~Walking through a grocery store without buying food~
~Looking at Pinterest boards of food all day~
~Dreaming at night about your breakfast the next morning~
~Thinking about what you're going to eat with your hummus + carrots for lunch all morning~
~Planning out a workout so that you can have a bigger dinner~
~Finishing a meal but still thinking about food~
All of the above are examples of mental hunger which is a very important topic to discuss in eating disorder recovery. As you probably already have figured out, going through an eating disorder puts a lot of stress and strain on the body. With very little fuel to live off of the body starts allocating resources by shutting down non-vital functions. While many are aware of the effects living in an energy deficit has on your hair and menstrual cycle, many don't know that your hunger signals are affected by this energy debt as well.
It takes energy to produce a hunger signal, energy that is lacking, so the body ceases production of sed signals (which you don't listen to anyways) and instead tells your body you should eat via a less pricey pathway--your thoughts.
You may not physically feel hungry during ed recovery but all that reminiscing of food all day going on in your head is your body trying to get you to eat. So you need to respond to that mental hunger otherwise you will never be able to eat enough food in recovery, as your body will not necessarily tell you to start eating more.
Your hunger signals will come back once you come out of energy deficit, oftentimes with a vengeance. This is often called "extreme hunger" which I will do a future post about. Don't fret extreme hunger, your body needs food and lots of it to survive and fully repair from years of damage. Extreme hunger eventually goes away. As you continue on the path of nutritional rehabilitation, you will find your body's signals are normal once more.
*Now hopefully after recovery you don't start restricting again thereby screwing up with your signals! Honor your hunger signals always!
I explain more about mental hunger in the video below :)
What if your weight restored? Should you still respond to your mental hunger?
First off, no matter if you are in ed recovery or not, you are human and you need to eat a decent amount of food each day to survive.
Secondly, we must define weight resorted. Reaching a BMI of 18 is not weight restored. Getting fit and doing a bikini competition is not weight restored, despite the improved muscle tone on your body. While there is not set number or weight that magically affirms to you that you have amended your energy debt and are healthy again, many experts in the field agree that a BMI of at least 22 is necessary to restore all functionings of the body (especially your period). Please remember, we are looking not only for weight gain in recovery but nutritional rehabilitation and an amendment to that energy debt. You can be a ta higher weight and still not nutritionally rehabilitated.
If you are still getting mental hunger (besides the normal thinking about food everyone in a while when your hungry) then look honestly at your diet for places that you are still restricting. This may be calorically restricting or macronutrient/specific food restriction. For example, if you have been eating 3000 calories a day and gaining weight but still have a fear of bread and refuse to eat it, then you're still restricting and mental hunger can persist. *Of course if you have celiac disease this is another issue.
You will start to know you are weight restored when you;
-No longer experience Mental Hunger
-Don't have to diet or exercise to maintain your weight.
-Have your period is back and it has resumed a normal cycle length
-Don't have hair falling out
-Don't restricting yourself of food and have no fear of certain macronutrients
-Don't over exercise or exercise compulsively
-Will have physical hunger cues which you will listen to!
-No longer body check and fear gaining weight
These are just some examples. In reality know on else but you can know if you are truly weight restored. So be honest with yourself during this journey.
IF YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT FOOD, GO AND EAT!