Monday, November 12, 2012

Hunger Cues

hun·ger (hnggr) n.
1.      a. A strong desire or need for food.
b. The discomfort, weakness, or pain caused by a prolonged lack of food.
2. A strong desire or craving: a hunger for affection.

cue 1  (ky)
        1. A signal, such as a word or action, used to prompt another event in a performance
         2.      a. A reminder or prompting.
                  b. A hint or suggestion.

Hunger cues.
I hate hunger cues.
It seems like a simple enough concept, right? Your body sends a signal to your brain that it needs food and you eat. Piece of cake. I wish, maybe in my dreams.

I was recently asked why I'm still meal planning and sticking to meal times after doing it for a few months. Why can't I just eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm full? Why do I still need to count calories and measure out portion sizes? Why am I still e-mailing my meal plan for the following day to my therapist every night?

What most people don't realize is, hunger cues among those recovering from an eating disorder can take anywhere from six months to five years (!!!) to return to "normal." After an extended period of starvation, the body becomes confused and forgets what it feels like to have food on a regular basis. I literally have not been hungry for a good six months, but I continue to shovel food in my mouth all day long. My body is still in adjustment mode and without the rigidity of my meal plan, I would be in big trouble.

Rather than listening to my body's plea for fuel, I began to crave that empty feeling. As I continued to eat less and less, my stomach adapted and I loved that sense of control. It became my high. I was addicted and a loyal junky.

How many of us truly listen to our hunger cues though? There are so many external factors involved in eating that have nothing to do with food. Stress, exhaustion, time of day, social gatherings, or simply smelling a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie at the food court can all induce 'hunger.' How many times have you continued eating because you don't want to waste something, even though you are full? With all of these confusing messages being sent to the brain, it's no wonder eating has become much more than a fueling process.

So, after calming down from receiving a not so helpful comment about eating normally, I am actually feeling thankful for my meal plan today. I might not feel hungry when I sit down to eat, but maybe that's "normal." Maybe all of the confusion isn't so uncommon after all. With that said, I think I should still have the right to hate the concept of hunger cues though.



  1. I'm even more screwed up than I thought! ... huh... explains a lot. Thanks Sissy.

    1. What?! I didn't mean for this to make you feel screwed up haha. Love you!