Hunger is a fairly basic feeling, it’s one of the first things a human being feels after birth. As infants we cry from discomfort and as toddlers we learn to name that twinge in our stomachs as hunger. As children we intuitively eat when we are hungry and stop eating when we are full, we are connected with our body’s messages before things like eating out of boredom, emotionally or trying to decipher society’s expectations of us get in the way. For any teenager or adult it is hard to figure out whether we are hungry or full and it takes work to get in tune with the signals our body is sending us, there are books and meditation classes dedicated to helping us be mindful of our body’s messages and learning to eat intuitively.
The question of what hunger feels like is a complicated question veiled in fog for anyone but when you have suffered from an eating disorder the fog becomes so dense you cannot see your hand in front of your face. After spending years ignoring our hunger cues, the aches and pains in our guts and not paying any attention to the nutritional needs of our bodies our bodies “forget” what hunger feels like. Over time those aches, pains, grumbles and growls stop happening, especially when you start in recovery.
When you begin to eat normally, whatever your eating disorder was, you feel incredibly uncomfortable. You feel bloated, distended and full ALL of the time (Gaviscon or other antacids like Maalox can really be a godsend).This is pretty distressing, but it does go down over time and your hunger cues will return with time and practice eating normally.
Until that time, what does hunger feel like? I’ve been eating normally for 16 months now and purge free for almost a year and I still don’t get the classic hunger cues. I don’t get pangs in my stomach, cramps, growling or an empty feeling in my gut. The most annoying thing is that when meal time comes around I’m not hungry but I know I should eat something, I know my body is hungry even though it doesn’t remind me or send me any signals that it needs to eat – or so I thought.
By looking more closely at my body’s patterns I have noticed the following signs of hunger or that it’s time to eat something. They may not look like hunger but they are subtle ways my body is trying to tell me I need fuel.
- Feeling tired or run down
- Feeling dizzy or nauseated
- Feeling listless and like I generally don’t want to get up and do anything.
- Feeling restless or shaky
Try to notice what happens to your body when you know it’s coming up to meal time. Compare how your body feels before and after eating to identify little signs your body is sending. They may not be classic hunger cues, but they are one step closer to being able to listen to my body and have it trust me to feed it.