7 Tips For Going Through EXTREME HUNGER / Eating Disorder Recovery

Going through extreme hunger can be one of the scariest and most uncomfortable things in eating disorder recovery – you just eat and eat and never seem to get full. You feel physically stuffed but still want more food. You may start to think that there is something seriously wrong with you and you now just have a binge eating disorder.

But know that extreme hunger is a very normal part of recovery from a restrictive eating disorder. And I have talked more about it HERE.

But HOW to go through extreme hunger and what are my best tips and recommendations to make this process easier? This is everything we will cover in today’s post. I will give you 7 tips for going through extreme hunger.

1. Know why it happens

When I was going through extreme hunger in my recovery from bulimia and orthorexia then for quite a few months I didn’t know anything about extreme hunger. It freaked me out and I tried everything to control it and didn’t fully respond to it because I thought it was just “bingeing”. But once I understood what it was, why it happens, and that it’s normal and I should just respond it made it easier. At least it lessens the mental stress of thinking that something is wrong with me. 

I have a whole other post about extreme hunger where I talk about it more, what it is, why it happens and I will address many other common questions and concerns about it. Read that post HERE.

2. Don’t label it as “bingeing”

When I was recovering from bulimia and I had been dealing with bingeing for so many years already. So it really freaked me out that in recovery the “binges” didn’t stop overnight but they kept on happening. But luckily I learned that it’s actually extreme hunger and very normal. And this mental shift from not labeling it anymore as “beingeing” (that has such a negative connotation to many people) was very important for me. I think it’s more helpful to call it what it is – extreme hunger, feasting, recovery hunger…whatever else that doesn’t demonize your hunger. If you keep calling it “bingeing” it may still feel like you are doing something “bad”. Calling it “bingeing” will mentally and emotionally just increase the anxiety and fear and signal to the body that your hunger is wrong and you shouldn’t trust it. So stop labeling or calling it “bingeing”.

2. Make your body trust that food truly is abundant 

When you have gone through an eating disorder it means you have experienced restriction, deprivation, starvation, not having enough food around for maybe weeks, months, years, or even decades. It’s been a very traumatic experience for you and your body. So to fully recover from it your body really needs to see and trust that food truly is abundant now. You don’t want your body to have any fear that maybe there isn’t enough food or it might be taken away again.

  1. This is why things like regular eating is so important. Feed your body regularly – 3 meals and 2-3 snacks in between meals. Consistent food intake is very healthy, therapeutic, and healing after an eating disorder.
  2. Also, it’s very important to prevent getting overly hungry before you eat. Never let yourself get overly hungry, it can be a very stressful experience for your body, especially after an eating disorder. If you go overly hungry in recovery (intentionally or unintentionally) it will just trigger more extreme hunger because your body can’t trust that there is enough food. Food restriction is a big stress for the body so in recovery you don’t want to trigger that stress again by going overly hungry.
  3. Always have plenty of food available around you – do grocery shopping more often so you have food available at home, buy more snacks that you can keep at your house, in your car, in the drawer of your workplace, in your purse. So you always have food available to you and around you whenever you need.
  4. And also, you should never compensate for your extreme hunger. Never try to “make up for it” by “eating clean” or skipping meals or “exercising it off”. This is all very restrictive and disordered and you must stop doing it.
  5. Eat calorie-dense foods. Don’t try to respond to extreme hunger by only eating your safe foods or fill yourself up with low-calorie meals or fruits and veggies. This way you are just wasting your time and will make this process much longer than it has to be. Rather eat calorie-dense foods, eat high-carb, high-fat foods, more processed foods that are easier to digest and will make you feel full and satisfied much longer.
  6. And you should absolutely stay consistent in responding to your hunger. Very often I hear about people who tell me they have been in recovery for a long time and wonder why things are not improving or getting better, but on a closer look, they haven’t been consistent in responding to their hunger. They maybe respond one day and then hold back the next day. This way your body can never trust that all the restriction and starvation is truly over and it just further confuses and stresses out the body. Consistency is key!.

