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Can I learn from being hungry?

Do you want to eat, or to stop the hunger? There is an important distinction between these desires. Most of the times we eat, we're not actually hungry. We eat because it's our regular meal time or because we associate eating with a given activity (``It just isn't a movie without the popcorn''). We eat because it's part of social ritual, or a respite from the press of events. Any why not? Eating is one of the most physically enjoyable things you can do in public.

Hunger is something very different. Hunger is a command, not a request. Hunger is looking at your dog curled up sleeping on the rug and thinking, ``I wonder how much meat there is beneath all that fur?'' True hunger, although part of the daily life of billions of people on this planet, is rare in Western industrialised countries except among the very poor and those engaged in dieting. One thing you learn from the worst moments in a diet is what hunger really is. Not only does it help one appreciate the suffering of those deprived of food by circumstances rather than choice, it also teaches an important lesson about why we eat.

After you've truly experienced hunger once or twice in the course of a diet, you realise that most of the times people say, ``I'm really hungry'' they're nothing of the sort. In all likelihood they're motivated to eat by something entirely distinct from hunger. Getting to know hunger first hand teaches you how unrelated the motivation to eat is from your need for calories and how important it is, therefore, to control what you eat by some means other than instinct.

By John Walker