My family goes on a big camping trip every year around my dad’s birthday in August. One year, my sister and brother-in-law offered to drive the 4 hours to the designated camp spot where my parents were already stationed. They picked me up in the early afternoon and we took off. We noted the tank was about half full and resisted the urge to fill it immediately since there were “hundreds” of gas station options on the way. We turtled our way out of Salt Lake valley and cruised on through Utah County. Those myriad gas stations passed in a blur as we chatted and snacked on peach rings and Red Vines. The last of civilization passed by as we drove through Nephi and moved into the great expanse of mountainous, tumbleweed-filled terrain. 

The ever-dropping gas gauge was barely in our consciousness until that moment when the ominous signal light came on with its accompanying “ting-ting”. You can imagine our alarm as we were literally miles and miles away from a gas station in either direction. My sister’s Toyota Corolla kept us sweating as we watched the estimated-miles-to-empty icon drop lower and lower. In our desperation, we turned off the radio and all temperature control to maybe preserve the small amount of gas still sloshing in the tank (clearly the radio was probably overkill, but very logical to us in our current state). After the mileage countdown dipped under 10, I hesitantly asked, “What happens when it hits 0?”. In somewhat worried sarcasm, my brother-in-law glanced at me and replied, “I guess we’re going to find out.” 

And so there we were, transfixed on the dashboard as the number fell … 4, 3, 2,…. Gulp …. 1, 0. Nothing happened. The car continued coasting forward and we kept praying with all our might that the estimation was just a scare-tactic and not an actual indication of our fuel levels. After what seemed like the longest ride of my life, the sprawling village of Scipio, Utah (population about 300) came into view. The relief that swept over us was immense. We immediately pulled into the first of 2 stations in the town and let the car guzzle all it would carry. We still revere Scipio as a place of refuge and sometimes follow the advice of my father to never let the gauge fall below halfway before filling up.

You may be wondering how this relates to the gift of hunger. EVERYTHING. Let me explain. 

  1. Just like the car, our bodies give us signals for when our energy is dropping. Some people feel hunger in their stomach. This might be described as discomfort, pain, emptiness, etc. Other people might recognize the signals of hunger more in their head (I fall here). This might be described as dizziness, discomfort, haziness, etc. Earlier signals may be less pronounced, but still recognizable – your brain thinking of food or the passage of time (aka it has been 4 hours since your last meal). 
  2. Sometimes we ignore our hunger. This could be due to a busy day, or maybe a lack of motivation to actually make some food. Our culture has often praised us for ignoring the signals, calling it “willpower” and “self-control”. Does anyone but myself see the flaw in this idea?
  3. The best way to combat hunger is … to eat! The car just needed to be filled to continue on. Hunger lets us know we are low in energy and need some fuel. That fuel comes in the form of food and drink for us humans. Just like our car never feels guilt for fueling, we also should not feel guilt for fueling. I have so much to say about this one … another time 🙂 
  4. How else can this metaphor relate? What do you think? 

Have you ever thought of hunger as a gift? It is. If you feel like your signals of hunger are suppressed, work on building that sensitivity. I can help you develop the skill of noticing and responding to body signals.