Appreciating my appetite

Many moons ago, I explored acupuncture, hoping to have an answer to my weight problem, allergies and stress. Before my first session, I remember the acupuncturist was very interested in my appetite. I answered like I usually do when someone asks me how my appetite is, “It’s big.” What the acupuncturist said next surprised me. She said I should be grateful for a good appetite, because many people struggle to eat on a daily basis. That blew my mind. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve ever experienced a bad appetite, and now, one of my telltale signs of being too stressed is when I’m not thinking about what I’m going to eat next. There’s the type of stress that makes me want to cram everything crunchy into my mouth, and then, when I get really spastic, I don’t want anything to do with food. Thankfully that doesn’t happen too often anymore now that I’m learning stress management techniques in therapy, but isn’t it interesting that an appetite is actually something to be grateful for? You could have a lack of appetite from illness, or just never really be hungry. I can’t imagine it!

One of my coworkers once told me if there was a pill he could take instead of having to eat three square meals, he’d do it in a heartbeat. He found the whole act of eating annoying — the cost, the preparation, the time factor, the having to chew it. When he said that I was shocked, because I find unreasonable joy in food — the preparation, the smells, the tastes, the textures, the social aspect. In fact, one of the positive parts of the detox was that I cooked a lot, roasting vegetables, pureeing fruits, experimenting with new squashes. I love food, beyond just the taste and the fact that it fuels me, but how it’s a hobby, a learning experience and a form of medicine.

My husband has a healthy appetite, I’d say, but it’s nowhere near as robust as mine. I’m usually the one finishing my meal at restaurants when he diligently takes home half. My mother is the same way; she can out eat most grown men any day of the week. I’ve moved past the shame factor of having a big appetite because there’s really nothing to be ashamed about, as long as you stop when you’re full and eat things of reasonable nutritional value. However, my big challenge is always “Am I finishing this because I’m still hungry, or am I finishing it because I feel like I should?” It’s these things that are important to realize about appetite, learning how to fine-tune it to keep it in control, to acknowledge the differences between hunger and emotional eating. It’s an art I’m still working on.

How would you rate your appetite — big, small, non-existent? Do you see what I mean about learning to appreciate your appetite?