Fear of hunger

By , March 25, 2013 6:13 am

WARNING! This post may be very triggering as it talks about purposefully trying to reconnect with the feeling of hunger. Please skip this post if you need to!

I’ve been wanting to write a post about my strange fear of hunger, and how it makes me act, for awhile. I swore I started a draft of this a long time ago. Instead, I found an actual published post – “The first time I discovered hunger” (from November 12, 2008). Geesh. That was raw. And… it pretty much all still applies. Damn. Don’t you love it when you go back in your blog archives and realize you are still struggling with the same damn crap?!*

I did find a draft post (from July 23, 2009) about how I was trying intuitive eating. That never got published, because it didn’t work for me. But there was a cute picture of me in the post, to which I had said “the only time I am not eating is when I am sleeping.” Ha ha ha.

image:Young Kim asleep with PB sandwich in her hand

Anyway. I’ve felt hesitant writing about this, as I have never experienced real starvation or hunger, and don’t want to offend anyone who has. But I feel like I need to get this out there, because maybe someone can relate!

So, are you the type of person who packs snacks for work, road trips, flights, etc. –  the type of person who always has a snack in their bag or in the car? OR! Do you fly by the seat your pants and just pick up things as you go… or maybe wait to eat when you get home?

Just as I am an over planner, I am over prepared. I always have a snack on me, or near me. My thought logic is that I don’t want to become hungry and be caught with something “unhealthy” or not have any vegan options.

But you know what happens? When I get the tiniest tingling of hunger (and usually it’s mental, not even something I feel in my stomach), I consume all the snacks. Then, I am left with no snacks. So I go buy the unhealthy things anyway. And nom nom nom away.


  • I pack homemade trail mix for a flight. It’s all I can think about on the flight, so the moment I feel any hunger, I dig in.
  • I have a “just in case” LUNA bar in the car. I get a slight hunger on a longish drive and eat it.
  • I have a snack drawer at work. Sigh – who else has the snack drawer? When I feel anxious at work, I dig in (after telling myself I am hungry).
  • I go to the city to hangout and pack a bunch of things to eat throughout the day… and find myself eating them to prevent hunger.

So in all cases, I justify my snacking by telling myself I am preventing hunger. But… I never got hungry. So what is with the need to constantly feel satiated? What kind of weird, messed up privilege is that?!

Mica and I have been talking about this, and I think she summed it up well:

It’s such a weird thing. It’s not like I’m afraid in the way that I’m afraid of plane crashes, but I definitely feel a strong compulsion to avoid hunger. And then when I work through my hunger or manage to make it to dinner without snacking a lot, I think, “Hmm, that wasn’t so bad.” But in the moment, I feel SO DESPERATE.

So why is hunger so bad? Why are we so desperate NOT to feel it?

And not to be disordered about that. We should NOT starve ourselves. But, there have been months where I have gone without EVER feeling hungry. Because I am constantly putting food in my mouth. What am I so afraid of? A slight hunger headache? Would it be bad to feel that?

Earlier this year I tried to quit overeating so much, and ended up feeling hunger. I would get to the end of a run and feel famished. I did need that LUNA bar in the car. I did need those snacks then.

I’ve started feeling hungry for lunch and dinner again (my stomach actually makes noises!). I started enjoying food more. It was weird, what a little true hunger could do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle not to eat ALL THE SNACKS to prevent hunger, still!

See, it feels so odd writing this, because a lot of people struggle with under-eating and not purposefully being hungry all the time. And I don’t mean to be insensitive to that either. I guess wanted to share this weird thing I am trying to stop.

*I felt bad about that for a minute. Then stopped. I am pretty easy going on myself.

49 Responses to “Fear of hunger”

  1. Jackie says:

    I struggle in a similar way but I think I do need to eat at least a little bit often or I feel as though I may pass out. I need to eat with all the training I do but sometimes I eat too much and when I’m not really hungry. Thus why I’m not stick thin. Ive tested the waters when it comes to fueling during training and I think I know what I can or cannot tolerate in terms of calories. In the end though a lot of times what we put in our mouths is less about what we need and more about what we “lack” or struggle with emotionally … Don’t think because I may be thin it’s any easier for me.

    • kilax says:

      Sorry! I must not have been clear. I am definitely not encouraging anyone to get to the point where they feel they may pass out. For me though, I have to find hunger again and realize I don’t need to constantly be stuffing my face to avoid it (for emotional reasons, as you said).

