What does hunger feel like to you? Is it a gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach? Is it a discomfort accompanied by aggression or anger–“hangry”? If you were hungry, would you shove another person aside to get to food? If food ordered at a restaurant is taking longer than expected, do you make a scene?
The experience of hunger, of course, is necessary for survival. In some parts of the world, hunger is created by ineffective government or war. Hunger is used as a weapon in military and foreign policy. Hunger in this setting is not just a physiological impulse, but accompanied by feelings of desperation and helplessness. It’s something that mothers endure, often choosing to give the little food they have to their children and depriving themselves. It’s a physiologic need that can cause people to beg, steal, or murder.
Most of us in the Western world, of course, have not suffered the full intensity of this basic physiological signal and hunger is not as raw and desperate. It is nonetheless a powerful force. Even in a world of plentiful food, hunger can cause us to make unwise choices: eating at a fast food restaurant, choosing convenience and availability over health, hurling insults at waitstaff. It can also cause you to overeat, eating more than you require for sustenance.
I raise the issue of hunger because I believe that, in my own personal experience and in conversations with others, the physical experience of hunger seems to have been changed by the lifestyle we follow. Minus gliadin-derived appetite-stimulating opioid peptides, minus the rollercoaster of high/low blood sugars without the amylopectin A of grains, satiated by unrestricted intake of fats and oils, and higher levels of oxytocin that subdue appetite when L. reuteri is restored in the human gastrointestinal tract (a microbe harbored by virtually all primitive humans), I believe that the physical perception of hunger for us is entirely different. Personally, I find that hunger for me is not a gnawing feeling in the abdomen and is not accompanied by feelings of anger, aggression, or desperation. I find that I experience hunger as restlessness.
Minus modern and unnatural appetite triggers, it makes sense that hunger could be experienced as restlessness. After all, restlessness triggers activity that includes hunting and foraging for something to eat: grabbing a spear or ax to kill an animal, spear a fish, collect shellfish, dig in the dirt for roots and tubers, gather berries or edible plants. Restlessness generates action.
Restlessness is nothing like the hunger of the wheat/grain consumer. I cringe to remember the distinctly unpleasant experience of hunger during grain-consuming days, a discomfort that drives people to make unwise decisions. I hope you appreciate how this is yet another way in which living the Wheat Belly lifestyle free of all wheat and grains changes behavior, changes physiology, and even frees you from the tyranny of abnormal hunger signals.
Can you also appreciate why trying to lose weight by cutting calories is a recipe for misery, amplifying hunger signals until they drown out all other thoughts, making you obsess about food? Not only does cutting calories lead to gallbladder bile stasis and gallstones, but it is also an experience of desperate, gnawing, unrelenting hunger that breaks your will. If you, like me, experience hunger only as restlessness, you are freed from all the unpleasant feelings and impulses that accompany this basic need for sustenance.