“The danger is not that the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but that, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry.” ~Simone Weil
For most of my life, I was hungry all the time. My belly only ever felt full for a few precious seconds while eating the last few bites on my plate.
One night after having dinner with friends, we stood outside the restaurant on the sidewalk, chatting and saying our goodbyes. I launched into an enthusiastic description of the next restaurant where we should eat, how fantastic their desserts were, what tasty little appetizers they served…
“How can you talk about food right now?” my friend Pete laughed. “I’m stuffed full!”
He held onto his stomach like it might burst open.
“I don’t know,” I stammered. “I’m still kinda hungry, I guess.”
Avoiding his glance, I stared down at the cracks in the sidewalk. In that moment I realized that even with all the yummy Ethiopian food we’d consumed over the last hour or so, some corner of my belly still wanted more. Even worse, I realized I could sit right down and eat the entire meal over again, from start to finish.
Later at home, when the initial feeling of shame passed, a sense of amazement crept over me. Pete was genuinely full—in fact, he was surprised I wasn’t!
He didn’t feel hungry all the time, especially not right after a meal. Did this mean that the bottomless hunger I felt wasn’t the human condition after all? Could I sit down at a meal and push away my plate, full and satisfied, without the wish that I could just repeat the whole experience of eating over again?
I could, but only after I figured out that I wasn’t only hungry for food. I was hungry for enjoyment and satisfaction, and not just in my belly, but in my whole life.
Somewhere as a kid, between dressing Barbie for her date with Ken and going on my first diet, I lost track of the idea that I was allowed to enjoy my body, my food, and just being alive. I decided that always feeling hungry and vaguely dissatisfied was part of growing up.
But thanks to Pete, once I knew that everyone wasn’t always hungry, there was no going back. I had to learn the bigger lesson—that hunger isn’t simply about filling our bellies (though feeling physically contented matters), but about something deeper: a hunger for connection, enjoyment, and love.
From my own experience of learning to feel full, body and heart, here are five ways to satisfy your inner hunger.
1. Get to know your hungers.
Make a list of what you are hungry for. Start with food, but then ask yourself, “What am I hungry for that isn’t food?” Make a list of all the things your mind, heart, and body crave.
On my list you can find things like: Spend time outside. Do yoga. Share with friends. Listen to music.
Give yourself the things that nourish you as often as possible. Then pause and notice when you feel full and satisfied after enjoying them. Look for even small moments when you feel full and let yourself take in that feeling of satisfaction.
2. Give yourself permission to enjoy beauty in the world.
Watch the colors shift with the sunrise, pause and take in how the evening sunlight illuminates the rose petals. Invite in art, photography, textures, water, whatever provides nourishing food for your eyes and heart.
What do you find genuinely, satisfyingly beautiful? Make a point of offering yourself beauty and take it in as fully as possible. Breathe with it and let it fill you.
3. Honor your need for connection.
One of our most basic human hungers is for connection with each other. We sometimes feel shame about how much we need reassurance, love, and recognition from each other.
What are you hungry for in your relationships? Notice if you are receiving enough sweetness, laughter, touch, and intimacy. Look for opportunities to consciously ask for and receive fulfillment of those needs.
4. Feed yourself love.
Without realizing it, many of us are starving for self-love. When we criticize and judge ourselves, we place ourselves outside the realm of worthiness. We say things to ourselves that if someone else said, we would remark on what a jerk they were and never speak to them again.
Notice when you’re being hard on yourself, and then try the following practice. When my thoughts turn in the direction of, “What’s wrong with me? I’ll never get this right,” I place a hand over my heart and repeat to myself phrases of loving kindness: “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be full of peace.”
I find the repeated phrases help to reset my brain in the direction of friendliness toward myself instead of self-criticism and let me relax into self-soothing. Try it and see if you can use these simple phrases to shift your own negative default patterns.
5. Let every meal be an opportunity to savor and enjoy your food.
I’ve found fullness is as much about how I eat as what I eat.
They say that we actually absorb more nutrients and feel more satisfied when we fully enjoy our meals. Try to sit down and savor at least one meal every day. Look at the variety of colors, smell the scents, taste all the flavors, and close your eyes and let yourself make sounds of satisfaction.
Take in as much obvious and authentic pleasure as you can and see how it affects your satiety. Even pause for a moment before or while you eat and offer yourself this simple blessing: “May I feel full. May my body feel full. May all bodies everywhere feel full.”
My wish for you is this: May you use these steps to help feel full in every aspect of your life.