Hunger Cues

I struggle with hunger cues. The major struggle is that they exist outside of the prescribed mealtimes of my meal plan. If I could only get hungry when it was convenient, that would be nice. I think I'd prefer not get hungry at all, but alas, that's not going to happen.

Last Friday, it was late and I had already eaten my evening snack. All is well until I start getting hungry again. Like really hungry. And what sounds really good to me at that time were some baked beans. I debated for quite some time about whether to eat those damn beans. I had already eaten "enough" for the day. The beans had lots of salt which means water retention (said in singsong voice). Blah blah blah. Those reasons were my anxiety talking. I was anxious about eating extra, about eating something significantly extra (I've gotten to the point where I can have an extra piece of candy and not freak the hell out), about, mostly, doing something different. Breaking the routine, doing something "risky."

Yes, I define risk as eating something new or different or extra. Anyone still wonder why/if I have an eating disorder? Didn't think so...

I ate the damn beans. I used the CBT skillz (all the work I've done on learning them totally gives them the extra "z") I had been working on with TNT and told myself the following:

  • I was hungry. There was no doubt here.
  • I had been unusually active on Friday (worked a half shift at the bakery).
  • I don't have a history of emotional eating, so the hunger was almost certainly physical.
  • The real risk was negligible- I knew that one serving of baked beans wouldn't hurt in the long run, even if my emotions weren't exactly on board.
I was hungry. I ate. Then I wasn't hungry.

Somehow, this shouldn't result in so freaking much drama. But there you go.

Tonight, something similar happened. I had already had my evening snack (the same thing, come to think of it, that I had on Friday) and I was still freakishly hungry. I wanted, more than anything, to not be hungry because I didn't want to eat again, and I didn't want to have to find something to eat again.

So I tweeted about my feelings, and reminded myself that I need not hate myself for needing to eat more. And that as much as I would like my car to get better gas mileage, I don't begrudge it the fuel when it needs it. I ate an apple and peanut butter.

I feel disgusting right now.
I feel disgusting and I know I did the right thing.

Maybe that last bit is the saving grace.

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e.motions and ana.lysis said...

Good job Carrie. You're learning to listen to your body, and though it's hard, it generally knows better than your seemingly logical mind.

Rose said...

Carrie, you did exactly what someone should do when they're hungry- EAT! Good job!
I hate that you feel guilty for doing this! You deserve to feel good about yourself for treating your body with love and respect. Keep pushing :)

Fellow OCD Sufferer said...

Good for you for eating when hungry, even if it means breaking the routine. That's half the battle.

Though it has been a long time since I have suffered from ED as my primary problem, I can relate to feeling disgusting for breaking the "rules" when it comes to my OCD. Sometimes I feel disgusted with myself when I haven't washed when maybe, just maybe a "nomral" person might have. It's amazing how the smallest things can have such strong moral and emotional overtones. But as terrible as it is, that feeling is just that - a feeling.

You did what you believed was the healthy thing to do, and now, like you said, you just have to use your CBT knowledge to help you get through the resulting discomfort! I guess in ERP terms, you did the exposure and you deal with the feeling it produced with out ritualizing so that you can continue to weaken the ED!

I think it's great that you are facing those feelings of disgust. I admire your strength and determination! It's definitely inspiring.

Cathy (UK) said...

I just wondered Carrie (and others, after reading the comment above by 'Fellow OCD Sufferer'...):

Is the fear of eating outside of your plan a fear of:

1. Breaking your normal routine (in that routines and rules should not be broken)?

2. The consequences of breaking the normal routine, which could be unwanted weight gain?

The reason I ask this while I was recovering I recognised that what I was really scared of was the action of breaking my own self set eating/exercise rules (as opposed to the consequences). In a strange sort of way I wanted to gain weight (because I was very underweight), but without breaking my routines, rules and rituals.

I just wondered if anyone else has experienced this too?

Anonymous said...

Just had to say...this post hit home. Good for you, but I also want to say that I know, quite precisely, what you mean and what you go through at these moments.

