Honouring your hunger cues: Dealing with extreme hunger in anorexia recovery.
The first thing to remember is that extreme hunger during anorexia recovery is completely normal. It may come as a surprise, as hunger is a feeling that you have ignored for a while, so it is important to be aware of it as for someone recovering from anorexia, this feeling can be pretty terrifying.
When you have been depriving your body from food for a while and you start to introduce it again, your body goes into overdrive. It cannot trust that you will continuously nourish your body on a regular basis so as soon as it gets a taste of food, that’s all it wants.
Some try to ignore this feeling as it is their eating disorders worst nightmare. Especially when your so used to overriding your hunger, honouring it and listening to your bodies cues can be extremely challenging.
So- you need to keep reinforcing to yourself that your body is hungry for a reason. You need to keep it in mind that your body NEEDS the food. Needs the energy.
And if you are scared that you will start eating and never be able to stop, then so what. If that is the case that is clearly your body letting you know that it is needing the food. For once this is your body being true to you. Being true by expressing its need for food. So, by being kind to your body, you should acknowledge that.
However. accepting that you are hungry is only half the battle. It is then deciding what to have that is the most difficult.
You may have the courage to say “I am still hungry so I’m going to have another half a sandwich” or you may flip out and be overwhelmed with all the possible choices. So, my advice, would be to ask someone. Let a parent or friend know that you are hungry and that you would like them to pick something. Just wait and see what they choose and see if you feel comfortable with it.
And it is not only physical hunger that matters. Mental hunger is just as important. It is perfectly normal to have the urge to eat even when physically you are not hungry.
Again- this is your food deprived body telling you that you need food. It is your body conquering your eating disorder and letting you know that you are starved. Almost like a survival tool.
It’s important to understand that during recovery, there are NO limits in what you can eat.
Even if you’ve had a burger, chips and a brownie and your still hungry, there is nothing saying that you shouldn’t have something else. You have been starving for SO long that a burger and brownie is nothing. The calorie count in that is not even close to the calorie deficit that you are in. It is so important to honour what your body is telling you. Because if your body was truly satisfied, you would know. If you had not been starved, a burger and a brownie would be plenty. But for YOU, someone in anorexia recovery, you need and should have more.
It will be difficult because your eating disorder will be telling you not too but you need to find the strength to say “nope I need this”. When you have ignored those feelings of hunger for so long, it is okay now to finally acknowledge them. It is your body in survival mode telling you that this is what you need.
And don’t worry if you end up eating more than the person sat next to you. The chances are is that they are not starving. The chances are is that their stomach trusts them. It trusts that it’s going to get three meals a day instead of a water load to fill up their hunger cues. They don’t need it as much as you do.
I’ve had countless times- admittedly after drinking alcohol- that huge urges of mental hunger strikes. I go to have a snack and I just can’t stop. So, expectantly, the next important thing to deal with is how to tackle the probable feelings of guilt afterwards.
Just reinforce to yourself- that what you ate yesterday, or even the day before in no way determines what you can and cannot have today. You need to tell yourself- write it on your head for all I care- that you need it. Who cares if it is more than your friend, more than a body builder. They have not been starved. They don’t have a calorie deficit but you do. And trust me, with the weight that you are probably at, honouring your hunger cues will not make a difference.
It will be tough and it will be so hard not to ignore it but it is truly what you need. Remember, treat your body how you should treat your family. With nothing but love and respect.