Extreme Hunger in ED Recovery

Blog, Written by Sophie Corbett

Extreme hunger in ED recovery


What is it?


Extreme hunger is a common experience during eating disorder recovery. After a long period of restriction, the body needs and wants a greater amount of food, so you feel a big spike in hunger. It can feel like all of a sudden you are starving all the time, like you are still hungry after eating meals that normally would have kept you hunger at bay.

It can feel extremely uncomfortable, confusing and distressing. I hope this blog provides some reassurance and action points for those going through this experience.


Why does it happen?


For many people this can happen shortly after increasing their dietary intake. My theory is that this is because the body knows that food is around and available, so it is encouraging you to eat more so that you can heal from the starvation.

For some people, they may not have made any changes, but they suddenly notice a significant increase in hunger.

It is normal that after a long period of starvation you want and need to eat more than usual.


What to do if I have extreme hunger?


Don’t panic, it is normal and common.

The most important thing to do is to respond to the hunger and avoid restriction or compensation.

If you respond to the hunger, it will likely mean eating a lot more than normal, but by responding to it you are showing your body that food is abundant and that you are safe. By doing this it will help the hunger to go back to normal levels. Restriction and compensation are likely to prolong the experience.

In my clinical experience, it seems typical to experience extreme hunger for a few weeks. It is not something that normally goes on for more than 3-4 weeks, but it may go away and come back. Especially if you start restricting once hunger has gone back to normal.


Distress tolerance

Finding ways of coping with the stress that this sensation can bring is very important.

I really love these distress tolerance modules from CCI which you can do at home as a form of self-help. It is also important to have a good social support around you. Therapy can also be extremely helpful during this time.


Extreme hunger can be a good thing

I know that it is not a pleasant experience and that it may not feel at all positive, but I often tell my clients that it is a clear sign from the body saying, ‘feed me’. For a number of people that I have supported, the increase in hunger helps them properly kick start their recovery and really make progress towards their recovery goals.


In summary…

  • Extreme hunger is a normal experience after starvation.
  • By responding to the hunger and eating more than normal (without compensating) it will help the hunger levels to return to normal.
  • It is important to have strategies at hand to help you cope with the stress.
  • The extreme hunger can be a good thing, a helpful tool in recovery.


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We are here to help


If you feel that you would benefit from support to get you through Extreme Hunger topic then we are here to help. We are a team of specialist dietitians in mental health and eating disorders. We would love to support you to be your best and healthiest version, and to meet your personal goals. Send us a message here. Or find out more about us here


Blog written by Sophie

Dietitian Sophie

Sophie is a Specialist Eating Disorder Dietitian passionate about delivering great quality care and advocating for her clients. She is naturally curious and driven for continued learning both within the profession and outside of it. Sophie founded Mental Health Dietitians in 2024 to be able to work in a way that is value-aligned and makes a difference to the individuals in her care, as well as the wider profession. She currently supports international clients 1-1 in her online clinic.