Roadblocks to Recovery: When Hunger (Doesn’t) Strike
This particular roadblock wasn’t on my list of cons to recovery, but I just realized how relevant it was.
(Not) feeling hungry
As I’ve started my new job, I’ve noticed that no matter how many hours I go without eating, I don’t get hungry. There are any number of factors to that, not the least of which are I’m really busy, I’m around food and so “full by osmosis,” and that it’s hotter than Hades in the bakery. When I get done with work, my hunger cues return to their post-ED norm. But at work? I don’t feel hungry. I just don’t.
This makes it really hard to eat my dinner and snack when I’m not even hungry. The ultimate problem is that I feel I have to rationalize my eating. Maybe it’s that someone is watching me, or that I want to at least pass for normal at a group luncheon. Or maybe it’s that I know I’m going to pass out if I don’t eat something quick, even sometimes if my hunger is gnawing at me and I know beyond all reasonable doubt that I need to eat something. But eating when I’m not hungry (and no one is watching me)? I feel so absurdly guilty. I tell myself I don’t need this sandwich, this piece of pizza. I don’t. I’m not even hungry! Why should I eat?
It’s easy for me to say things like “An eating disorder may mess up your hunger cues so don’t rely entirely on them,” but it’s another thing entirely to live this statement. Much of my treatment involved schooling me in the theory and practice of intuitive eating. For those who aren’t familiar with intuitive eating, the premise goes something like this: eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. When I was freaking out about weight gain, my dietitian told me that as long as I ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full, I wouldn’t gain weight.
I don’t blame her for making this statement (it is both true and useful), but it also didn’t account for all of the times when it is time to eat but I’m not hungry. It feels somehow wrong to eat (yes, even after all of this time), and to eat when I’m not hungry seems almost heretical. Before the AN struck, my appetite was just fine. I wasn’t a huge eater, but I got hungry rather predictably and all was well. I know that all of these years of having this eating disorder have probably messed that nice little system up. Maybe it will come back, maybe it won’t. It’s certainly not a reason to throw in the towel and give up. I need to work with my body, as it is right now. And that might mean eating when I’m not hungry or eating at times that I haven’t designated as “meal” or “snack.”
Part of this, too, is breaking all of those rigid rules I had for so many years about what eating was acceptable and what wasn’t. It’s hard to trust that my body won’t tell me it’s hungry when it doesn’t need food, and then to hold off on trusting it entirely to tell me when it is hungry. What I need is a system to help me eat when I need to and flexible enough to accommodate everyday life.