      And sadly, I think a lot of people struggle with food, no matter what their body composition is like. I don’t assume “thin” people have it easy. I sadly assume most of us have food issues and hope to learn from the people who don’t!

  2. Marcia says:

    I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now in terms of my kids. Raising them it seems to be the culture to pack snacks, sippy cups and feed them in the car no matter how short the car trip is. Like God forbid they go without food or a snack. Back in the day, there were no travel cups, etc. people overall were not as fat. I think you’re definitely onto something.

    • kilax says:

      Ahh, yes! Thank you for bringing that up! Have you written about that before, or did I read that somewhere? That is so dang true!

  3. Heather says:

    Gosh, we sound like the same person. If the snacks are available, I eat them. Almost in preparation for the hunger. I don’t know why. But I’m trying to be more mindful of what I’m eating and it seems to be helping!

  4. Kandi says:

    I’m not much of a snacker and I don’t usually think to pack snacks (unless I’m doing something where I know I’ll get hungry like kayaking, hiking, etc. and won’t have access to anything for a long period of time). My BFF always packs snacks or picks some up at a gas station whenever we are doing long (over 2 hours) car rides. I will sometimes have a little snack if other people are but it isn’t usually necessary for me. Marcia’s point of having kids in the car with snacks is interesting for sure. My parents rarely (if ever) gave us snacks outside of the house so maybe that’s helped me?
    Snacking aside, I rarely would feel the type of hunger you are talking about. Maybe a little bit before I’d eat my breakfast in the morning. Now that I’m eating healthier (and healthier portions), I have noticed that I get a bit of hunger before each of my meals and I actually look forward to eating more than I used to.
    Interesting topic. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I struggle with this too to the point where I no longer pack snacks or keep a snack drawer at the office. If it’s there, I’ll want to eat it and even if I don’t, it’ll stress me out all day knowing that food is there and I could have it. This is still problematic though because I’ll have days that I don’t pack enough for lunch and actually need a snack and by the time I get home I’m hangry and ready to eat all the foods.

    For me, I think it’s a reaction to a time when I was under eating and hungry all the time.. my body doesn’t want to go back to that place and I totally get that but it’s still incredibly frustrating. Even more so because I know what my problem is but it doesn’t stop me from reacting in the moment.

    • kilax says:

      Reacting in the moment is what I struggle with SO MUCH. It’s like the logical portion of my brain is just gone and all I can do is act on instinct. I hate that. I want to learn something habitual to knock that out, but I cannot figure it out!

    • Maggie says:

      I know that I can survive the workday with just my oatmeal for breakfast and whatever I have for lunch. So I resist buying other snacks for the office because I know I don’t need them. Or, I only keep stuff in my desk that I don’t really like (these oatmeal squares) so if I’m stuck working late or something, I at least have something to tide me over. But since I don’t really like it, I won’t be tempted to eat it.

  6. diane says:

    I’m not going to pretend to have any tips or advice, or even imply that I have the same situation.
    For me, I keep the snacks because I am one of those people who gets really, really unpleasant when my blood sugar drops significantly. Mentally, I try to parse out 5-6 small meals not over 300 calories, but if I were successful at that I wouldn’t be in a situation now of needing to lose weight. 😉
    I do know I’m an anxious snacker. So yes, the snack drawer at work and the emergency peanuts will get eaten for other reasons. Lately I’ve been noshing on a lot of popcorn, which I know is not a great snack but for satisfying the mindless, anxious munching it works really well without TOO many calories. 🙂

  7. Losing Lindy says:

    I used to carry snacks for V, but when he started Kindegarten I stopped. I do send a snack for him for school, and I do send an applesauce pouch in case he needs a snack in the afternoon. The snacks I send are healthy, normally fruit of some sort.

