I experienced extreme hunger after recovering from an eating disorder

By May 2021, I had regained my weight (Image: Isabella Miller)

When I was 16 years old, I did my first diet.

It’s 2015 and I’m not the thinnest in my teens. I worried a lot about my weight – especially since most of my friends were smaller than me.

I can’t remember whether this diet is an online fad meal plan or an unnecessarily expensive meal replacement. In my late teens, I found myself regularly going to school fueled by slimming shakes, a few blueberries, and a quart of Diet Coke.

This was the catalyst for a five-year struggle with an eating disorder. It continued until last year when I started treatment at the age of 21.

I knew getting healthy again would be a challenge, but I wasn’t prepared for the so-called ‘extreme hunger’ I would experience as part of my recovery.

I have spent many months working with psychiatrists and nutritionists who have helped me restore a healthy weight and develop a better relationship with food. It was a big transformation, because in December 2020, I was underweight, pale and always cold. I haven’t had my period in months, my hair falls out a lot, and the mere mention of carbohydrates sends me into a state of panic.

By May 2021, I had regained my weight.The unit physician used a mixture of cognitive behavioral therapy along with a meal plan designed for people with eating disorders.

It feels great to finally get help for something I’ve been struggling with for so long.

But I also became increasingly insecure because of my constant hunger. I find myself thinking about food all the time – more than ever. I’ll stay up all night thinking about raiding the fridge. These thoughts are often accompanied by guilt.

I’m ravenously hungry every minute of every day, waking and going to bed with an insatiable craving for food that I can’t seem to satisfy.

At the time, I didn’t realize that what I was experiencing was what many eating disorder experts call ‘extreme hunger’. At this point, I have never heard of the term.

During one of my last appointments at the eating disorder unit, I raised these concerns with my doctor, who explained what the phenomenon was. He told me that after prolonged periods of restriction, metabolism speeds up which means more secretion of the hunger hormone ‘ghrelin’ – this means the body’s hunger signal to the body version is ‘off’.

I was worried about ‘going too far in the other direction’ – and it turns out these worries are justified. It’s a relief to know that others in my position are going through this as well. But I still have absolutely no idea how to curb my bottomless cravings. Yes, I was able to eat normally again after my rehab treatment plan, but the idea of ​​giving up these cravings was too scary for me, due to my pressing fear of weight gain.

I am following the diet plan that the anti-eating disorder team came up with, restoring my weight to a stable level and participating in weekly weight training sessions. Yet I still have the nagging urge to clean out the kitchen cabinets.

I can’t stand the thought of gaining weight (Image: Isabella Miller)

I talked to friends and family, who encouraged me to respect the intense cravings I was experiencing. But because I was still afraid of gaining weight, the advice they gave me was deafening. After two months of feeling bothered by the constant feeling of hunger, I decided to do some research.

I went to Google and to my surprise I found countless stories almostidentical to mine. Different people who used to accept the kitchen’s weight are now resisting the urge to eat their body weight in food.

Then while researching,I stumbled across the ‘all in’ method.

This concept advocates eating full, without limits. Don’t leave the table with an ounce hungry. This can be different for everyone, but in some cases it can go up to 5,000 calories per day.

Over time, the number of calories decrease as people begin to see their extreme hunger diminish. The idea of ​​trying this scared me. I have accepted that I need to gain weight to be healthy and with the help of the NHS eating disorder unit. But I didn’t understand for a second that I might have to put on more weight to overcome my extreme hunger.

But I can’t go on living every day constantly thinking about food. I want to feel ‘normal.’

Although I have undergone a successful treatment program, every time I go out to eat with friends, I still search the menu to choose the one with the lowest calories. That’s when I suddenly realized: ‘I’ve actually been living my whole life in fear of gaining weight. How can I say I’ve recovered if that’s still the dominant fear in my life? ‘

So I made it. I started eating what I wanted, when I wanted. When I eat, I do so with the intention of respecting my appetite. If I wanted something, I would have eaten it. It sounds strange, but from constantly arguing with yourself about whether something is ‘safe to eat’, to just eating something pretty much without worry, it really is liberate, release, free.

I have achieved my goal of food freedom – a far cry from the girl who was so scared to be in the same room with Jaffa Cakes

I can’t remember specifically the first time I ate an ‘all in’ meal, but I do remember one morning reaching for a bowl of cereal and automatically pulling out the kitchen scale so I could weigh in on what I ate. how much and put in. my calorie counter. Despite the anxiety of not knowing exactly how much I ate, I decided to stop measuring and measuring food. This helps remind me that food is simply food, fuel for your body – not a scary table of numbers and percentages.

Yes, at first my weight skyrocketed. This is something I’ve come to accept that will likely be my fault for a long time – be it social pressure, or an eating disorder voice telling me I’m ‘losing control’ – but when I say my quality of life is much better now after just a few months of being ‘all’, I mean it fits every part of me.

I won’t pretend that I know the science behind this method, but for me, it worked. When I mentioned this to my doctor, he said that often during periods of food restriction, it can take something as dramatic as eating 5,000 calories a day to repair the damage done. for metabolism.

Basically, your body is playing catch-up after a period of energy starvation.

He reassured me that what I was experiencing was normal and that it would take time for my hunger signals to return to normal.

At first, it was strange. It takes a while to break a habit. From scanning every barcode to freely eating everything I could imagine was difficult, as it went against the belief system that I had lived all my life for 5 years.

A few months later, the feeling of always being hungry began to subside.

In the end, not only did I feel as though my hunger signals had been fixed, I felt confident in saying that I had achieved my goal of eating freedom – a far cry from the girl who was so scared had to share a room with Jaffa Cake.

Eating disorders are known as one of theMortality rates are among the highest of all mental disorders, and recovery is a long and terrifying one, often fraught with difficulties. Extreme hunger is one of these things, but sufferers rarely know that what they are experiencing even has a name.

Nutritionists have studied this for years, but it’s not often mentioned as a side effect of recovery.

When I went to the eating disorders unit last year, there was a rush to fix the problem at hand, but no warning about what to expect after recovery.

People in recovery probably know how horrible the concept of eating loads of food every day is, but if I’ve learned anything from this, it’s the only medicine that can fix the problem. Eating disorders are food.

Through listening to my body, I can confidently say that not only have I overcome extreme hunger, but I am on the way to full recovery and that my relationship with food has never been better.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please callBeatat 0808 801 0677. Support and information is available 365 days a year.

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Tom Vazquez

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