Are you facing no extreme physical hunger, no appetite, no physical hunger when you’re coming from a past of an energy deficit of any kind?
I've received this question quite a bit lately:
“What if I don’t have an appetite? I know I’ve been in an energy deficit, and I’m facing all of these starvation-type symptoms, even from semi-starvation from my diet. What’s going on? Why am I not facing this extreme physical hunger? How come my hunger cues are completely absent in ED Recovery?”
I talk a lot about physical hunger because that’s one of the biggest things I thought I could never overcome.
So that’s a lot of where Damn The Diets came from, how I was able to live a life without binging all the time and having that extreme physical hunger, that non-satiable, endless, bottomless pit hunger.
But working with people and reflecting on my journey, I know that if we endure an energy deficit for long enough, our body can turn off our physical hunger signals altogether.
A lot of people misunderstand here, though, because they’re not feeling physical hunger. So they think that they don’t have hunger at all, but there are different types of hunger.
There’s physical hunger, and there’s mental hunger.
Mental hunger is not an emotional eater. You’re not bored eating. If you’re coming from an energy deficit, that mental hunger is true hunger, just like physical hunger.
Firstly, I want to address a common misconception: just because your physical hunger is absent, you don’t feel hunger or a pang of extreme hunger.
This brings us to mental hunger.
You can lack physical hunger (i.e., you don’t have an appetite for food, you feel like you don’t even know what you’re craving, you don’t even know what you’re hungry for, etc.)
But your mind is hungry.
Your mind is trying to tell you to eat when you find yourself:
And if you’re honest with yourself, you have these thoughts of,
"well, if I followed my hunger, all I would have is a sweet tooth - I crave carbs and sugar all the time. If I took your approach and allowed myself to eat all of the carbs and sugars that I wanted, I would never be able to stop."
That mindset alone, that’s that mental hunger that you have guilt and shame around even feeling that way. But there’s a reason you feel that way.
So even though they don’t face extreme physical hunger, they have this extreme mental hunger.
This is still extreme hunger.
That’s why I would challenge you to see you face extreme hunger, only in a different way than what most people talk about it.
And that’s real. A lot of people face things differently in their recovery. It’s not to say that what you’re feeling is wrong, or bad, or not good enough for recovery, it’s just different, and there’s a way to work through this just like everyone else.
Like I was saying, I always had an extreme appetite, but there was a point where my appetite did go away.
This was when I was involved with veganism, and then raw veganism, and then also when I was in keto dieting, and I was in this mindset of purity, and during certain juice cleanses.
This doesn’t mean that my body had detoxed to the point of cleanliness and purity, and my palate had just adjusted, and I didn’t crave those foods anymore. I was superior because I had gotten to this certain level of cleanliness.
But, if I was honest with myself, I still really craved a lot of food. It’s just that a lot of foods were off-limits. Because I didn’t give myself that option, I didn’t even allow myself to think about what I was truly feeling deep down inside.
So at that certain point, I had lost a lot of weight, and I did experience this appetite loss, so this physical appetite. And I was telling myself also that I wasn’t craving certain foods and I wasn’t hungry for certain foods.
I was lying to myself now looking back. But, I was still thinking about food.
I was still thinking about the safe foods that I could eat, planning for them, always thinking about new recipes, and looking at different food videos, and my whole life revolved around food and nutrition.
I mean, that’s not freedom to me. That’s not who I am as a person. That’s not all I’m good for. That’s not my purpose. It’s not my passion. It became my passion when I was starved.
That’s why I went to get a degree in nutrition. But if I’m my real self, and I’m nourished, and I’m out of an energy deficit, nutrition is the last concern of mine.
I have certain things that I like to buy, but I don’t have a panic attack, or I don’t spend my days researching and studying nutrition and recipes, and this and that, and food, food, food, all day long.
So it was until I was forced into recovery, against my will…
I still don’t even know exactly how it happened, but I didn’t choose recovery. It just got to a certain point where I had my first meal, a regular meal with pasta and cheese, a real meal, and it awoke that beast inside of me.
It was at that point that my hunger came back full force. It was always kind of there mentally, but my physical hunger came back with a vengeance at that point, after I’d eaten regular food enough to show my body that there was regular food. I was in an abundant environment.
