The Hunger Problem in Eating Disorder Recovery

August 9, 2012 Angela E. Gambrel

Hunger didn't become a problem for me until eating disorder recovery. In the eating disorder, hunger rarely bothered me, until my body forced a binge.

For years, the fact that most people get hungry and enjoy food did not register with me at all.

  • I feel hungry.
  • That tastes so good!
  • I really have a craving for a big, juicy hamburger!

I did not feel those things at all. Ever. I did not feel hunger pains and food was simply something to be avoided. I rarely ate, and when I did, I ate the blandest, most boring food possible.

  • Plain yogurt.
  • A piece of thinly sliced turkey.
  • A small portion of rice sans salt, butter, or seasoning.

It really was easy for me to starve myself at first. There seemed to be no hunger problem in my eating disorder, until recovery.

Lately, though, it feels like I'm hungry all the time. Like today. I missed breakfast, and by the time I got around to getting lunch, it was about 2;30 p.m. I was ravenous. My stomach twisted in pain and my mouth was dry. I needed food, NOW! And pity the person who tried to stop me from getting some food.

No, hunger wasn't a problem until eating disorder recovery.

The First Pains of Hunger in Eating Disorder Recovery

The first time I felt hunger pains — after years of suppressing these very natural urges — I was terrified. It was during my first hospitalization for anorexia. One morning I woke up, my stomach growling. Hey! What was that? Oh no! I'm hungry. I want breakfast. No I don't. Yes I do. What does this mean???

It meant that my body was restoring itself. But I also thought it meant I had lost control over my body. So to feel hunger was akin to failure.

I was in and out of hospitals for years, struggling to recover and yet fighting it at the same time. I would watch my fellow eating disorder patients add salt, mustard, and ketchup on their food, and I simply was baffled. Why?

One patient explained it this way: if you rarely eat, you want to taste something, anything. It was the same thing as chewing on ice. It gave the illusion of fulfillment.

Okay, so every one's eating disorder is different. Some people starve themselves. Some people eat massive amounts of calories and purge. Some people ascribe to the calories in/calorie deficit model of restriction.

Then there was me. I exerted an iron-clad control over my hunger and food intake. Cup of yogurt for breakfast? Check. Two thin slices of turkey? Check. One-third cup of rice? Check. No butter. No milk. No chicken. No flavor.

Bland bland bland.

Hunger Demands the Body Do Something

The body will eventually take over control and demand to be fed. And sometimes that can backfire and cause a binge. It is one of my greatest fears. Unfounded, as I have not shown any propensity to binge. But for someone who is such a control freak, the idea of eating out of control is terrifying.

I still struggle to ascertain what is normal eating and what is binging. Was it the ten Oreos that I had for dinner one night? Just because they tasted good and by God I had not had Oreos in more than ten years? Was it the fact that I could not wait until I reached home to eat three of my Chicken McNuggets this afternoon? Or that I absolutely craved a hamburger tonight, and then proceeded to eat McDonald's Angus Deluxe — every, single bite, even picking up the little bits of bacon that had slid off?

Wait. Did I just write I craved something? That can't be. I never crave food.

Is that true now? Or am I slowly changing?

Food and hunger are still scary for me. I don't want to overeat, but I am determined to put my anorexia behind me. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that I can have a normal, healthy relationship with food. Sometimes I fear becoming overweight and a slave to food.

But wasn't I a slave to food when I was starving? A slave to controlling my desires, denying my hunger?


APA Reference
Gambrel, A. (2012, August 9). The Hunger Problem in Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Angela E. Gambrel

September, 23 2014 at 3:40 am

So similar to my story and thoughts. Reading that others are going through the same thing I am has helped me in recovery so much. It just helps me realize that even though one day I have extreme hunger and eat endlessly, everything WILL be okay. I love this. Thank you!

February, 9 2013 at 1:05 pm

Good on you for fighting back against all those crazy thoughts and habits. Eating disorder recovery can be such a freakin' emotional roller coaster, eh?
P.S. Just a pet peeve, but I can't resist pointing out that it's hunger "pangs," not "pains"...!

August, 19 2012 at 2:31 am

great article! helps to clarify what is going on in my own head. i am just now able to get a burger out without feeling like i am breaking laws!

August, 17 2012 at 6:05 am

I give this two snaps up with a twist.
Keep exploring and following those cues and cravings!

Leave a reply