It’s Not Binge Eating Disorder – Extreme Hunger in HA Recovery after Years of Dieting and Food Restriction

A scary piece of healing your body from years of under eating is how your relationship with food changes. It usually get worse before it gets better. You may come from a place where you didn’t have many hunger queues, you have an intense fear of foods or just felt ambivalent about it. Many women experienced binge eating eating episodes in the past because they were restricting or dieting for long periods of time or cutting out certain foods or food groups.

There is a really interesting study called Minnesota starvation Study where they restricted caloric intake in young, healthy males and what they saw was very similar to what you see in people in recovery from eating disorders and recovery diets that are too low in calories. I think it’s important to reference this study because what they found is that the men became obsessed with food. Their days revolved around food and they were so preoccupied by it they didn’t have the energy to focus on anything else. A very interesting study and obviously we can’t repeat this study because it is inhumane but once they were allowed to eat many had extreme hunger and their weight went way above what their weight was before they ever started restricting.

Two Types of Extreme Hunger

There are two different types of hunger that you may are trying to recover your periods. You may be physically hungry or it could be a mental hunger.
The physical hunger is where your digesting food so quickly and your body needs a lot of calories to repair itself that you are experiencing normal signs of hungry including: your stomach is growling, your not satiated, you may get dizzy or light headed and you are thinking about food.


Mental hunger is where you can’t stop thinking about food. You may be full but you still feel the need to eat. This one feels much more like binging then physical hunger. I’ve had a few episodes myself of these. I felt frantic and compelled to eat. I felt out of control. It feels like binging so understand where all the panic comes in. Your appetite feels so damn uncontrollable and you may feel embarrassed and then this leads to guilt. Do not feel guilty and do not resist this. It’s your bodies way of regulating and if you want to get to the other side where you can eat intuitively and stop revolving your day around food then lean into it.

This extreme hunger is usually caused by hunger hormones that are thrown off, past feelings of restriction that are resurfacing and it’s the our body’s way of getting the calories it needs after months or years of restriction.

Causes of extreme hunger can be:

  • Restriction of food and calories
  • Eating the same foods with no variety
  • Physical Exhaustion/Fatigue
  • Labeling good or bad foods
  • Low calorie diets
  • Hormones are off
  • Too low of body weight

During an episode you may feel stuffed and sick but still can’t stop. You may have an uncontrollable urge to eat and inability to stop eating. Fear and anxiety may also be experienced during this time. You may eat thousands of calories in one sitting. All of this is normal and part of your body’s healing process.


After an episode you may experience:

  • Bloating
  • Weight Gain
  • Nausea
  • Embarrassment
  • Sense of guilt
  • Water Retention
  • Exhaustion
  • Grief
  • Fear
  • Digestive distress
  • Anxious
  • Edema

Please don’t freak out when this happens. It is absolutely normal. Your body is trying to get to a safe place.