great way to battle loneliness because it helps you to think about another person…it changes your focus (which is always the way to overcome the feeling of needing to eat when you’re not really hungry). Is it anger? What’s made you angry? Are you holding in the anger? If so, find the source of the anger and determine a way to resolve the issue that’s caused the anger (no harm to others is advised… ;-)). If your spouse, significant other, family member, or friend has done something that has hurt you or made you angry, perhaps they don’t even know it. Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself, and talk to them calmly about how they may have hurt you and caused the anger you feel. When you do this, first make the decision that you will talk to them in a “courteous” manner and not an angry tone and accusatory manner. That way, when you speak with them, it will help both of you. It helps to keep you composed and it helps the other person to avoid becoming defensive, and they can then view the situation from your point of view. Many times, this is all it takes to bring a “light” into the situation that will help you to feel better without giving into shadow hunger.
What do you do when you’re simply not able to find that light through facing the issue that’s bothering you (or you simply can’t figure out what it is that’s causing you to feel like you do) and face it head-on? In that case, often times meditation, positive self-talk and treating yourself to a non-food delight will help. Here are some ideas:
The first thing I tend to do in this case is to meditate and pray for the wisdom to see what’s bothering me, what to do, guidance in how to take action, and the strength to do it. I’m a Christian (95% of the world’s people believe in a higher power of some sort, but if you’re in the other 5%, please don’t be offended by my belief- take what you want and discard the rest). My higher power is the God of the Holy Bible, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. This is not a plug for religion, but it is my own personal belief and is a source of power and wisdom for me. Prayer and meditation often help me to determine an enlightening path for me to take, which helps me to avoid the shadow hunger and quell my internal issue, or sometimes at the very least to make a healthy food choice, like a banana...a personal favorite.
Another action for me if, I can’t figure out what’s bothering me…I’ll look in the mirror and say nice things to myself. Sounds crazy, right? Well, the great thing about our minds is that the more often we do that – tell ourselves how awesome we are, or acknowledge our favorite things about ourselves - the more we believe them. For instance – and I’m not attempting to be boastful here… this is simply an example – I like my eyes and lips. They are my favorite physical features about myself. I look in the mirror and tell myself that I have pretty eyes and nice lips. While I struggle terribly with my own self image - like many - most of the time, I do like those particular things about myself. So, concentrate on those things that you really like about yourself… there ARE things about your body that are AWESOME!
If you're having a "bad hair day" and can’t find something about your body that you like, which can be difficult for some of us (but there ARE things about your body that are beautiful, I guarantee it!), then perhaps turn inward to find the beauty you have within. I'm a strong believer in the inner beauty of people...everyone has some. For example, your generosity to others, your love of animals and all living things, your dependability, your work ethic, or some other intangible, but important characteristics are some things that you may like about yourself – these are things that you can concentrate on. Remind yourself of these great characteristics through positive self-talk. If you’re in the car, take time to think of these things that you like and respect about yourself. Perhaps you pride yourself on being a great friend to those in your life. You’re the kind of person who would drop everything and go to a friend in need and do whatever it takes to help them. That’s the kind of thing that you can take pride in and appreciate about yourself. These are things that you may find admirable in others…and if that’s the case, you should give yourself the same credit that you would give your friends and family members! You deserve that! Don’t sell yourself short. You are an INCREDIBLE person! Allow yourself to believe that. It’s not arrogance to believe that you’re a good person and are beautiful…it’s developing self-confidence and self-esteem which is the BEST weapon in your arsenal against that shadow hunger we deal with. These things – self-esteem, self-love, and confidence – are the lights that you can carry with you to overcome that shadow hunger that can be detrimental to you by making healthier choices more difficult to implement.
Finally, treat yourself to some non-food delights. If you’re a person who finds comfort in aromatherapy, perhaps lighting a candle and treating yourself to a nice, warm, delightfully scented bubble bath would help you. Or some kind of body spray that gives you a sense of well-being. I have some perfume given to me by a great friend for my birthday…it’s a mixture of rose and honeysuckle scents (my personal favorites). I absolutely LOVE it! Scents can often help you to overcome that desire to eat due to the senses of smell and taste being so closely related. Maybe you’d like to take out some aggression and go on a paint-ball expedition, target shooting, archery practice, jogging, hiking, biking, or some other activity - which would also be fabulous choices to increase your activity for the day (another great choice for lifestyle change!). These are just some ideas that may help you with overcoming your shadow hunger.
All things considered, it’s normal that there will inevitably be instances in which you make a choice that ends in self-disappointment – we are human, after all – and this is absolutely normal. It’s what choices you make AFTER that one less healthy choice that makes or breaks the consistency of your lifestyle change choices. The key is to forgive yourself and move forward and remember that the power is within you to start making that next choice a healthy one. When you are working towards implementing permanent lifestyle changes, there will without doubt be those times that you do make those less healthy choices.
The key to overcoming punishing yourself for that occasional less healthy choice is to remember that YOU have the POWER to do it – to forgive yourself, pick up, and move on to make the next choice - a healthy one! It’s the power within you, which is going to be the best source of the bright, saving light to overcome those shadow hunger issues when they arise. Empower yourself and fight the good fight! We will overcome our eating issues and become the people we wish to be! Let’s get this party started!
Love and hugs to all! YOU CAN DO IT!!!