Its fairly difficult to find first hand experiences of Extreme Hunger (EH) and yet, it is fairly common for someone recovering from a restrictive eating disorder to experience it. So, I find myself asking, ‘Why is it like this?’ and my conclousi0n has been we are ashamed of our EH. Of course, we do not need to be but when we have spent so much time thinking that consuming less food was an achievement, it is hard to admit that we are now consuming far more than is ‘normal’.
I do feel guilty at times for the amount of food I currently eat but it would be a miracle if I didn’t because I have a restrictive eating disorder and that is just the kind of pain my Anorexia puts me through. What is of importance is that I challenge those guilty thoughts and rationalise why the way I am eating is okay. And, it is just that: okay.
Just a quick recap for those of us who are not familiar with EH… Often we:
- Have the desire to eat food, beyond our physical hunger.
- Do not feel satisfied by the food we have already eaten.
- Eat faster than usual.
- Consume far more food than a ‘normal’ person would.
- Feel guilty, out of control and fear we have developed binge-eating disorder (we have not)
(Note: These are not EH rules, they are just common factors of EH. Everyone’s recovery is different)
Owing to the lack of personal recordings of EH, I feel it makes sense to share my experience of it at current. I know that not everyone will endure the same experience and I do not wish you to compare yourself to me because your recovery is your own and so long as you are satisfying your hunger and eating enough, it does not matter whether you experience ‘more’ or ‘less’ EH than anyone else. We are all individuals.
It is common during recovery for us to be thinking about food a lot: planning, eating, thinking, cooking, buying. Food. Food. Food. It is our brain’s way of reminding us that we’re still starving. We still need more food. Our brains are clever things. They won’t let us be until we are no longer starved. Its tiring thinking about food all the time but the only way to eradicate these mundane and repeating thoughts is to EAT and reduce the starvation to a little pile of nothingness.
I would probably describe my own experience of EH as pretty extreme. Its called Extreme Hunger for a reason I suppose. I eat most of the day… almost everyday!
For example, today I woke up feeling fairly full from eating a lot yesterday but my first thought after waking up boiling hot (damn you night sweats) was ‘FOOD’. I instantly thought about ways to suppress this hunger… ‘Oatmeal, that’ll do the job’… ‘I could just stay in bed a bit longer’… ‘Eat xxx calories and ignore those hungry food thoughts’. I knew this was going to be unhelpful and would not progress my recovery in any way, shape or form. So… I went downstairs and ate. Turning a blind eye to my EH would only prolong all these processes and cause EH later which could be far more extreme (I feel this may not even be physically possible though!).
I kept eating for about 2 hours, during which I consumed about 3000 calories. I was stuffed. Finally my hunger was satisfied.
…until 3 hours later. When EH came flying through the air, to slap me in the face again. Another 3000 calories ere consumed in about 2-3 hours.
I lost track of time.
I lost track of what I ate.
I just kept wanting more food.
I thought it wouldn’t end.
I felt stuffed.
I felt gross.
I felt guilty.
I felt a bit like Augustus Gloop.
These are all unhealthy thoughts but I have to remember that I can not just eat and be okay with that yet. Being comfortable with eating will come with time and practice (and eating, of course).
Since recovery, consuming whole packets has become the norm. Hearing that someone has eaten 3000 calories in a day seems like the bare minimum. Feeling bloated ALL the time is just a background bodily sensation.
Its not easy. In fact, I spend 99% of my time thinking ‘I just want to eat a normal meal. I just want to be normal. When will this extreme hunger end?! When will I stop feeling like a 9 month pregnant woman?!’ The answer is soon. I just have to keep going. Keep listening and keep responding to my hunger.
I spent/spend a long time being fearful that I am developing binge-eating disorder but I can assure us all that:
a) My emotions do not cause my eating. Rather, my eating causes emotions. Therefore, this is not binge-eating.
b) It is highly unlikely that someone with a Restrictive Eating Disorder will develop binge-eating disorder. They are very different spectrums.
c) I still very much have the ability to restrict, unlike someone with binge-eating disorder. (Although I definitely do not try to restrict and definitely do not intend to practice any restrictive methods because it would hinder my recovery.)
d) Even if I did have binge-eating disorder, it would not be the worst thing. At current, my aim is to gain weight and gain my life back. If it appears that I have developed binging habits, then I can meet that bridge when I am weight restored and explore the issues there.
EH is a very scary process, I won’t deny it.
Some of my hours were also consumed by me questioning my EH. Here’s some advice:
Do not question your hunger. If you are considering eating. Eat. Eat. Eat.
You’re in recovery. If you do not eat now, when will you eat?!
I would like to mention that many people feel like they need to eat less during the day because they experience EH at night. This is aa restrictive and controlling habit and should be avoided. I have managed to overcome this by allowing myself to experience my EH during the morning. Turns out, I don’t particularly end up eating that much more in a day, just because I start eating more earlier. Logically.
On a final note… Let us try and enjoy our EH. Once its gone, we’ll no longer want to eat LOADS and that’ll be rather a shame… won’t it?
Some important and helpful links on the topic: