Breaking a Cycle of Addiction to Being Hungry

By November 14, 2012

My question has to do with a cycle of addiction to wanting to be hungry. I have restricted for this affect but was in denial until now. Now I have faced it and “come out” with the secret and desire to overcome this impulse to want to be hungry. I read Constance’s book and it really started me on the road to recovery. I sought out a great ED counselor and saw her for several months and even two RD’s. So the hard work is over; now do I just start eating? Is it as easy as that? I have skipped lunch for so long I don’t even know how to begin. I eat very well the other two meals. I have been in denial about skipping lunch using every excuse possible. Now I see it as a “trick” to get that hunger high with the tension and release when I do eat. I have recently had a spiritual renewal and Jesus is so very real to me through the Word and fellowship with other believers but I am having a hard time “walking out” my recovery. I am also a runner but have kept within my boundaries for the last three years. I am a mother of five with a married daughter, son in college and three still at home. Before becoming a Christian 30 years ago I was in the party scene for years and smoked pot heavily so I know what it is to be strung out. I am also under a lot of stress raising a high functioning autistic son (age 11) and honestly, this hunger high is something I look forward to (now that I see the denial connection) because life can be really hard with nothing much to look forward to. But I know that God has a better way for me. I honestly will go 12 hours in between meals. Sometimes I get so hungry but I will make myself “hold off” until it is time to eat (or I allow myself to eat). Thanks for letting me vent! – anonymous

Dear anonymous,

I have really taken time to ponder what I read was the reason for sending an on-line panelist question: “…now, do I just start eating?” In those words I hear the cry of your heart: “What will make this habit cease?”

I can’t make a clinical diagnosis or provide therapeutic/assessment services over the internet or with the information in this one submission. But I want to respond to the statements you describe:

  • A desire to feel hungry
  • A desire to experience the tension of holding off hunger
  • Limiting healthy food intake for hours to relieve tension 

Hunger is defined as the painful sensation/weakness caused by need (specifically for food). And it seems as if you have found a way to wait upon this painful feeling and then delay any satiety, physical relief, or rest from the pain. You have chosen for some time to manage the painful state and deal with it on your own terms (12 hours apart). You indicate that you are: (1) aware that it represents disordered eating, (2) have sought professional counseling, (3) received nutritional counseling from two professionals, (4) and want to be in line with your love for God and experience healing.

There is literature dating from 2002 forward that describes the rise of disordered eating practices in women in mid-life. A look at the data seems to point to menopause, life stress, caring for older parents/sick child/relatives, children leaving the home, financial burdens, marital distance/conflict, as some common factors involved in women who play with their food and/or hunger.

You write, “the hard work is over.” Maybe. Maybe not. When I read Scripture I can’t think of a single example of someone who came into new knowledge or chose Christ and lived happily ever after. Most were dealt difficult paths but held to their faith and desire to become more and more like Christ because they understood life in total was about much more then just the here and now.

I don’t know that growth, habits or healings have a start and/or end. The “hard work” for most persons is in knowing and confessing the ways we have been coping with life, and then choosing to meet God and place those techniques (i.e. holding off satisfying our bodies’ need for food) at His altar. This activity of focusing on raising the bar of hunger and holding it is how you distract yourself and control what you are feeling. But have you considered just what exactly playing with your hunger keeps you from really feeling? Ask yourself, What are those things that would be really hard for me to surrender at the altar and actually hear from God about? What might I be afraid to hear?

Questions that invite you into intimate relationship with God will work on your heart and ultimately teach you when, where, and how you will eventually gift yourself with a lunch break, a refueling, a retreat from stress. There will have to a balanced approach: emotional, physical, intellectual, relational and spiritual.

Good growth in God! Blessings!