What is hunger?

I remember the car ride. I was 15 and riding shot gun, my mom was driving. I had just started my treatment for Addison’s disease. It was actually my first day on my new medicine.

“Mom... uh... my stomach feels funny."

“Funny like you feel sick? Or, what do you mean by funny?” My stomach then growled. “Amber, are you hungry?”

“I... uh... yes, I think I am hungry.” 

I had never spoken those words before. I had never experienced hunger before. Prior to my diagnosis, we thought I had hypoglycemia. I ate according to a schedule. Every two hours, I had a small snack. Doughnuts would make me sick if I didn’t eat them with a handful of sunflower seeds. If I didn’t eat, I would get angry, and then emotional, and then really shaky, and then nauseated, and then unbelievably tired and confused. I ate a small snack every two hours to avoid that. I did not eat because I was hungry, I ate to avoid getting confused.

So here I am, riding in the car, experiencing this new sensation. “Mom, I’ve never felt this before... I’ve never felt hungry before...” My mom was rendered speechless. Her 15 year old daughter was experiencing something so basic to human existence for the first time.

It was odd learning about an apetite. Most people have many more years of experience than I do. Am I truly hungry? Am I thirsty? What does being full feel like?

Now that I know what an appetite is, I can use my appetite to judge how healthy I am. If all of a sudden I am never hungry, something is wrong. I might need to increase my cortisol. If no matter how much I eat I still feel famished, I have too much cortisol in my system. It is another way I have learned to manage my Addison’s Disease more efficiently.