„I am so full, but I’m freaking hungry!“ – on extreme hunger and binging

People told me that extreme hunger would very likely occur during recovery – and it did. For me, it was definitely one of the hardest parts. The decision to get out of my comfort zone and to give recovery a go was already a big step. But, when I was still really underweight, I would eat a bite and feel full. Now that I decided to eat more in order to gain weight, I was hungrier than ever. For those of you who haven’t experienced extreme hunger yet: it’s a kind of hunger you can’t just ignore! I remembered times when I had only a banana for „breakfast“. Now, it became impossible for me to skip a meal. I ate double portions of oatmeal, bananas and 500g of yogurt in the morning. For dinner, it would be pizza, a whole package of crisps and tons of fruit afterwards and I would still not be satisfied. For somebody with an ED, food is closely connected to guilt and extreme hunger unavoidably leads to panic attacs. I was angry and afraid that weight gain would never stop. That I would become fat or a binge eater. I felt like I wasn’t a perfect anorectic anymore.

Extreme hunger also meant that my signals of hunger and fullness got confused. It could happen that I had dinner with friends and after having eaten exactly the same, they would be „very full“, while I could have easily eaten the same portion again. I tried to listen to my body. To eat when I was hungry. To stop eating when I was full. But very often I felt full, but freaking hungry at the same time. One minute, I could be starving and feeling super full five minutes later. So I was never sure if I was really hungry or just bored or emotional. I always doubted that it was the right decision to eat. Sometimes I went after my hunger. Sometimes I forced myself to stop eating. This was actually the worst thing I could have done, because by oppressing extreme hunger, it just comes back even harder. Especially in the evening, when I had tried to ignore my hunger the whole day. I would eat my normal dinner and then go back in the kitchen over and over again. Grabbing snacks. Loafs of bread. Nuts. Chocolate. „Oh my god, you just had a binge“, I thought. I actually knew that there is no such thing than binging in recovery, but guilt was huge of course.

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This may all sound quite scary, but I actually never regretted that I chose recovery. Yes, extreme hunger can be irritating. But here’s the important point: it will pass! Your body needs time to find its balance again. I know how hard it is to be at the point of eating and gaining and it seems as if this process would never stop. It will! The set point is no fairytale! Until you reach it, it can be helpful to follow a meal plan. It gives you a structure and instead of eating after hunger cues that you can’t trust already, you stick to the plan, the given portion sizes and meal times. But remember: the meal plan only includes your minimum intake. If you had dinner and are still hungry twenty minutes after: eat, no matter what.

As a last point: it always helped me a lot to imagine my body as a carpet with some damages in it that have to be sewed. If you always eat only the amount of calories that is considered „normal“, you will probably manage to continue existing, but the wholes in the carpet will remain. It is necessary to increase you intake to give your body the extra calories that you didn’t give it in the past and to sew the wholes. It’s only that way that you can achieve the healthy, ED free self you are aiming for!

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