And boy, did it want to take advantage of that to make up for the energy deficit while it could. It was like my hunger was like a beast coming out of hibernation, just ravenous.
I had that feeling that once I started eating, I couldn’t stop, and I just wanted to eat 24/7.
Why does our body just shut off physical hunger? For some, this happens, and for others, it doesn’t happen.
They have their physical hunger the whole time, or it gets slowly, progressively worse, or stronger as they’re in an energy deficit.
The more time goes on, the more depleted they come, the more damage that’s inflicted on their body.
For others, their appetite goes away.
Think of it like this.
Suppose your body is so starved and malnourished from the energy deficit that it shuts off reproductive hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, from the lack of energy to conserve energy. For many people, your body can also turn off your hunger signals (hormones) as well.
The body, fueled by hormones, produces these hunger cues, which are ghrelin and leptin, so your hunger and satiety hormones.
So these hunger cues are hormones, too. (ghrelin and leptin).
So if your body’s going to shut off reproductive hormones, it only makes sense that it’s going to turn off other hormones as well, right? So different hormones are produced by the thyroid triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
The thyroid can be suppressed as well, and therefore our metabolism because they go hand in hand. They work together.
Our digestive system also gets shut down, and all of the hormones are involved with digestion which is one of the reasons why we then start to face severe digestive disorders.
This is because producing these hormones takes a lot of energy to do so. Likewise, physical hunger cues cost a lot of energy to produce.
So why would the body want to risk further energy depletion when it’s already in an energy deficit? The body knows that it’s very intelligent, more than we give it credit. I mean, it does all the work for us. So it knows that that would lead to death if it kept the rate of energy expenditure at a normal rate when not enough energy’s coming in to supplement that.
So everything, including your physical hunger cues, are suppressed, turned off altogether, or halted, the production, the rate at which it functions, on purpose to conserve energy for your survival.
So THANK your body.
Thank your body that it was trying to save your life when you were ignorant.
That’s what I had to do. I had to thank my body and apologize that I was ignorant. But now I have the information not to do that.
Mental hunger, though, doesn’t cost that much energy.
It costs a lot less energy to produce mental hunger and keep mental hunger there. So even though we don’t feel like we have an appetite, our mental hunger remains present.
To overcome this, it’s quite simple. It’s to force-feed yourself. That’s why this is where the calorie minimums come in.
For some people, this works to make sure that they’re eating enough until their physical hunger cues return and they’re present. But, then, you don’t want to get caught up with calorie counting.
That’s what you’re getting away from. You don’t want that minimum to become a maximum if your hunger does return, and then it’s like all of a sudden, you’re hungry for 10,000+ calories.
Just know for some, not everyone faces that kind of extreme hunger. I’ve gotten that question a lot, too.
We can get caught up comparing to what other people’s recovery and eating habits look like, but extreme hunger is relative to the individual. What extreme hunger is to one person is not extreme to another, and what’s extreme to them maybe not be enough for the other person.
But really, don’t doubt your body and what you are feeling just because someone else is doing something different. I’ve seen that a lot.
So just if you’re following your hunger cues, mental, physical, both unrestrictedly, then don’t get caught up thinking that you’re doing something wrong, but now you have to force-feed yourself, even though you went through extreme hunger already. So you’ve already felt that.
And yours wasn’t as much as someone else, so that means you probably did something wrong, and that’s why your body isn’t balancing out yet, and that’s why you’re not recovered yet, and it’s taking too long. It’s probably really just a matter of being patient with your body.
Anyways, that’s a whole other topic. I just wanted to say that.
Try not to compare to what other people are doing in their recovery. Everyone’s at a different point in their journey as well, and they’re coming from different places. They’re feeling different things.
If you’re honest with yourself, stay in your own lane, okay?
To get out of this, it’s about force-feeding yourself until your appetite returns. You keep eating. It may take a few months, or longer, or shorter of you force-feeding yourself enough until that physical hunger returns, and it does return.
You have to be consistent with yourself, not be skipping meals, not restricting here and there, and not over-exercising.
You have to get yourself out of this energy deficit.
You have to weight restore.
You have to challenge your food fears constantly, no slacking, no getting stuck, and continue to move forward.
So if you want your physical hunger to return, you got to eat.