4. Eat to mental hunger

If you are responding to extreme hunger then there are no specific calories what to aim for. You are the only person who truly knows how much food your body needs to be full and satisfied. And be ready that extreme hunger will most likely take more than just physical comfortable fullness. Rather aim for getting satisfied mentally and this means responding to your mental hunger. When you can’t stop thinking about food, you daydream about food, when you are maybe physically full but mentally want more food then it’s your mental hunger and you should respond.

5. Healthy coping

Going through extreme hunger can be very hard emotionally and mentally. You may feel fear and anxiety, the weight gain process is hard to deal with, and it can all feel overwhelming. So having some healthy ways to cope and healthy distraction is essential.

Some ways to cope could be:

  • Journaling
  • Calling or talking to someone
  • Doing a guided meditation (see my guided meditations here)
  • Listening to a podcast or audiobook
  • Writing or drawing
  • Reading a book
  • Taking a nap
  • Watching TV series
  • …or any other healthy distraction you can think of

6. Get rid of triggers

Another very important thing is to get rid of as many triggers as you can.

  1. You should definitely stop weighing yourself. Throw out the scales, you don’t need it, it’s only a diet culture torture tool to keep you brainwashed.
  2. Also, get rid of any measuring tape or food scales.
  3. If you follow any triggering accounts then unfollow all of them. And instead, you could follow some recovery or body positive accounts or even accounts that have nothing to do with food or our bodies. Find other interests like DIY, travel, books, movies, and so on.
  4. Organize your closet and get rid of triggering clothes. And get some comfortable clothes – some stretchy pants or shirts, flowy dresses or skirts…anything that doesn’t feel too tight or constricted.
  5. And stop body checking. Become aware of the behavior and stop yourself from doing it and instead turn your focus somewhere else or find a healthy distraction.

7. Ask for support and set boundaries

This really depends on you what you feel is best for you and what you need, but for many people, it can be helpful to ask for support from friends and family. Or find a coach, therapist, or someone who can help you go through this.

Sometimes it can be very helpful to let your family or roommates know what you are going through and why you need to eat a lot of food right now so you can feel you can do it out in the open rather than feeling like you need to hide it or sneak around.

Also, you can tell others what you need and how exactly they can best support you. Often people want to help but they just don’t know what is the right thing to do or say – you can tell them. Say that you need them to not talk about food or discuss diets or numbers with you. Or tell them that if you speak to them about this you just need them to listen and not offer advice or try to fix it for you.

And if someone is triggering you must set boundaries with them. Tell them what you need and what is ok or is not ok. They don’t have to completely understand everything you are going through but they should honor the boundaries you set.

And sometimes you even have to cut people completely out of your life if they are very triggering and toxic for you and your recovery. Or if it’s a person you can’t stop seeing (like your family member) you have to set very clear and hard boundaries with them. You are the most important person in your life so you deserve good people around you who support and love you!

If you want to learn more about recovery and how to do it step by step then please read my book “BrainwashED”

You can check out my recovery online courses HERE.

If you wish to work with me one on one, then I offer Recovery Coaching where I can help you go through your recovery step by step and offer support and accountability. Read more and apply HERE.

Or you can book a one-off coaching call with me HERE.

16 thoughts on “7 Tips For Going Through EXTREME HUNGER / Eating Disorder Recovery”

  1. Your videos are so helpful!!!I started restricting and fasting about 2 years ago doing OMAD, and I could always eat so much at that one meal but I was never satisfied, in the past year I started drinking a smoothie before dinner hoping it would help me stop eating so much. However, now I can no longer eat the some amount at dinner, I get so bloated so fast after I start eating but I keep eating because my mouth is still “hungry” and I feel so uncomfortable it is hard to sleep ! I am trying to slowly build up my calories every week so I shock my metabolism, but I feel so bloated all the time and even when I am full my mouth wants to keep eating, it is so uncomfortable! Have any tips? Thanks again!

