I have a weird problem.
I don't get hungry. And I don't really love food. Don't get me wrong; there is a chocolate pie in the fridge with a significant dent in it that was mostly my doing. In general I still like desserts as much as the next guy, but regular meals are not very appealing right now. Food is just fuel, input and output, making sure I eat the right proteins and carbs to make it through the day. Meals are a chore. The problem is, I am almost never hungry.
Some of you will say, "I wish I didn't like to eat," but no, you don't. It's not helping me lose weight (not that I'm trying to lose weight, and please hear me say that none of this has anything whatsoever to do with weight. I'm not secretly hoping to magically shed baby pounds and pretend I don't know how it happened. Not at all. Let's be clear - I am not trying to diet). The same 20 lbs sitting on my hips when she was two weeks old are still firmly planted there two months later. And I'm nursing, right? Which means that I need somewhere around 2500 calories (and close to a gallon of water) a day in order to be able to adequately feed the baby. Miraculously - thankfully - Emmy is still eating just fine (and has gained five pounds in five weeks to prove it). But when I don't get the calories needed - which I rarely do, because I'm just not that hungry - the deficit becomes a serious drain on my energy and mood. I get woozy, light-headed, tired, grumpy. Queasy. And forcing myself to eat a big meal when I feel so bad just reinforces my disinterest in eating.
I've tried keeping nuts on the counter, I've tried peanut butter and crackers. I'm eating protein-rich breakfasts, I'm drinking almond milk (the vanilla is not so bad) and taking prenatal vitamins. I'm doing what I can, but it doesn't really change the fact that I am just not hungry.
A few nights ago, when I crashed (again - this has become somewhat predictable) onto the couch, praying not to throw up and forcing down a snack, the thought came to me that hunger is a gift. It tells you what you need, and knowing what you really need solves half of any problem, doesn't it? Right now my body is not telling me what I need until it's too late. As I ate, feeling moderately miserable, I prayed for the gift of hunger.
The next morning, I woke up starving.
An hour after breakfast I was hungry again. By eleven a.m. I'd had two snacks, and was looking forward to lunch. There still isn't much that tastes good, or makes me look forward to a meal, but for the first time in months, I am hungry again.
It's all had me thinking about spiritual hunger as well. I wonder what else I am lacking without realizing it. What other problems in my life are the result of not knowing what I need until it's too late? What spiritual weakness and lethargy is really just a result of not recognizing my need?
Spiritual hunger, too, is a gift. As we begin Lent, a time of reflection and sacrifice, I praying that I will recognize it.