Extreme hunger in anorexia recovery

Extreme hunger is a state of panic and starvation combined, as the result of going too long without enough food.

Extreme hunger IS NOT over-eating, binge-eating, eating more than you think you “should” have eaten, etc. Binge-eating has its own nuance — it’s often thrown around by ignorant relatives and friends who don’t understand the extreme hunger concept.

Anytime someone deprives their body of the necessary energy intake their body needs in order to function properly, on repeat for far too long (and every body’s tolerance varies), is susceptible to experiencing extreme hunger.

“I’m starving” isn’t an exaggeration people in eating disorder recovery — or remission from an ED — use jokingly. It’s not a dramatic phrase. People with eating disorder history don’t have the privilege to skip meals, eat less than what their body needs, etc.

I can’t try any kind of diet without slipping back into anorexia habits. I can’t go vegetarian or vegan, because my brain starts thinking in food morals again. My body can’t even tolerate fasting for bloodwork without diving straight into starvation mode.

All that which encourages my eating disorder, or provides any kind of “in”, is but a slippery slope back into atypical anorexia nervosa.

Extreme hunger in ED recovery is insatiable

I want all the food, and I want it now. But it also needs to be right for my sensory needs and wants, because I’m incapable of tolerating/stomaching anything that’s not — not because of my eating disorder, but because of autism.

Pan of brownies with powdered sugar

In one night, I ate an entire pan of brownies, a tub of vanilla ice cream 🤢, and about three cups of baked beans. I don’t even like any of those things to that extent.


Because I was starving.

Extreme hunger doesn’t kick in straightaway — it begins as a relentless pit in your stomach until it’s the only thing you can think about. No matter what you eat, nothing pacifies the painful pit. It’s like not knowing your head hurts until you have a raging migraine — or longing for someone you’ve not seen in a while or waxing nostalgic.

It’s just there, making you hungry. Eventually, the body goes into this weird mode where you’re shaking and can’t function beyond thinking and knowing how hungry you are. You need food — pronto. And it doesn’t really matter what that sustenance is.

Your body and brain just needs to eat actually edible things. A lot of people eat entire sticks or tubs of butter because they’re so starved for energy and fats.

I once ate frozen banana slices as they were thawing because I was so hungry.

Extreme hunger is “eat or die”

You’ve either been there or you haven’t.

A starved body is dramatic. Starvation mode is dramatic.

Drama means “an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances”. Extreme hunger fits the latter, so if you want to call it that? Okay, true.

A starved body is a starved body.

A starved body is a dying body.

A starving body is a dying body.

That urge to eat that envelops you? That’s extreme hunger.

Extreme hunger is the panic where the body is like, “I need food RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW!”

Of course a starved body is extremely hungry.

Hence why eating disorders are a cause of starvation.

This is why “extreme hunger” isn’t “binge-eating”. Binge-eating and extreme hunger are two totally different things, but I do understand how people confuse them.

Atypical anorexia nervosa (A-AN) is the most common form of anorexia, yet people only know about the rarer anorexia nervosa — the poster stereotype for eating disorders and the reason why too few individuals receive the help they need.

Extreme hunger is painful

Shallow breaths. Exhaustion. Hypoglycemia and heart palpitations are two symptoms often present for me. Also is the inability to breathe well and full breaths.

This was complicated even more when I was in Crandall with my now-estranged aunt, because her husband smoked in the house. Old homes built 50+ years ago are not well-ventilated, my asthma was extremely affected even though he opened a window.

It still affects me now, in my inability to properly breathe through my lungs. Secondhand smoke is awful for asthmatics. I would awake choking, trying to breathe, and struggle to open the window. I still have nightmares about that experience, and I probably always will.

Struggling to breathe during a lapse/with extreme hunger is reminiscent of that moment.

It’s constantly exhausting

Bodies need glucose to function. They also need energy (calories).

So extreme hunger is a cycle of eating, sleeping and using the toilet.

The more I move through my recovery, the angrier I feel towards diet culture and the people who convinced me certain foods were bad, that I needed to eat less than my body was hungry for, etc.

Fear of dying

During a lapse, I find myself going to bed and scared to sleep because I feel so weak that I don’t know whether I will actually wake up.

My feelings are like…”I just need to keep eating,” even though I’m exhausted AF.

Fearing your final day alive is a normal think, but I think the brain knows when it’s about to die. I almost died some years back, and that feeling then is similar to what I’ve experienced during anorexia (re)lapses.

The difference, however, is that car wrecks are usually instant and starvation is a slower journey.

So, yeah. Of course it’s called extreme hunger.

Starved bodies are extremely hungry.

Eating anything and everything in sight — even the things you don’t like, are scared to eat, etc. — is the body’s way of fighting back.

Sometimes, that looks like eating butter.

Twice, I’ve eaten an 18-pack box of chocolate chip CLIFF bars (the chewy ones) like it was nothing. That’s 250 calories per bar, so 4500 calories in just a few hours per 18pk (different occasions).

My preferred extreme hunger foods are certain CLIFF bars or mint chocolate chip ice cream. I’ve leaned towards pizza, but despise the aftermath because my stomach huuuurts. Mint ice cream at least helps with the nausea. 😅

Sitting on bed with mint chocolate chip ice cream in lap (faceless, aerial view)

After the stomach bloating and digestion pain of eating what I ate during the extreme hunger chaos, I do feel better.

Love this post?

Support me by subscribing to my blog and/or buying me a cuppa:

Leave a comment