    1. if you try to fill up with a smoothie before dinner so you would eat less may lead to bloating as well – you then get “full” (feeling bloated) but you are not *satisfied*. I don’t know what you eat exactly but I recommend eating something satisfying (not just trying to “fill up your stomach” to eat less – that doesn’t give you satisfaction!) but eating something really yummy, with high-carb and high-fat foods, likely the foods you have restricted the most, those can make you feel actually satisfied. but some bloating is also very normal in recovery, no matter what you eat, it takes time to normalize.

      1. Can you help me?!
        Iam 14 years old boy I been in eating disorder or anorexia for 3 months but In this 3 months I eat in day like 600 calories to under 1000 and workout for 40 min and walk 40 min but when I come to recovery before I enter in recovery I stop workout because I destroyed my body and I enter in underweight I start recovery when my weight 52 or 53 and 173 cm my height then I binge eating 2 days or 3 days on a row I start crying because I scared to look obese and overweight and I start to binge everyday for a week or 10 days but now when I search why I do this I know that’s a extreme hunger not binge eating then I start to respect my body and eat everything my body want I eat 5000 or 6000 calories for now I can’t stop by body can’t stop to eat I can’t feel full I feel full for 2 or 3 hours then I start to eat everything I see but why I carve too much sugar and carbohydrate and junk food but I am not eating too much junk food but I eat a lot from my aunt homemade pizza is that true to do respect my body and eat everything he carve I have doing this for 2 weeks now and I can’t stop eating for what time it will last please ???

  2. Hi! I am so grateful for your posts! I have a question, so I have been trying to increase my calories by 100 per week and I’ve gone from 1000-1800 (I ate 1000 for about five months). I’ve done this because I don’t want to gain weight, and I also have been doing it to get rid of my mental hunger. In the process I’ve actually lost about 5 pounds. At first, the mental hunger quieted, but as I’ve increased father, it’s become insane. I work a very physical job and run so that might also be a reason. There have been a couple of days the past few weeks where I’ve fully let myself eat to satiety and it’s been about 5000 calories each time, but it’s weird because I wake up the next day feeling still hungry! This terrifies me just because it’s so many calories and I am scared that if I let myself eat to satiety every day, I will rapidly gain weight. (This happened before when I let myself eat to satiety for about a week (during the period that I was restricting to 1000 calories a day). I gained 10 pounds and I’m so scared of that happening again). I am not underweight (BMI 18.9) but I don’t have a period and haven’t had one for about a year. Do you have an idea as to why my hunger has increased now that I am eating almost twice as much food as when I was severely restricting my intake?

    1. hunger can increase as you are eating more because the metabolism speeds up and also if you restrict and don’t eat enough our hunger can be suppressed because the body tries to “adjust to starvation”. but if you finally eat to full satiety the body realizes “we finally have an abundance of food and can fully recover!” so it’s a good sign and very normal. you cannot fully recover and “not gain”, you simply cannot outsmart your body, it has its biological needs, and you cant eat less and expect to recover as well, it doesn’t work like that. BMI 18.9 is very low and you don’t have your period, plus extreme hunger alone is a sign of restriction and starvation so you definitely need to eat, and it’s normal.

  3. Hello,
    even though your page and your videos helped me a lot, i would still like to ask for help. I’ve been in recovery for like two weeks, more or less, and nothing seems to get better. My extreme hunger comes and goes but I know that it’s STILL there even when it goes away for a day or two.
    I give to my body everything it craves and i thought it would get better but it actually seems to get worse with every day. I still exercise though and I’m still very active but i only do activities i actually enjoy and i do them because i WANT to, not just to burn calories or compensate my food. I’m scared that it won’t stop or that i will become obese. Can you help me?

    1. Hi, two weeks in recovery is a very short time, you need to give it way more time and be consistent. exercise is not helping your extreme hunger, no matter your intention behind it. our body needs rest after ED and what it’s been through. keep following the tips in this blog post. but of course, if you are concerned you should speak to your doctor.

