Eating Disorder Recovery Fear & Anxiety In Recovery Other ED Behaviours Restriction & Fear Foods Rewiring / Neuroplasticity

The Scarcity Mindset And Eating Disorders

This morning I opened a jar of moisturiser given to me as a Christmas present about 3 years ago!!

I have always kept a bag filled with my new & special things which I would not allow myself to use…
This week I remembered this moisturiser I had stashed away and thought, why not use it?

So I have started to enjoy it and now my brain is a bit less starved, using it is really not a big deal.

Apart from it IS a big deal because it shows that I am slowly evolving from the eating disorder scarcity mindset.

A starved brain cannot comprehend that it is in an environment of abundance..  because if it were, why would it be hungry and not fed?
So, the scarcity mindset sets in, believing that everything in the environment is scarce, so it logically believes that ALL resources must be used cautiously!

This keeps us even deeper in the illness, as not only can we not eat unrestrictedly but we cannot LIVE unrestrictedly either!

Reflecting on this, I though I would share some of the other ways that the scarcity mindset has affected me over the years of having this eating disorder:

– Using any ‘luxury items’.. keeping them unopened, rather than enjoying them.

– Rarely buying new clothes, but if I did not wearing them!

– Only ever buying the cheapest products and being the weirdo who hovers around the reduced counter…. Yes, most people like a bargain but not to the point that it’s the only part of the shop they visit or stalk the staff doing the reductions!

– Buying something but returning it, not ‘allowed’ to keep it.

– Having to use everything up to the last drop or crumb, even if I didn’t like it.

– Feeling a glimmer of satisfaction if I could portion an item of food out to more than the packaging advised, so ‘save money’!

– Eek out petrol.  I could only buy petrol every x number of weeks and then only a certain amount…. This limits how far you can travel!

– Not allowing myself to do nice things – day trips out, theatre, museums, cinema etc..

– Not letting myself put the heating on at home to ‘save fuel’… making winter all the more miserable & very cold!

I know many with eating disorders will recognise this and it is another thing that needs addressing in recovery so that the brain trusts the environment we are living in is more than abundantly stocked, not just with food but everything!

Slowly though I am finding it is getting easier to beat.

5 replies on “The Scarcity Mindset And Eating Disorders”

II just stumbled upon this post while searching for “scarcity mindset eating disorder” via Google. I had found a other blog post correlating the two. I wanted to make a post because I thought it may be beneficial to myself and others. I have been a binge eater since childhood. I am first generation American and my parents are from a 3rd world country where food was constantly scarce and starvation was a real thing. When I was in my early 20s I stumbled upon a job making lots and lots of money. I had never been “trim” in my life, but as I earned more money, my obsession with food and scarcity went away and I ended successfully losing weight for the first time in my life. During my “earning” years(10 years), I kept the weight off(with some mild ED patterns still in the background). As my earnings fell, my binge eating increased, and so did my “scarcity mindset.” Things like eating food past it’s prime, taking toilet paper and lotions from hotels because a norm and I am now unemployed and living off my investments. This seems like it would be any 40+ year olds dream to be semi-retired and living off investments, but it’s only made my BED worse. I have not pursued relationships because the cost money, I have not been able to get my BED under control bc of my thinking surrounding food waste, I have pigeon holed my life into one where I am fully isolated and spend as little money as I can. In other words I’m not living life at all.

I just wanted to chime in and express my own thoughts regarding this “scarcity mindset” and how it correlated with BED similar in your own experience. I’ve always thought the two were correlated and have even mentioned it to multiple therapists, but until reading your post I thought it was just my own hypothesis.

It makes me happy(in some ways) to read that others have correlated similar thoughts and it makes me want to work harder on my “scarcity mindset” to potentially start living a fulfilling life again.


Hi E,
Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your story. It sounds like you have been affected by an ED, on and off for some years now. The scarcity mindset is very common with eating disorders and stems from a baseline brain that believes resources are scarce because it is not receiving food consistently and in enough quantity to what it needs. I know you say you have BED but the more up to date thinking about BED is that the binges happen because people are restricting in between. Therefore the restriction between the binges are the problem, not the binges! It is the restriction that leads the brain to believe food and other resources are scarce and so when you do eat again, it drives you to eat in that binge like way. To overcome this, it takes teaching your brain that food is never scarce, by eating abundantly at all times of day, not restricting and allowing the binges to stay where they are. As you do this though, with time, as your brain learns to trust that food is coming in in sufficient quantity and when it wants it, it will stop driving you to binge eat and you will also, very likely find, that scarcity mindset disappears too.
Work on the scarcity mindset by showing your brain that nothing is scarce – not food and not other things (like toilet rolls… why do we all get that thing with toilet rolls?!?!?).


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