One night during my recovery, I remember waking up at 2am, and I was starving.
I don’t just mean the I-could-eat-something-lets-have-dinner type of starving, I mean the I-will-eat-you-if-you-come-near-me type of starving, and it was terrifying.
At first, I told myself to go back to sleep, that I was just thirsty, that your hunger signals whilst lying down are unreliable, that it’s only a few hours until my allocated breakfast time; yet every time I closed my eyes the only thing I could think of was food. My mind was completely unable to focus on anything but pasta, oatmeal, potatoes, milk, biscuits, chocolate, peanut butter and everything in-between.
A bit plate of noodles covered in sauce.
A bowl of sugary and crunchy cereal.
Bread with the wildest amounts of hummus and avocado and jam.
It began to feel like I was already eating and tasting the food, my mouth watering and my body weak.
For the entire week prior to this, I had been restricting my intake with the excuse that I was simply “following my hunger cues”, when we all know that during recovery this is extremely dangerous as anorexia is very much in control of your so-called intuition. Eating “intuitively” of course is the aim for someone who is fully recovered, but for someone who was still unwell and still struggling to differentiate between her own thoughts and those of her eating disorder, I was setting myself up for failure. At night when I got such urges, my body was in desperate need of nutrition, and for so long I chose to ignore these cravings in the name of my intuition and satiety - when really they were my intuition trying in as many ways as possible to get me to respond.
As I tried to convince myself that I was listening to my body, I chose to ignore my body when it was screaming at me to listen.
For me, my hunger was particularly prominent at night, mostly because after not allowing myself any “bad” foods during the day I would finally give myself permission to enjoy them at night. Even during recovery, my body had learnt to suppress cravings for anything that wasn't unsweetened yoghurt and plain weetabix during the day, so at night it would be ravenous for everything it had been depriving itself of. I would want to eat dinner as soon as possible, so that I could leave more time for my indulgent night time snacks and feasts. All, of course, in the name of extreme purity, intuition and health.
So Why Do We Crave?
If there’s one thing I hope you get out of this post, I hope that it’s the understanding that our bodies are extremely clever. They really are geniuses.
When we crave a food or type of food, it is our body’s way of communicating the fact that we are in need of a specific vitamin, nutrient or energy top-up.
Every time we get a yearning for a food, it is because our bodies at that time are in desperate need of it. Our brain is sending a message to our conscience asking us to provide a specific food so that our bodies can give back to us and function to the best of their abilities. How can we expect our body to do everything we say - from “Hey legs, come on, we’re walking to Anna’s house” to “Time to sleep, brain, get ready to sort out all my crap from today” - if we don’t give it what it needs in return? It’s like a teacher demanding you to write an essay if they haven't taught you the subject. How can you complete a given task if you haven't been given the appropriate tools?
Our bodies know what we need and they know us better than anyone else. Their sole purpose is to ensure we stay alive and live well, so depriving it of what it asks for is absolutely absurd. Your body only wants the best for you. We have to learn to trust our bodies more than our minds, because they're the real experts. If you think about it logically, is there a reason why they would ask you to feed them if there was absolutely no need? Would our bodies trick us like that? No, It only wants to help you live your life to its fullest. It is trying, desperately, to keep you living and breathing and healthy.
Please, listen to it.
And no, I hear you ask, you won't wake up 100kg heavier. You won't suddenly balloon overnight. You won't have to live your life with endless amounts of cravings. Your body just needs to fill the deficit you created, and the more you put it off, the longer the hunger will persist. Since you've been restricting your body, be it last week or last decade, your body NEEDS to make up for it somehow - and this is its way to do it. You will not gain weight because you're simply filling the huge caloric gap your eating disorder caused you to create, and this is necessary is that your body can function.
And if you did gain weight, it means your body needs it, whether you like it or not. You cannot control the weight your body was naturally programmed to be at. You can't dictate your genetic build and structure, all you can do is work with your body as it tries to get you back to your setpoint.
There are NO downsides to honouring your extreme hunger, so excuse me as I grab myself a bowl of cherrios and peanut butter...