  8. Xaarlin says:

    I can relate to this on so many levels. Was having a similar conversation on Saturday with a friend. She watched “fat sick and nearly dead” and ended up buying a juicer and went on a juice fast/cleanse whatever for a week. This relates to your post because she was always stuffing her face with food even when she wasn’t hungry. I do the same thing. I haven’t seen the movie yet- but will make it my homework this week. She told me the self control, feeling of hunger but not being famished is something she hasn’t felt in a long time until only living on fresh juices for a week. I haven’t either. I’m either stuffed to the gills or not hungry. I rarely feel hungry. But with te juicing of fresh veggies/fruits she is feeling more in control of eating. She obviously won’t continue only juicing for months or even weeks (without real food) but eating less has helped her gain a better perspective on food. We just simply eat too much and have unhealthy relationships with it. I eat out of boredom and have a snack pantry in my filing cabinet in my office. Portion sizes are out of control and ill eat my plate of food and yours too. I have no filter. Sorry if this comment makes no sense or isn’t coherent.. I have too many thoughts about this going through my head, and it’s early…

    • kilax says:

      Ahh, that is really interesting. And one of the only actually healthy ways I have heard of the juice fast being used. LOL. (sorry, I know someone who did it for 2 mos to lose a ton of weight and it just seemed… like a bad idea).

      But yes! Stuffed to the gills or not hungry. That is how I am too 🙁 Trying so hard to feel hunger again!

  9. Jean says:

    Ha ha, I’m a packer-snacker too! I have the snack drawer at work and usually something in my bag. It has worked out for me before. When I was preggo with my son I got stuck on an airplane for an additional 2 hours and was so glad I had a bag full of snacks. Actually, the passenger in front of me with Diabetes was also glad I had a bag full of granola bars and was willing to share! 🙂 So I guess it’s not always a bad thing to be prepared.

    • kilax says:

      See! Snacks are good, too! Especially on an airplane. Just as long as you don’t eat them just because “they’re there” like I do. LOL.

  10. kelsey says:

    oh lord. is hunger not the scariest thing? why are we so scared of it?? growing up my family centered EVERYTHING around meal times. the second breakfast was consumed they were already planning for lunch. i’ve gotten better at trying not to let my life revolve around my meal times but the second i go home it’s all the same.

    i don’t really snack-like ever, it just stresses me out having to worry about food between meals so i try to just not have snacks available

    • Kandi says:

      This is interesting because my dad always seems to be thinking about his next meal as soon as he’s done eating one. I can be exactly the same way though. My mom laughs at us because when we are together it is all about what our next meal will be.

    • This is quite familiar to me. Again, I never went without ever as a kid, but we were a very food-centric family. We had a chocolate drawer and made food together just because. Actually, it’s still something I have to keep in check at their house because there’s so much delicious food I can’t keep in the house because I go all EAT ALL THE FOODS on them.

  11. J says:

    I know the feeling of hunger and the feeling of eating too much. For me, I feel like keeping my self control and not eating too much is a constant battle. I feel like since I am skinny people thing I don’t deal with food issues but I think we all do. I would love to eat everything I want all the time but the feeling of being full is just not fun for me, so I have learned to avoid it. Something I have found is that when I distract myself and stay busy I tend to not think about food. Its only when I am bored that I become obsessed about food. It may seen weird, but having the hunger pain is what I strive for because its a reminder that I am not eating too much. If I wake up hungry (not like famished but enough to want a good breakfast) then I know I ate correctly the night before. Its all about finding what works for you. When I wake up and I am not hungry or I am not hungry for dinner because i ate too much at lunch, I hate feeling like that. I hate feeling full and uncomfortable so I try to avoid it all the time. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel full and uncomfortable but its a reminder that I ate too much. I am not going to pretend that I know everything about this subject or know how to fix things. But to me from what you wrote (And from your other post) it seems that your snacking is related to boredom and unhappy/happy. I feel like if you can find what causes you to snack and why then its a step in the right direction.

    • kilax says:

      Yes! It is related to boredom and unhappiness. 🙂 You got that right about me. So thanks for reminding me to work on that. I have been working on distractions.

      I strive to feel hungry when I wake up too. Every day. And for meals, if I can. I don’t think that is a weird goal at all.

  12. Meghan says:

    I find myself having a physical reaction when I don’t eat regularly. I get so tired and irritable, so I have become the queen of snack-packing. Granted, they are all healthy, but I have to have them on hand at all times. I will say that I’ve become far less hungry during the day now that my co-workers and I are part of a salad club, but I tend to thrive on several smaller meals throughout the day, as opposed to larger ones.

  13. There’s so much of this that resonates with me, specifically the idea of packing food in case I got hungry, then eating it because it’s all I can think about. I’m with this with leftovers or treats. I don’t know if it’s because I’m selfish and want to eat it before someone else does? I don’t know, but I totally get obsessive about anything I stash for later. I probably pack and snack too much, but I’m trying to make better snack choices and be OK with being mildly hungry because it’s not going to hurt me (it might hurt my coworkers, though, because I get hangry).

