‘Feast Always Follows Famine’….
These old sayings exist because they are true.
And in eating disorder recovery when you think you are broken because you are hungry ALL the time and thoughts of food will never switch off, even when your stomach is stretched to a painfully full limit yet no amount of food that you eat ever feels sufficient:
Just remember this saying.
The urges to feast eat, the constant thoughts of food (mental hunger) and ways your body seems to be driving you to keep eating, even when you have just eaten more than anyone could think possible – these are all very normal physiological responses to famine.
A body coming out of what it perceives a famine situation, where you have not given it enough food for a period of time (that can be a few days, as we see in non-ED people who have had a gastric virus or can be years because of an eating disorder) will need to feast afterwards to make up for it.
In eating disorder recovery, we often now use the term, ‘extreme hunger’ and this is what it is – the body is coming out of starvation and is extremely hungry! It wants all the food ASAP sending seemingly never ending signals to feast, no matter how much we have already eaten.
This is NORMAL!
The body driving a person to feast eat is doing its job in trying to keep itself alive and become as healthy as it can be.
Do not resist the urges to feast – flow with them and use them as a golden ticket to recovery.
Yes, the contradicting hunger signals between a full and sluggish belly trying to keep up with a brain screaming for food are confusing and can be distressing. But listen to the brain. The brain is the intellect of the body and the belly will soon catch up.
I know all too well that the urges to ‘feast’ eat can be confusing and of course because you have an eating disorder, you have an irrational but very real fear response to eating or weight gain, making the urges to eat like a demon terrifying. But be brave and go with it. Know it is normal and try to even enjoy eating as much as you can and this drive to eat everything you can see will dissipate over time, as your body gains enough fuel, heals and learns to trust you will continue to feed it.
Feast follows famine – remember that…
Oh – and if you are not getting high urges to eat but you are in a state of restriction, then I would lay bets that you are not eating enough for the body to trust you sufficiently to send the feast eating signals or you are blocking them through chronically raised cortisol levels. In this situation, you have to start eating more despite low hunger and eat what your body is craving without judgement and you have to rest and let the stress go down. When you do this and eat enough for the brain to trust food is available, then that hunger will fire up – trust me!
I know you might still be skeptical about feast eating when coming out of a state of starvation or energy deficit of any kind because we live in a society that frowns upon feeding a body adequately. But at these times, remember the men from the Minnesota Starvation Study. These men ate up to 10,000 calories a day after a relatively short period of ‘starvation’ and this ‘extreme eating’ lasted between 6 months and 2 years before they became what might be considered ‘normal eaters’ again (see this post).
In other blog posts I have written more on my personal experiences of hunger and periods of extreme hunger as I went through early recovery last year and you are welcome to search for these… search ‘hunger’ in the search box above!
Ultimately though, learn to trust your body, let it guide and don’t judge it and with time you will recover – the body will repair and as you go through this painful and difficult process, the brain too will heal.
So FEAST eat now!!