Hunger Hormones

I am not kidding when I say that I am nearly always full and never feel hungry. I literally never have the desire to eat; I never feel that I am in need of food ASAP. This seems strange to many people as they wonder how I can never have a desire to eat. Everyone gets hungry, they say. So, why do I not feel this way too? Does this have something to do with ED?

Well, research can help explain some of this. Evidence shows that patients with AN (anorexia nervosa) tend to have different leptin levels than the normal population. Leptin is a hormone that makes us feel full or tells our brains that we have had enough to eat and are satisified. It just so happens that people with AN have abnormally high leptin levels. So, what this means is that they literally DO feel full all the time, or get full very easily.  See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17060920 for details.

So when I say that I am not hungry, it means that my brain and body actually do not feel hungry. My leptin levels are just too high, so my brain feels satisified. It does not feel that it needs food. Some people would think that this is great, as they say that this would help them lose weight and stop pvereating. But, for someone with ED, this is a problem. Eating is already hard, even without feeling full all the time. Now imagine forcing yourself to eat when you absolutely do not feel hungry. Full all the time. No hunger. It is not fun, nor is it easy.

But what I find interesting is that this helps me to learn more about my illness. I already KNOW that I am never hungry, but this helps others understand why eating is so hard for me. Not only am I fighting against ED, I am also kind of fighting agaisnt my messed-up hunger signals as well. It is a double battle, and it isn't easy. But I am doing it. I am eating, regardless of whether or not I am hungry. Because I know that this feeling of fullness, although very real and is occuring in my brain, is a result of my illness. My leptin levels, along with other things, have changed in response to the starvation period. So, when I was restricting before, my body raised leptin levels so that I would not feel hungry or tired. It was my body's way of protecting itself. But now these signals are still faulty, even when in recovery. That means that I am doing the right thing by eating by the clock. I clearly cannot depend on my hunger cues.

I am getting better at it, though. I am trying so hard to not complain when eating, to laugh, to keep myself busy, and to not focus on the food. I hate when food is always the centre of life - because for so long, I wanted to eat but could not. Now, I am eating, and I still do not want to. So, taking focus off the food makes life easier. Time to eat? Okay, grab my meal, sit and read or work, and life moves on. That is it. Five or six times a day, I grab something to eat. But life carries on. No fuss, no big deal. It is just food, and I am just human. Thankfully, I am able to do this. I never thoght that one day, I would get to the point where food would be a normal part of daily life.

So even though my leptin levels are off, this research gives me hope. It tells me that I am not crazy - I really DO feel full all the time. I know I am not faking this. But what makes it even more amazing is that despite this hurdle of having to eat even when full, I am doing it. It also helps others around me understand why eating is so difficult and 'hard work' for me.

It makes me feel strong to know that I'm eating, even when my body does not feel hungry. I am overcoming this. It is still hard, but it gets easier as time goes on. So, my hunger hormones are definitely messed up. But my eating is not. The food goes in. Life goes on.

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