Teen: Still Hungry Mentally, Even When Full Physically

By November 19, 2012

Hi, I am 17 years old and weigh ** pounds. I had stomach problems and restricted my diet to vegetables and fiber foods to try to go to the bathroom more. However that led to an eating disorder. Now I restrict calories to 1000-1200 calories a day. Sometimes I get full off of an apple and sometimes I eat until I feel like my stomach explodes, but I still “feel” hungry. It feels like my stomach and my head are telling me 2 different things. My stomach is telling me to stop eating and my head is telling me that I am still hungry. When I binge on food, I’m usually so frustrated because I eat a lot and feel full physically, but I’m still hungry mentally. Right now, I’m basing my feeling of fullness of how my stomach feels and not what my brain tells me. But I’m scared I’m stretching out my stomach and eating when I’m not even that hungry. Before, when I saw food I didn’t want to eat it, but now whenever I see food I can’t control my hunger. Sometimes I eat without even feeling hungry and ask myself why I am eating. I am not hungry but I can’t stop eating. I tend to do that a lot on the weekends because I restrict my diet on the weekdays so on the weekends I feel like these are “free days.” I end up eating so much on the weekends that I feel like I have gained weight and go back on a diet on the weekdays. What should I do? Is it because I’m not eating enough fat and that isn’t triggering my brain to tell me when I am full? I haven’t seen a professional yet, but I want to learn how to gain weight without gaining it all back in fat. I feel like if I gain the weight back I’m just going to relapse. I’m scared for my health and want to recover. – anonymous

Dear anonymous,

I am so sorry that you are hurting and confused and feel trapped by the opposing sensations from your head and stomach. Understanding that you have a positive history of anorexia it appears that you are still experiencing some of the side effects of the disease. Many anorexics complain that they lost the ability to determine hunger and deal with gastro intestinal issues that often confuse them and they lack the ability to interpret what their body is attempting to communicate. See “Understanding Hunger and Fullness Cues” for more information.

If I was with you in person I would ask if I could hug you, and offer comfort from the debate of to eat or not eat. I want to ask you to please make an appointment to see a professional to provide aftercare and nutritional advice. The note you sent reads as if you are still playing around with food, restricting on weekdays, indulging (to the level you indulge) on the weekends and surprising your system with food to process.

Your body craves more food because it is attempting to fight for itself and to fight against the restrictions you place on it unfairly.

Hear the body. Hear its attempt to say, “I want to live. I don’t want to starve. I am not bad. I deserve to eat.” Find a trained professional who will help you schedule meals, to release the fear that you are stretching your stomach, and to utilize your skills at controlling the body and the diet on other things that will benefit you in a real way.

I would like to hear back from you and to know that you are fighting back against this disease that wants to whisper to you “C-O-N-T-R-O-L.” You have a right to live! And you do not have to live in bondage to the fear of being fat.

God created you to walk, talk, breathe, think, be in relationship and to know Him. Not to live somehow controlling for your own weekend “food sin” by dieting all week (under nourishing self) and shaming the body for having been hungry.

Please write back and let us know that you have found someone to walk this journey with you!

To recovery and beyond,