I am sure a lot, if not most people with eating disorders can relate to this. But when I feel hunger, I experience a range of emotions.
First off, excitement. Complete elation (okay, well that’s a little over exaggerated) but I do get excited. The reason being is because hunger cues for me have been pretty non-existent since my deep eating disorder days. Basically, it is due to the fact that I suppressed my hunger for so long that my body just gave up and stopped sending me cues as if to say, “Well, if you aren’t gonna feed me, I am gonna channel my energy elsewhere”. That being said, the fact that I am slowing but surely regaining my cues and learning how to respond to them, it is exciting to feel hunger again.
But the excitement I feel because my stomach is telling me I am hungry is short-lived and quickly overridden by other emotions. To name a few: surprised, panic, frustration, anger, confusion, doubt, and guilt.
That’s a lot to deal with simply because I feel hunger. Not to mention, those emotions all stem from different sources. Some stem from Rex (my eating disorder), well, most of them do, while some stem from anxiety.
The past few days I have experienced pretty regular hunger. Therefore, ALL of those emotions have been present at multiple times throughout the day. But the past few days have also proved to be challenging because I have not had complete control over my food. I haven’t been able to make every meal at home, eat exactly when I want to or when my hunger tells me I need to because of plans and schedules. You see, at this point in my recovery and being that I am fighting so hard to come out of a relapse, I have a plan with my dietitian to reach a calorie goal every day that increases as time goes on. That presents another range of anxieties because counting isn’t ideal and it is also somewhat stressful.
That also means that my body is experiencing a rebalancing of not only hunger cues but also optimal metabolic function. I am pretty sure I am experiencing a level of hypermetabolic mode like I did a couple of years ago when I first began this process. For someone coming out of a restrictive eating disorder, that is one of the most frightening and anxiety provoking aspects of recovery to deal with. Why? Because hunger is off the charts because your body needs it. Once you begin to re-feed and give your body food because that’s literally all it wants, and rightly so. I could eat a meal and a half hour later feel as if I didn’t eat anything. Or eat a meal and be hungry shortly after. If you have restricted for any period of time, of course, your body is going to want the food it didn’t get. Makes sense, right?
Anyway, back to hunger cues. (I am very good at getting off topic)
Hunger scares me. It’s almost like a foreign concept not only to my body but especially my brain. Anorexia trained me for years to ignore it because after a while it just goes away. That’s our bodies way of surviving. If you aren’t going to respond to a signal, then it’s going to tell you in another way or channel the energy it was using to give you that signal elsewhere to protect you. But that doesn’t mean I should ignore my hunger.
When it comes to my brain, the thoughts run rampid. “You just ate, you shouldnt be hungry”. Youll gain weight from eating too much”. “You should be restricitng, not eating more”. Ummm, earth to eating disorder…there is no such thing as eating too much in recovery and not eating becasue my body is hungry is not going to make me fat.
Dealing with the mixture of emotions ont top of the fear that I am failing from an eating disorder standpoint if I do eat, but also a fear and disappointment in my progress if I don’t eat. It’s like tug of rope war in my brain all the time and if you have ever played that game in real life, it’s brutal when both sides are equally as strong.
Thankfully I am aware of the feelings and emotions I am experiencing when it comes to hunger. I have had the opportunity to talk with both my dietitian and therapist about it, however, that doesn’t make it easier in those moments. I still get anxious when my stomach growls even though I ate thirty minutes prior. I still get frustrated when I am hungry and can’t respond to it immediately like I am training myself to do. Its hard, because my eating disorder loves those moments. But in my right mind I know I must eat, even if I am not hungry at times because going hours without meal isn’t ideal or healthy.
With all of that being said I am trying to be patient and compassionate with myself. Recvoery isnt a linear process. I dont have to recvoer a certain way to get it right, even though most of the time I feel like I do.
Its a learning process, and each day I learn a little more.