    • kilax says:

      LOL about it hurting other people! I totally get hangry too. And obsess over the snacks I brought. Good for you for packing better choices! I feel much better eating an orange mindlessly, than some other things 😉

  14. I am very much the same way. I pack a ton of snacks for a three-hour car trip and then eat them in the first hour. I have a snack drawer at work plus bring snacks to the office, which normally get eaten before lunch. I am often eating because it’s there or I want it – not because I’m hungry. And, the most terrible thing is that I’m cognizant of the fact that I’m eating to eat. (today was a particularly bad day). I sometimes trick myself into being hungry because I ran x miles or did x workout but running 4 miles does not require a bagel.

  15. When I get hungry, I get nauseous, then I get angry. Then …… just get out of the way. I do keep a lot of snacks around and I always eat them before I need them. I’m horrible at overeating. Now, if pregnant, multiply these feelings by a zillion. Hungry preggo women are MEAN. Take note.

  16. Kristina says:

    Michael works from home and he often forgets to eat – I can’t fathom EVER forgetting to eat.

    I hate that I am really weirdly possessive and anxious and controlling about food and, even if I’m not hungry, if I don’t KNOW that there is something that I can eat, then I feel anxious. Just the other night, Michael ate a piece of leftover pizza, and when I noticed that it was gone, I kind flipped out. Yes, I’m totally crazy.

    I do take snacks to work, but I take them on a daily basis and am very aware of when I eat them and that I *need* to eat something at a certain time to make it through the next few classes. Someone I work with keeps tons of candy in her office, and that would never, ever work for me.

    • kilax says:

      You are not totally crazy. We actually have a rule in our house about who gets the last of something, to avoid that happening. 😉

      I cannot be near an open candy jar (unless it’s non vegan stuff, then I am totally fine).

  17. jan says:

    I have anxiety about being hungry and not being able to find or get to food. I would not say I have an unhealthy relationship with food; I’ve never been overweight, but I do NOT like being in situations where there might not be food. For example, if I go to a training that is away from work, I always bring a snack just in case. I usually eat it. I also have a snack area at work. I really think it’s more of an anxiety/control thing, at least for me. Food does taste better when you get truly hungry, but then I feel like I want to eat more and I get overfull. I hate that full feeling.

    • kilax says:

      Oh gosh! Yes! Training is a good example. Or all day meetings? I hate it when i am stuck somewhere, w/o food and especially w/o water!

      And I agree that food does taste better when you are hungry 🙂

  18. Mica says:

    Even though we’ve talked about this, it didn’t occur to me that I might be eating the snacks because I planned to eat them, especially on road trips or flights. (Or really, any day.) Like, if I didn’t bring the snack, would I still feel so “desperately” hungry if it weren’t in the back of my mind? Probably not, at least some of the time!

  19. Valerie says:

    I’m with ya! I have a snack drawer at work and always carry something with me just in case. If I get too hungry, I get all light headed and it’s no fun so I try to keep something with me…the trick is knowing when I’m bored versus truly hungry. It’s tough!

  20. I totally overplan my meals. However, lately I’ve been trying to learn to listen to my body. One thing I’ve learned through IE is to ask myself if I’m really hungry. Also, sometimes knowing that food will be there when I need it and nothing is off limits is enough for me to realize I’m not hungry.

  21. Brittani says:

    Don’t feel bad for a second for writing this! Intuitive eating is a hard thing to get in the groove of, especially when you’re active and need constant sustenance to provide energy. I tend to pack a lot of snacks for the day as well, but will leave them in my car so that I’m forced to make an effort to grab them. That way, if I’m really hungry enough, I’ll make a run for it.

  22. Anne says:

    I already told you that I can relate to a lot of this, so keeping this short (for me). But to follow-up, I had a bag of 3 small granola bars in my purse all night, and predictably, I ate them all on the way home. I almost always eat when I drive home after running with you, so it was kind of force of habit and I knew they were there so I had to have them. But also, obviously I was still hungry after that 900 calorie burn!

  23. Steph says:

    Wow, yes. If I get hungry at work, it’s very distracting, so I have a snack drawer in my desk, plus I bring of bunch of extra snacks in my lunch every day (mostly things like clementines, apples, celery). I snack *constantly*. And when I have any sort of dessert item (chocolate, granola bar, luna bar, whatever) it’s all I can think about all morning until I finally give in and eat it. I really need to break myself of this habit.

