This post is not going to be so much about how to deal with hunger and cravings but rather how to cope with the emotions that arise when you do go along with your hunger cues and cravings.
One of the misconceptions people have about ED sufferers is that they do not feel hungry. I can tell you that when I was restricting I was indeed actually very hungry. I would do anything to stay distracted in order to not respond to the hunger cues. I also never felt full. That’s partly why the binge-purge cycle started. What I am trying to say is that everyone experiences an eating disorder in a different way. One person may lose their hunger cues and find it easy to restrict whilst an other person may find it hard to restrict and hate feeling hungry but they are still diagnosed with the same eating disorder. Same ED,two different experiences of hunger and fullness.
When you start to recover from an eating disorder you cannot really rely on your hunger cues as they are probably really messed up. Which is why structured eating or meal plans are helpful in the beginning.
There is a plethora of information on the internet about how to eat to restore weight and recover from an eating disorder but what about when you are weight restored? What happens then?How are you meant to eat to maintain?
In theory when you approach your “set point” your hunger/fullness cues should stabilise and you should be able to maintain your weight regardless of small changes in eating/exercise. In theory you should be able to eat what you want (within reason of course I’m not talking 100000 calories) When you are recovering though it is hard to let go control and let your body do what it wants to after years of controlling weight/intake and exercise.
I think I round about at my set point as I have been mostly mainting my weight with some increases for about 2 months without actually trying to maintain it (if that makes sense) meaning I eat whatever I want most of the time without compensation .Regardless of what I do my weight has stayed pretty much within the same range (give or take 1kg or 2) Yet still I find it hard to believe that My body will settle and not keep gaining,gaining and gaining which is a common fear amongst ED suffers.
Intense hunger is common during the beginning stages of recovery but it can also occur towards the end of weight restoration.This can be frightening,You may be thinking to yourself “I am a healthy weight so why on earth am I so hungry?” “will I gain more?”I guess you just need to trust your body and let go and let it do its thing.Which is easier said than done.The past two weeks for me have been very hungry weeks and I have seen an increase in weight and yes It does make me panic a bit and yes I am scared for the next weigh in.Weight gain and feeling more hungry than usual can stir up many emotions;fear,anger,sandess,frustration,panic ,inadequacy,self hate.But I think the key is not reacting to these emotions.Or rather choosing how you react to these emotions.Sure you can once again binge,purge or restrict to get your weight down.But ask yourself “where will this get me?” Is it really worth it just to be 2kg lighter?Maybe your body is just adjusting and finding a point where it is happy and healthy,maybe if you are a women you are due on your period and therefore are gaining a bit and more hungry. What helps me is rationalising the thoughts in my head with facts.
Some things I do when the feelings about weight gain or after eating get overwhelming is:
1)Put on loud music and dance around in pyjamas.Honnestly music helps me so much.Dance can also be used as a form of expression and its just a fun,feel good thing to do. Lately my favourite song to dance around to is Shake that by Eminen.Its a bit of a booty shaking song haha.The lyrics are a bit derogatory to women but its a good dance tune.Anyway I’m getting off topic…
2)Accept that your journey is different to other peoples! Some people may gain very slowly others may gain fast, some may follow a meal plan some may eat intuitively, whatever works!!I think when you are a bit of a perfectionist you may try and aim for a perfect recovery however there is no such thing!Reovery is messy and different for everyone.I always wished I was someone who could gain slowly and in a controlled way but that’s not what happened.But in the end it does not matter!Everyone is different!
3)Love yourself for what you are and not for what you are not!Dont just focus on the negatives,focus on the positives.For example yes I may no longer be small and in control of my weight but my body is strong and can work 12.5 hr shifts and is resilient which means far more to me than a number on the scale!Focus on your positive qualities!Have goals and ambitions that are not compatibale with the ED.for me a main one is being a nurse in the future and a role model for others!
4)Get the feelings out,cry,scream,colour,do whatever you need to do!
5)Fill your life with things that make you genuinely happy. An eating disorder may give you an illusion of happiness at times but I don’t believe anyone entrenched in an ED is truly happy. Drink that double espresso, go to yoga,take that job offer.Honneslty life is too short.If anorexia/bulimia taught me anything is that life is for living and that’s something you realise during recovery.You need to create a life worth living.
6)Talk to a friend.Talk to someone about your feelings.Friends can often help you rationalise the thoughts in your head and make you realise that a)You are not going crazy b)You are still loved and worth it regardless of what a number on the scale says
7)Learn to ride the wave.Sometimes we have to endure discomfort.Sometimes we have to go through the pain of being at a higher weight before we get used to it and accept it.Be kind to yourself always.
8)Try mindfulness exercises and meditation or yoga.These can help you become mentally stronger,more accepting of what is.It has also taught me to observe my feelings and emotions without necessarily reacting to them and to be more in tune with my mind and body.I know it sounds like a load of waffle but try it!
9)Remember you are loved,by someone,somewhere and they just want to see you healthy and happy not underweight,sick and miserable.
Remember you are only human and sometimes it can just get too much. You are not a failure if you breakdown,If you cry, if you show your feelings. Often ED’s supress feelings and when you recover things may surface for you.You are allowed to feel though and your feelings are valid no matter how silly or pathetic you may feel at times.
I think such a big and hard part of recovery is acceptance, accepting who we are, where we are in life,acceptance of things we can change and things we cannot, acceptance of those around us and the relationships we have with them.
Remember no matter how difficult or how easy recovery feels at times (because it varies)The best way is through. The best way is forward. At each stage you will face different challenges but think of what you have already overcome and have faith in yourself.
Over and out xoxo