Eating Disorder Recovery Fear & Anxiety In Recovery Restriction & Fear Foods

Mental v. Physical Hunger

**This post was originally written for my Instagram account**

Today I’ve been experiencing and trying to respond to, without judgement, a lot more mental and physical hunger than I have had in recent days.

We all know what physical hunger is but not many people, particularly those outside the world of eating disorders and recovery, understand the concept and importance of mental hunger in coming out of malnutrition.

Mental hunger is a feeling of being physically full but still feeling hungry…
This can manifest as not being able to stop thinking about food or wanting to eat despite painful physical fullness and bloating!

This concept is confusing for most of us.

As we start to eat more in eating disorder recovery, the brain receives signals from the digestive system that it is working as hard as it can to digest the food it has been given and that at that moment it is physically ‘full’.

Coupled with this, however, when we are in malnutrition, the brain also receives signals from the body that it lacks sufficient energy to function at an optimal level and so is demanding higher & constant energy supplies (more food!).

We also get growing hunger when we do start eating more after a period of restriction as the brain comes out of a scarcity mindset and realises that food is available in the immediate environment again – asking us to eat much more while the food is still present.

Unfortunately, when we are coming from a place of restriction, our digestive system has to learn to function optimally once more which takes time and can lag behind our energy deficit which is causing the brain to scream for more food!

Therefore, this is my experience today – a brain screaming for food and a stomach working as fast as it can to keep up… while I feel confused and anxious about eating with so many mixed messages!

I know what is right though – deep down, I know what is right, and that is to keep eating – respond to the mental hunger and let the physical hunger catch up!

3 replies on “Mental v. Physical Hunger”

It’s like I could have wrote this myself. Thank you so much for all your helpful writing. It makes some of this craziness feel normal.


This craziness is normal when in recovery from an eating disorder!! It won’t last forever; trust the signals your body is sending and the internal craziness will slowly turn to a sense of internal wisdom!!


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