I am almost finished with my Lenten sacrifice (only 15 days to go!) and I’m starting to feel hungry. Really, really hungry. But I don’t know if it’s a real, physical hunger or a psychological response to my self-denial. Either way, I’m hungry and I don’t like feeling hungry!
I stopped using my calorie counter a little over a week ago because it was making me crazy – and it was taking too much of my time. And that means that I don’t really know if my hunger is based on a lack of calories or not. I feel as if I’m eating enough calories (based on the number of times I put food in my mouth, not the satiation I feel) but I feel hungry; I feel unsatisfied.
My basic nutritional needs are being met, but I suppose that my body might be lacking in one or two vital nutrients which could be part of the cause of my hunger. As in, it’s not really hunger but a lack of something in my system that is screaming to be addressed.
But, more likely, it’s the greedy part of my system that wants the rubbish! After all, this is the longest I’ve gone (as an adult) without eating candy and/or salty snacks on a near-daily basis.
The worst part about this constant hunger is that I can’t concentrate and I’m finding myself getting irritated quite easily.
Of course, as I’m trying to relate my own complaints and worries to the suffering of others, I’m using this hunger as a time of reflection and understanding.
I’m trying to reflect on the fact that hunger changes our personality. It changes our abilities, our concentration, and even our priorities.
It’s something that I try to remember when I know those around me are hungry, but I know that they’re only hungry at that moment because it’s been a few hours since their last meal and they’re getting snippy because their body isn’t used to it.
But this – this – is something a little longer-lasting, and that is what I’m trying to reflect on.
I’ve been thinking about those who have a limited food supply; those who live in food deserts or those who don’t have a stable source of nutrition. I wonder if those people are experiencing this constant low-level hunger and if it impacts their world the way it impacts mine.
But then I stop and realise that those are silly things to wonder about because of course, I’m not experiencing the same impact. I mean, I have the psychological comfort of knowing that my hunger is my choice and that I can go and eat whatever I want, whenever I want. I have the comfort of knowing that this is only temporary; I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. And not having those basic securities must make hunger and its side effects even worse. (I am guessing on this, as I don’t have personal experience on the issue.)
I find myself wondering what role hunger plays in paying attention at school (or even getting in trouble at school!). I wonder what role it plays in job satisfaction, competence, or promotion. I wonder about the long- and short-term impact it has on personal relationships. And I wonder what I can do to ease the suffering of those who are hungry by circumstance and not a choice.
Sadly, I am not in a place to help those in need through financial means, but I am now looking into ways that I can help through other means.
This Lenten sacrifice has been quite the learning journey for me so far. With two weeks to go, I imagine there will be more lessons to come. And when Lent is over, I will reflect some more and I will hopefully have identified ways that I can help lessen the hunger happening right here in my own community.