Don’t let pseudo-hunger masquerade as hunger

by September 14, 2014

When we fuel our car, we expect the fuel to last for a particular distance. If we get a low fuel signal prematurely, we will check if the indicator is malfunctioning.

We need to check similarly whenever we get an “I am hungry” signal between mealtimes. The hunger signal may be coming from not the depleted body but the tempted mind. The mind’s craving is a pseudo-hunger that masquerades as hunger.

The hunger signal may be coming from not the depleted body but the tempted mind.

Pseudo-hunger can mislead us because we want eating to be not just a filling activity but also a fulfilling activity. And there’s nothing wrong in wanting our food to taste good. We, unlike cars, are conscious, so we can’t equate our eating with putting the petrol pipe into a car’s fuel tank. Indeed, much of human culture centers on preparing, serving and savoring good food.

Nonetheless, pleasure is a supplementary purpose of eating – its primary purpose is nourishment. So, our pursuit of satisfaction in eating needs to be subordinated to or harmonized with nutrition. When we eat only to enjoy, we tend to eat too much or too opulently or too frequently, thereby disturbing the very bodily balance that eating was meant to restore.

What makes matters worse is the popular culture that aggressively glamorizes the taste of fast foods and other less-than-healthy eatables. Such ads aggravate the pseudo-hunger signals within us, eventually sentencing us to the increasingly widespread malaise of obesity and its associated health issues.

How can we unmask pseudo-hunger?

By its untimeliness and selectiveness.

Pseudo-hunger can be identified by its untimeliness and selectiveness.

If we feel hungry long before a mealtime, especially after we have eaten adequately at the previous meal and haven’t thereafter done anything unusually draining, then what is pushing us to grab a snack is pseudo-hunger. And if we feel pushed towards a pizza or a pakoda rather than just something to fill the stomach, then again the pusher is pseudo-hunger.

We can check our feelings better when we situate ourselves above them instead of being caught in their flow. The best way to raise ourselves above our feelings is by philosophical education and devotional meditation. Philosophical education helps us understand our actual identity as spiritual beings, souls, who exist above our bodily cars. And devotional meditation links us with God, Krishna, the reservoir of all happiness, and yields spiritual satisfaction, thereby making unhealthy bodily pleasures redundant.

Of course, education and meditation do much more than protect us from pseudo-hunger – they fulfill our heart’s hunger for lasting love by uniting us with the supremely loving and lovable person, Krishna. The Bhagavad-gita (06.17) declares that those who strive in their activities to be yukta (materially regulated and spiritually connected) eventually transcend all miseries.


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