What are you really hungry for?

by Ashley Solomon

Barring extremely unusual circumstances, around nine o’clock each night my mind starts wandering to what is, perhaps, my greatest edible weakness. Rich, creamy, and delicious, I am course referring to ice cream. Black raspberry chip, strawberry, vanilla drizzled with chocolate sauce… The list could go on endlessly, but I might faint if I proceed.

No one can dispute that ice cream is truly the great American dessert. Did you know that it was served by George Washington to his most distinguished guests? However, despite its absolute deliciousness and intriguing historical roots, ice cream is ice cream. It is food (well, sort of) and, at least physically, nothing more.

Despite common misconceptions, ice cream cannot, in fact, repair a broken heart or soothe a wounded ego or cure the common cold (though food scientists should really start working on this). It does not heal, no matter the power that we try to attribute to it.

I should know. I have many a time tried to mend my ailments, be they physical or emotional, with a big scoop, or two, of ice cream. And despite the few moments of being lost in the euphoria of a mammoth chocolate chip, I always end up feeling like the bowl… empty.

So after hearing a lecture by a well-known psychologist and reading a book on this idea (check out Appetites by Caroline Knapp), I began asking myself a simple question:

What are you really hungry for?

When I say that I ask myself this question, I don’t mean that I simply consider it in passing on my way to the freezer. Rather, I find a quiet spot, away from the television set, and sit with myself for a moment. I try to remove the distractions that prevent me from truly hearing my internal voice and ask myself, “What is it that you need right now?”

Amazingly, the answer, 99% of the time, is not in fact Rocky Road. For me, usually, it’s human connection. I find that when I’m longing for the richness of ice cream, or another dessert, I am often actually longing for the richness of relationship with others. I realize that I am missing my husband who has been working late or haven’t talked to my mom in, oh, 72 hours (yes, this would be a problem). Or maybe I am hungry for a sense of accomplishment or hungry for a change in my routine. Perhaps I desire an adventure or a sense of peace amid the chaos of my day. Or maybe I’m simply hungry for a good night’s sleep.

The point is that our physical hunger can quite often be a signal for a deeper hunger, one that we are trying subdue because it’s not quite as easy to fulfill as the desire for food. However, the deeper hunger is rarely satisfied by a temporary food-gasm. The deeper hunger requires a space that allows for introspection and a willingness to go excavating.

This is all not to say that one should avoid the foods we love to love. Heck no! In fact, it’s an invitation to enjoy your ice cream knowing that you are eating it because it brings you joy rather than shadowing a unmet need.

So, what are you really hungry for?

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7 Comments to “What are you really hungry for?”

  1. Love this topic! I definitely want to read that book. Congrats on the blog. Subscribing now.

  2. Im lovin the blog Ash. Keep em coming! I wish I read it before I ate the ears off my chocolate bunny (ok and part of the head too!). Love ya!

  3. Boy was that blog “food for thought”! I think anyone reading the blog will certainly see at least a bit of themselves in your words.

  4. Ashley this is a great blog!

  5. Ash, thanks for the reminder that it is a deeper hunger that can most often be overlooked. I’m not an ice cream fan, but have my favorite “go-to” foods and I realize that too many times I turn to those things in order to fill a need that, say, peanut butter simply can’t patch.

  6. Ash, you’re doing wonderful things here. I cannot wait until you can clear your busy schedule to come and talk with me on my show!

  7. Ashley! You are like my soul sister. 🙂 I love this post and agree that we are indeed on the same page. I’m so glad you visited my blog today and I’m excited to add you to my Google Reader!

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