Thanks for blogging about it. I've been following you for awhile now, and I really, really appreciate what you're doing. That you can blog about what I feel, too, makes me feel less crazy, if that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

I'll comment on what no one else has so far. You noted that you were hungry twice following the same evening snack. Probably not a coincidence. I also struggled with being hungry repeatedly after I had eaten what I was supposed to eat, lunch in my case. After looking at my food diary, my nutritionist pointed out that I was still hungry only after a specific lunch. Even though it satisfied my meal plan, it was either on the lower end of calories, didn't have enough fat to promote satiety, or something similar. I remember being so proud that I was learning to recognize and listen to my hunger cues again!

Colleen said...

yay, good for you! you bought shoes and now THIS! incredible.

anyway, meal plans are great, but every day is different, and sometimes our bodies want more. for example, last night i had a big dinner and dessert, but then i went to work for 3 hours at a coffeeshop where i am constantly running back & forth & standing. i got home and was SO HUNGRY, and i did the same thing--debated for a good half hour whether to eat or not.

and i ate.

and then i wasn't hungry any more.

and i woke up today and i'm not huge.

so it all balances out. nice work!

Renee said...

CBT Skillz. Oh Carrie you make me laugh.

Danielle said...

Ah i hate ED/: it makes us think eating one extra meal, dessert, or something will make us gain 5 pounds. But in reality, gaining 5 pounds is actually really hard and eating that extra stuff doesn't do anything to you. Good job for following your hunger cues :) i'll be trying to do the same.

Cammy said...

It is AWESOME that you're able to make yourself listen to the voice of your body over the voice of the ED, even though it's still difficult. You're a winner, Carrie! Your body is going to require more on some days than others, it doesn't know how many it's "supposed" to have, it just knows what it needs...and it's great that you're honoring its cues. You rock!

Kim said...

Hunger cues are tricky. I'm actually welcoming of extra hunger these days, but I get tripped up when I'm NOT hungry and I should be. Those are the hardest times for me. Still, if I've already had dinner and my nighttime snack and I'm still hungry, I do get weirded out (the best phrase I can think of right now). I just assume it's one of those days and eat something like peanut butter toast. I wonder if/when I'll have total peace with my hunger. I probably overanalyze it way too much.

Lisa said...

YAY! listening to your body can be a very hard thing to do especially when ED is still talking to you. I'm proud of you for listening to your body!! I know how hard it is. I'm still having a lot of trouble identifying these cues myself.

stay strong!!!

HikerRD said...

A few quick thoughts. Imagine your had a child who said to you "mommy I'm hungry!". Would you question it, tell them him he had had his meal plan's worth already for the day? Would you tell him to just have some water?! Now substitute yourself as the child. Doesn't it seem absurd how we try to deny ourselves? Also, if you want to be in control of your eating and not overeat, to honor your satiety, you also must honor your hunger. Can't have it both ways! And finally, if you're struggling with how much your "deviated" from your plan, consider this--it takes 3500 surplus, yes extra calories, to gain a single pound (assuming your weight was stable). That's 3500 additional, over and above your usual intake. So try that reality check if you ate a bit more than usual. I could go on, but I'll stop here!
Lori Lieberman, RD,CDE,MPH,LDN

Boston Femme said...

Good for you, Carrie!!! I am so proud of you for being able to use CBT and eat when you were hungry even if it felt like a risk due to ED- that takes a lot of strength!

Charlotte UK said...


Sorry to be late to this party. Unfortunate accident involving my computer and the dog's water bowl..

First and foremost, well done for eating when hungry - huge step in the right direction - you are the bravest person for following your instincts rather than your subconcious.

Second love the shoes

Third - apart from maybe changing the snack as it is not doing the right job, I want to assure you that eating outside the meal plan is a good thing because it means that you are winning against the ed and recognising things that it has not let you acknowledge for years. This means you are kicking it to the kerb and that is GREAT.

I am so proud of how well you have coped with the new job/lifestyle - a very anxious time for anyone - and now this.

Way to go girlie.

Love you


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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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