Hi, there. Quick question for you: what’s the opposite of hungry?
If I had to guess, I’d say you answered “full.” At least, I did. And based on the little poll I just administered to family, friends, and a few hesitant but otherwise amiable strangers, a lot of us agree. Now, if I had to guess again, I’d say that you probably have a question of your own—so what? My point may not seem groundbreaking, but stick with me for a minute. Because the answer isn’t “full.” It’s “not hungry.” And that makes all the difference.
[Is your mind blown yet? If not, keep reading. If so, keep reading!]
I think we need to go back to the basics *whips out dictionary* to fully understand how (dare I say it) insightful a question about the opposite of hunger might be.
So let’s begin:
Hunger (n.) a feeling of discomfort or weakness caused by lack of food, coupled with the desire to eat*
Full (adj.) containing or holding as much as possible; having no empty space; having eaten or drunk to one’s limits (*The Oxford Dictionary)
Now, we’ve all felt hungry before. We’re not completely unfamiliar with that clawing feeling that comes from the pit beneath our lungs as our stomach muscles contract and bellow, “FOOD. NOW. WE WANT” (I imagine my stomach’s voice as that of a Neanderthal…just me?). But hey, I’m not complaining here. Hunger is good for us. It’s our very own “low battery” iPhone alert, our way of knowing when to replenish the fuel needed to sustain us.
I think it’s safe to say that we’re also not completely unfamiliar with the bloated feeling of being full after a meal. More than once have we undone our top buttons (maybe even while at the dinner table), and more than once have we uttered the words “food baby” (maybe even proudly) as a post-feast excuse. Obligatory food comas aside (Thanksgiving, Christmas, any time I go to Chipotle…), I still find my “full” self with a heavy stomach more often than not. And I wonder if that heaviness has to do with the fact that full doesn’t mean “replenished”; it means “filled to maximum capacity.” Yet our vocabulary regarding eating really only gives us two options to describe how we feel—either craving food or completely stuffed with it. No wonder we feel pushed out and heavy!
But we needn’t feel that way. Because if we created the hungry/full dichotomy (which we did), we can break, and remake, it. No longer does “full” need to be the gold standard for replenishment, nor does it have to be the goal we strive for. How would it feel to eat until we are no longer hungry, rather than until we are full? And why have I only just realized this distinction??
When the fragments of the bomb that has just exploded in my mind settle, maybe this won’t seem earth shattering. But I can tell you one thing: it affirms my belief in the power of words. As silly as this example may be, it demonstrates how language doesn’t just communicate thought. It determines it. Language creates and shapes the realities we live in (and, in this case, the way we think about eating). And WE—you and I and the grown-up man who is currently picking his nose at the table across from me—create the language that creates and shapes the realities we live in.
If THAT doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t think I’ll be able to. But because I’m a nasty little paranomastic devil who groans at puns and riddles, but secretly loves them, I’ll try one last time to bomb your brain with a little food for thought: the Buddhist saying goes, “we are our thoughts and we become what we think.” If this is true, and our thoughts are driven by our words, and what we say informs how we eat, then maybe, just maybe, we really are what we eat.
Boom goes that dynamite.