Then, it shows your body that food is coming in. Your body has a chance to restore the energy deficit, so it’s comes out of malnourishment. It heals. It strengthens. It balances.
Then, your body senses, okay, we have enough energy coming in.
Just like your period returns, the body senses it’s safe to turn back on reproductive hormones, and it can give energy to that because it has enough coming in consistently.
It’s the same thing with your physical hunger cues.
The body senses it has enough food coming in, it’s not going to be restricted, and therefore it can start to put energy towards producing those hormones, ghrelin, and leptin again.
The body will adjust to make satiety (leptin) more present as it doesn’t need much food anymore.
That’s when you start to feel your satiety become more present, just as your hunger may start to subside slowly, not back into restriction energy deficit, but just back to your normalcy.
But, this can take a long time, okay? This can take like six months, ten months, a year, a year and a half, two years, depending on whether you are in full recovery or quasi recovery.
Do you know what I mean?
Pretty simplistic. I get it. I know it’s easier said than done.
But you know what to do.
How do you take action? This is completely outlined in my program Find Your Balance if you'd like further coaching and guidance.
Your mental hunger will not be so crazy strong out of control.
It dies down, it subsides, it balances out, and you become a normal person again that doesn’t spend their days looking at food this, and food that, and thinking about food, and fantasizing about food, and food is your identity, and food is your idol and all of this stuff.
For me, that wasn’t my definition of freedom.
So what is your definition of freedom?
And does that entail food thoughts all the time?
If not, then get committed to your recovery like 100%.
You’re either in, or you’re out—no looking back.
Going back isn’t an option. The restriction isn’t an option.
Whatever it takes, as long as it takes.
These kinds of mindsets will get you through recovery and the long haul to remain consistent and repetitive.
Of course, this is never a one-size-fits-all approach. This is for most people coming from some energy deficit, some restrictive diet of any kind.
But also, if you have no appetite, not from an energy deficit standpoint, if it’s not that, of course, there are other factors, such as some people lose their appetite when they’re stressed out.
They go through a breakup, a divorce, a crisis, a death in the family.
They get fired at a job. They get laid off. They have to move, some stressful, chaotic time in their life, they lose their appetite.
That’s not from the energy deficit, but that can put you into an energy deficit, so you got to watch it. Make sure you’re eating enough.
Some people use appetite suppressants. They smoke cigarettes. They drink way too much coffee. They take appetite suppressant drugs and supplements. So you got to watch that—question what’s in your life or your daily routine.
Other people could be on antidepressants or different pharmaceutical drugs that one of the side effects of those is lowering the appetite.
With all of these, though, this can lead to an energy deficit, which can lead to all of these symptoms that you have to go through recovery.
So it’s just worth mentioning to make sure that you don’t fall into that trap.
Also, if this is in your life currently while you’re trying to recover, question that so that nothing comes in the way of your recovery.
And if you do have this from these things, force-feeding has to come in at this point as well. I’m one of those people that when I get stressed out, go through a crisis. My appetite goes away.
Through my recovery, I didn’t take that as an opportunity anymore as I used to when I was in that mindset of fearing weight gain and stuff.
But in recovery, I had to switch that. And if something happened like that, I got sick, and I didn’t have an appetite or I went through a stressful time, and my appetite was gone, I didn’t want to go back to where I was coming from, so I had to make sure force-feed myself every day until that went away, even if it was weeks, months, and so forth.
It’s just taking care of your body’s needs, not taking that as an opportunity as if it’s a good thing that your appetite’s gone, you’re going to lose weight.
You’re going to make up for that sooner or later, you know?
I hope that you’re doing good in your recovery!!
I want to remind you that just because it’s smiles and we can laugh about it or talk about recovery in a light manner, I know the seriousness of recovery and how hard it actually can be.
Just know that if it doesn’t look as pretty and glamorous as others portray it to be, and it’s more so of fear, and anxiety, and pain, and tears, and frustration, and anger, and identity crisis, that’s more so of what real recovery looks like, but there’s beauty in that.
Just keep going, and you’ll see the purpose to your pain in the future, if not already!
So with that, I hope that this post has helped you in some way!
PS I’m hosting a free masterclass specifically for people who want to stop feeling obsessed around food and truly heal their metabolism, and you’re invited! Click here to sign up.