  4. I have been struggling with anorexia for about 3 and a half years, and yet I haven’t been on my “healthy weight” until the last month, when I recovered my period. I started to hear about extreme hunger five months ago and I understood that I needed to let the fear of gaining weight go away and eat. But the thing is that I’m not sure to have extreme hunger. I feel that this is only an excuse to let a binge eating disorder enter my brain. I can’t control what I eat, I don’t know if it’s extreme hunger or binge eating. When I eat I’m not hungry but in my head I want it so much. I can’t explain it very well, I thought that was extreme mental hunger but what if it’s only an excuse of a new disorder?

    I’m SO afraid of doing it wrong, and mess it all up… I’m searching desesperately an excuse to eat. But the truth is that I’m only encouraging another eating disorder isn’t it? Please help!

  5. Hello Elisa,
    your content and your book are currently helping me very much by the hard time of recovery. I thank you very much for the support you give us through your experience.

    With this comment, I wanted to ask you for your advice. I come from an extreme anorexia with anorexia athletica, orthorexia etc. I have done a lot and achieved a relatively good weight. Nevertheless, I have a lot to fight with extreme hunger. I try to give myself the best possible, but sometimes I have a certain thing in my head (Shoko fresh at me), but if I eat some of them, it is very bad for my stomach. Sometimes I feel like I couldn’t eating some of them anymore. If I eating an apple, it feels much better. My question: should I still go after that, or can I still decide what I want to eat right now and do me well. I do not want to prohibit myself with the decision, but if I feel worse afterwards, it is not really beneficial, is it? I’ve been trying to eat more intuitively for a while.

    I am happy to hear from you and thank me in advance.

    Best regards

    1. I totally get it, many people struggle with this in recovery. I recommend you read a few of my blog posts about digestion and what I typically recommend.

      But situations are different and recovering from malnutrition and stomach issues can be really challenging so its always best to seek medical advice too.

  6. Hi Elisa, I’m now suffering from extreme hunger, how can I tell If it is getting better, are there any signs ?
    Also, I can tell that my hunger is getting intense on the second day of my all-in recovery, is it a bad sign?
    Should I stop doing any activities including walking around my neighborhood?

    1. if the hunger cues start to normalize you will experience less food thoughts, less urgency with hunger (not so frantic anymore), feel more satiated with foods (no more “full but still hungry”), can enjoy food more (extreme hunger can feel very stressful), start to see that foods you used to couldn’t stop eating are less exciting now, food and your hunger start to appear more normal. and its very normal extreme hunger can feel more intense in the second day. if walking still feeds your ED mindset (you feel guilty if you dont walk) you need to stop that yes. for some people some slow walking is not an issue but it really depends on the situation and the person, you must be honest with yourself whether it still feeds your ED or not. and physically a break is needed too.

  7. Hello, can I ask? Im Natalie and I have anorexia since 2019 and starting recovery since may 2023. I started eating more but it cant stop, I feel full, my stomach hurt but my head screams “I want more”. I start eating as soon as I wake up and although I eated really big portion and kcal, after 1 hour max Im hungry again… I eating and eating, each hour… and after I dont have what to eat I go to shop but dont have apetite , just want food. I still only thinks about food, my life is just food, it is more painfull than before recovery. I everyday eating around 8-10k calories, my weight was before recovery 35kg (163cm) and now im about 53 and still increase around 3kg per week. What should I do please? Listen to my mental hunger although I physicaly cant? Will it stop? What if I become obese or overweight, I was 63kg before ED. Thank you so much for answer~♡

    1. make sure you recover under supervision. you need a lot of food to fully recover, your hunger is very normal. people underestimate the amounts our body needs to fully recover from an Ed, not just to increase weight but to restore the internal damage too, this take A LOT of food. you may even be at your pre-ED weight but the internal repair will continue to demand calories. this is why full recover is not only about being “weight restored”. also if the weight increase is fast its water weight, “real” weight gain (fat, muscle, bone, organ mass etc) takes much longer and is much more gradual.

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