  24. I def know where you’re coming from. Before I would pack so much food (since I was gone from 6am to 6pm) in my bag.. I would get a little hungry, so I would eat a snack.

    But now I still pack “just enough” snacks. I log what I pack first thing in the morning, just to make sure I still have enough calories to spend on a good dinner.
    If I get a little hungry.. I know I only brought just enough food.. so I hold on for a bit until I get hungrier. Then if my stomach starts growling, I indulge lol Since I’m conscious of the amount of food I brought, I am careful not to eat it all before lunch since I want to avoid the vending machine as much as possible. Thanks for posting this! It definitely helps me feel like im not alone on this whole hunger thing lol
    baby steps 🙂

    • kilax says:

      I really try to avoid calorie counting because it makes me so… obsessive, but I think that might be a good idea for me – to add up what I am bringing and only bring that amount! Thanks for the idea!

      You are not alone AT. ALL!!! 🙂

      Hope you are recovering well from LA! 🙂

      • Luz says:

        Yeah.. I’m obsessive sometimes haha.

        YES! I’m not quite ready to jump on the running wagon yet. My knees took a beating lol

  25. Erin says:

    Hmm, this is an interesting post! I sort of have a schedule I stick to but sometimes I find that I’m just eating something because it’s “time” not because I’m actually hungry. And I’ve totally done the same thing of eating all my snacks while traveling even when I’m not hungry. In the car and on planes I totally eat out of boredom! So, I’ve gotten to the point where I just don’t bring that stuff and only buy it if I’m desperate. I hate spending money on food when I know it’s not necessary so that keeps me in check.

  26. Gingerfoxxx says:

    You were an adorable child! I think it is specifically an American thing to be afraid of hunger. Maybe its a backlash from the great depression? I just remember my Grandma being terrified of not having enough food, and in contrast always having too much. Same with my mom! Unfortunately, i lack your organization and preparation, and end up ravenous all too frequently. I don’t think it scares me though, it just makes me a little ragey….

    • kilax says:

      Aww, thank you 🙂

      OMG, yes! Why didn’t I think of that! Ha ha. We have definitely had people in my family who were HUGE food pushers and hoarders, and that is probably why!

  27. Stephany says:

    This is such an interesting post! I was reading the posts of a blogger who used to be anorexic and how she finds hunger pains to be a comfort for her. It was just really eye-opening for me because I’m the opposite. I feel SO uncomfortable when I’m hungry and I do everything I can do avoid it. And I think constantly about what I’m reading. I mean, it’s 11:30 in the morning and I’ve been thinking about what I’m having for dinner for hours! That’s not normal!! I really understand you with this post. I’m not sure why the big need to never feel hunger and stuff ourselves silly to avoid it but it’s definitely an American thing, I think. I just hate feeling light-headed and dizzy from being hungry!

    • kilax says:

      Thanks 🙂

      I am more like you, but know people who have struggled with anorexia in the past do find it comforting or, to have a goal to feel that way. Where is our happy medium? 😉

  28. Hi! I stumbled upon your blog through my friend Mica’s blog…I feel the same way about hunger. I don’t fear not having food because I can eat anything and I know there’s always a gas station or something nearby if I am famished…however, I have a fear of being undernourished when going on a run or to the gym, or anywhere I’m working out that’s not at my home. I think this is because a few years ago I switched up my workout one day and did it in the morning. I usually don’t eat breakfast, forgot to eat, have a issue with sugar (like I need it to work out) and almost went into insulin shock. So scary. I was okay after some orange juice though! Have you had any experiences like that? Maybe that’s why you’re worried about being hungry? I know if I get hungry in the middle of a workout class, I get anxiety about that insulin shock moment. Also, I see you’re a vegan, so I definitely think that maybe only eating vegan limits choices.

    • kilax says:

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! 🙂

      It is scary to be working out and feel like you might be dangerously low on glucose! I have definitely had workouts where I felt like I didn’t fuel properly, but luckily, none where I went in to insulin shock. Scary!

      For me, the fear of hunger thing is more a lame fear of the slight discomfort I might have if I don’t eat the moment I feel hungry.

      I don’t feel very limited, eating vegan. Just eating healthy, while eating vegan, sometimes, depending on where I am. 😉

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