The Appetite Episode #21: Hunger, Desire, and an Appetite for Life

An Opal: Food+Body Wisdom Podcast

In this mini episode, host Carter Umhau, LMHCA–therapist, artist, and writer– explains the story behind naming The Appetite. Citing a revelation from The Minnesota Starvation Experiment around the differences between hunger and appetite, Carter speaks to how tuning into the specificity of one’s appetite translates to a greater appetite for other areas of life. 

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Carter:                  Hello and welcome to The Appetite, a podcast all about pursuing a deeper and more flexible relationship to food, body, movement, and mental health. The Appetite is brought to you by Opal: Food + Body Wisdom, an eating disorder treatment program in Seattle, Washington. I’m your host Carter Umhau, a therapist, artist, and writer. Usually, I’m joined by Opal’s three Co-Founders—Julie Church, Lexi Giblin, and Kara Bazzi—but this summer, we’re doing something a little different before we come back in full swing mid-fall. You’ll find this summer’s episodes to be a little bit more like a light summer reading—certainly some sun-inspired space for self-reflection and new growth, but also some smaller nuggets for easy-listening throughout the busy summer. This means that Julie, Lexi, and Kara will generally be taking a bit of a summer holiday from recording, with some more sporadic, focused episodes with each of the three of them sprinkled in. In the meantime, keep checking in for new content every other week!


Carter:                  Today though, it’s just me, and I wanted to talk a little bit about our name—“The Appetite.” You may not have thought twice about our name. After all, we’re all professionals in the eating disorder world, and we’re talking a ton about food…so surely the word “appetite” has a natural place in these conversations. Though this is true, I feel like the long process of deciding on the name of this podcast became a bit more solidified when reviewing a Refinery 29 article written by Kelsey Miller, in which she explores The Minnesota Starvation Experiment of 1944, where a handful of men were medically and psychologically observed as they were semi-starved on 1600 calories a day. This “semi-starvation” impacted the men in surprising ways, ruining their appetite for life, and having long-term implications in their relationship to food. The researchers in the experiment explored the impact of being semi-starved, highlighting the difference between the desperation of hunger, and the signs of healthy appetite, writing “Hunger differs radically from the delightful nuances of appetite.” Kelsey Miller further reflected in her article on the particularity of appetite, saying “Appetite is a question to be answered with a meal. Hunger is a need, an enduring hollowness that begs for satisfaction by any means necessary.”

Carter:                  At Opal, the focus has always been on not just simply getting clients on a meal plan, or making sure they’re medically stable and then sending them back out into the world. Though these ways of stabilizing the body after the harmful impact of a tumultuous and/or restrictive relationship to food is crucial—the emphasis on WISDOM in the naming of Opal: Food + Body Wisdom, is an emphasis on the pursuit of questions. Like Miller calls out, the work of nourishing the body—after it has healed from the mental and physical strain of semi-starvation—is the work of listening and learning the nuances of our experience in our bodies. It is about the work of beginning to ask good questions of our bodies, and pursuing satiation through listening to these nuances of Appetite. (pause for emphasis) “What is it that I actually want? What is it that my body needs in this moment?” Is it a stack of tagalong Girl Scout cookies that will so deeply connect me to what it felt like to sit at the kitchen counter in my family home after school in early spring? Is it something fresh and crunchy? Do I need the quick and easy Annie’s mac-and-cheese, stored in the back of my pantry for a day as emotionally draining as this one? Do I need to make something with my hands today?”

Carter:                  Learning appetite cues, is—of course–where attuned eating and true body wisdom can flourish. But—as Julie, Lexi, Kara, and I have said many times on this podcast—most of the time, struggles with food really aren’t about the food at all. So The Appetite, is about asking the questions that bring nuance to our appetites for the rest of our lives—our relational, spiritual, emotional desires.   

Carter:                  How are you somehow starving yourself emotionally, physically, spiritually, or relationally? Are are you instead, stuffing yourself or numbing yourself out so much so that the nuance of hunger and desire disappears? The Appetite seeks the “delightful nuances” of living: how do we be in relationship to ourselves and to the world in a way that reflects a movement toward desire, connection, and authenticity? In a way that honors need, where we build relationship to ourselves—in eating, moving, thinking, loving–that is well-attuned, so we’re not living in a place of constant, gnawing hunger, or foggy numbness, aware only of the pain of a sort of emotional semi-starvation from what we really need.

Carter:                  So, in pursuing your appetite for more in life, what is it that you’re craving?

Carter:                  Thanks so much for listening in on this re-orientation of what The Appetite is all about. And thank you to Jack Straw Cultural Center for Sound Engineering. Thanks to Sarah Taylor for production assistance and editing, and thank you to Aaron Davidson for the Appetite’s original music. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to the Appetite on your preferred podcast app so you can follow along as new content is released. If you are someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, and you’re hoping to learn more about potential resources for recovery, visit You can follow along with The Appetite and Opal on Opal’s facebook or twitter. If you ever have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to us at Thanks again. Talk to you next time!