Heartbreak and Hunger
I sat down to journal this morning, like I always do. I'm a creature of habit. I wake up at 6am, go to the gym, show up at the same coffee shop, and journal at 8am, nearly every single day. I almost feel like I'm comedically regimented to the baristas. Typically, I'm practicing intermittent fasting each morning too, and am generally about 12 hours fasted by the time I get to the coffee shop.
Today, for some reason, I sat down to journal, and I was outrageously hungry. I am never hungry at 8am. But this morning, I was. Attempting to ignore it, I sat down to write. The last month of my life has been quite emotional, and the last week has been the most emotional of the last 4. Sorting out my thoughts is a pretty good way to alleviate emotional pain. It wasn't working this morning. I was sad. No way around it. Heartbroken, and Hungry.
I remembered watching a YouTube video recently about intermittent fasting, and the science behind it. The narrator eventually started describing the hormone Ghrelin, otherwise known as The Hunger Hormone. Ghrelin is responsible for making you feel hungry. It's the grumbling in your tummy. So when you eat, Ghrelin is then responsible for holding on to what you eat, and converting it to fat storage. But it also stimulates human growth hormone. Human growth hormone breaks down fat, and coverts it to muscle build up.
Interesting, huh? Hunger stimulates growth.
Ghrelin was a survival tool - a friend. Back when we humans didn't have fast food drive thru's, and food was scarce, it made sense that your body would hold on to fat for energy. Today, food is so abundant, Ghrelin is more like the enemy to our dreams of having super sexy bodies. But still, it does, when not fed, produce human growth hormone... I promise I'm about to get to how this applies to heartbreak.
Have you ever been absolutely out of your mind hungry, but been stuck in class or a meeting? Two hours, and no food later, you're surprisingly un-hungry. That's how Ghrelin works. Ghrelin levels spike, make you profoundly uncomfortable, and then the levels plummet, and you're seemingly fine. In fact, unfed Ghrelin turns into human growth hormone, which breaks down fat, and turns it into muscle. So not only are you fine, you're getting stronger! Turns out, people who eat less (often) experience less hunger over time. It's odd.
So how does this apply to heartbreak? I like to think about all the memories and pangs of regret that come with a heartbreak as emotional Ghrelin. They're inevitable. Your body produces them involuntarily, so there's no use in wishing them away. They're severely uncomfortable too. But just like Ghrelin, over the long haul, if you continue to feed them, they continue to spike. Just like fed Ghrelin, fed regrets store up as emotional fat for later. And just like Ghrelin, those who indulge and feed on emotional pain over and over again get hungry more often than those who restrain.
Conversely, unfed Ghrelin turns to strength. I believe unfed pain also turns to strength. No, I do not mean ignoring your pain. Hunger will not be ignored, and neither will pain. Don't try it. But what if you made a practice of emotional fasting? What if when the sudden spike of emotional Ghrelin hits you, instead of running to a friend to talk about it, or creeping on the Instagram of the person you miss, or indulging in snacks of what if's in your head, you simply sat still and waited? What if you just let yourself hurt?... Be hungry for a moment. Don't act. I believe this practice turns emotional Ghrelin into emotional human growth hormone. And I believe you would be shocked at the decreased levels of hunger over time.
I understand the desire to eat. Indulging is nice. Social media is fast food for the heart. It's a quick fix - a quick way to feel close, or to feel like you could take action and fix everything. But we all know it isn't good for us. Let yourself be hungry every once in a while. Watch how you grow from it. Be still.