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Why can't I feel full??? Need help with insatiable appetite

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As a 19 year old male, I'm 5'8 and weigh about 130 pounds.  By my own self-confession I have undereaten for pretty much the past 5-6 months and was recently referred to an eating disorder specialist by a doctor who told me that many of my hormones and blood results were abnormal due to what he called my "starvation" diet.  On an average day for the past 5-6 months, my typical diet would look like the following:


Small bowl of plain Life brand cereal with 1 cup skim milk, and one small egg omelette (3-4 egg whites, no yolk) with small amount of green pepper and tomato


1 medium-sized salad with fat-free dressing, one 4-5 oz. chicken breast, 1/2 plate steamed vegetables, 1 cup skim milk


1 medium or large-sized salad with fat-free dressing, one 4-5 oz chicken breast or piece of red meat, 1 cup skim milk

On these average days the caloric total would probably be around 1200-1500.

On weekends I would only have breakfast and dinner, no lunch.  Now, during these 5-6 months on this diet I was always hungry.  Ocasionally I would allow myself to eat more than what I felt was appropriate; for example, I would have 2 chicken breasts instead of 1,  or two bowls of cereal instead of one for breakfast.  Yet at  most meals I would restrict myself to eating no more than what I saw the other students eating (in terms of volume of food) from fear of stretching out my stomach (and appetite).  The problem was that I was always hungry and always had to walk away from the dinner table using sheer willpower, and this was extremely difficult at times. 

Now that I've finally realized that undereating was the source of my constant bloating (not overeating), I've increased my food intake, but my problem is that no matter how much I eat I can't seem to get full, and when I finish a meal I feel absolutely NO fuller than when I started, as if my stomach is a bottomless pit.  For the past 3 days I have also started an intense weightlifting regiment to try to gain back the 15-20 pounds of muscle that I lost while undereating.  In these past 3 days I have stopped restricting how much I eat, but still, no matter what I can't feel full.  As an example, for dinner tonight, I consumed:

  • 1 footlong Subway Oven Roasted Chicken Breast Sub on wheat bread (no cheese)
  • 3-4 handfuls of almonds
  • 1 banana
  • 16 oz. bottled water. 

I finished this meal feeling exactly as hungry as I did when I started.  This is so frustrating.  At breakfast this morning, I ate:

  • 1 egg white omelette consisting of 5-6 egg whites (no yolk), green peppers, and tomato
  • 1 bowl of plain non-fat yogurt and granola / grape nuts cereal
  • 1 blueberry muffin
  • 1 banana
  • 1 glass skim milk

This huge meal did not fill me at all.   It's been 3 days of this unrestricted eating and my infinite appetite still will not go away.  What should I do???  Some help would be greatly appreciated.

23 Replies (last)

What you're experiencing is completely normal.

When you put your body through starvation, it takes a while to get back to normal again.

Trust me.. I've been through EXACTLY what you're going through right now.

I pretty much starved myself all last semester of college. I got down to 105, and I'm 5'8"

Then I started binging out uncontrollably. The binges gets worse and worse.. it started with just 2,000 calories (per the period of 1-2 hours) and got all the way to 9,000 calories per sitting. 

I just never felt full, and I think that was my body telling me I needed to recover by eating as much as I could.

But it got to the point where I was feeling so unhealthy and depressed. So last week I promised myself that I would never binge again.. and so far so good. I've slipped a little bit here and there, but only by a couple hundred calories -not a couple THOUSAND.

You HAVE to make a set diet plan for yourself. GRADUALLY increase your intake.. don't allow yourself unlimited amounts of food. Because TOO much at once isn't healthy.

I know it's hard, but trust me, you'll feel so much better in the long run. It took probably took you 2-3 months to get into starvation mode.. and I'm pretty sure that's how long it will take for you to get out of it. Recovery is hard but you can do it!


I think your body is simply making up for lost time.  You still doing a huge amount of exercise into the bargain.   I expect you need well over 3000 calories in order to a) gain weight and b) let you function properly.  So keep eating and enjoy what you eat.

I can sympathize with you, entouragefan (great show, btw!). I'm a 20 yo female who restricted herself for months and now since I've started recovery I go through moments where I basically can't get enough food. At the beginning of my recovery, for instance, I ate a huge breakfast that ended up totaling 800 calories and within 2 hours I was starving again. What I've been told is its basically your body's way of saying it needs all the nutrients it can get, and the best thing to do is eat to when you're full (but eat slowly so you don't get too full too quickly) and those intense hunger feelings should calm down after a while. Good luck!

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It's possible that you're not getting enough fat. Try drinking whole milk and eating full-fat yogurt and egg yolks, not just the whites.
Original Post by toridl:

What I've been told is its basically your body's way of saying it needs all the nutrients it can get, and the best thing to do is eat to when you're full (but eat slowly so you don't get too full too quickly) and those intense hunger feelings should calm down after a while.

But that's the thing--I don't ever hit that point where I get full, even if I keep eating.  I've tried adding fat to my diet, which hasn't had much of an effect, so I've reasoned that if I'm going to allow myself to eat this much food, most of it better be clean.  I've also tried eating slowly, and I still can't feel full.  I'm just worried because even though I'm eating a lot more these days this hunger doesn't seem to be going away. 

Try exercising less, perhaps?  I'm sure intense weight-lifting is helping keep that appetite at max....
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I think part of the problem is right in what you said -- considering fat-free food to be "clean," which implies that food with fat is "dirty."

But perhaps you should rule out a physical cause for your constant hunger by explaining things to your doctor. It really may be just a matter of your body getting back to normal, but it's good to know for sure.

Your body does need the healthy fats in your diet.  Definitely eat the egg yolks unless you're buying egg whites (I still think eggs are typically better for you than the processed stuff).  Other good sources of healthy fats are olives, nuts, avocados, fish, etc.  It's dairy and animal fats that are the ones you want to avoid and even those are generally not bad for you as long as you're not eating a ton of them. Try making your own salad dressing with olive oil and red wine vinegar, use olive oil to grease the pan for your omlettes, etc.

I think you have several issues going on.  One, your body is recovering from the restricted calorie diet you had.  Two, you may be growing and developing still.  I'd recommend consulting your specialist again and seeing what they think is going on.

Teenage boys and men in their early 20s are notorious for being bottomless pits.  Part of it is due to growth and internal development, another part is due to activities as at that age any activity burns energy.

yep, i think it's the lack of fat as well.

maybe put some peanut butter on your banana.

look forward to looking sexier with a few more pounds!

I have same problem. It is cause we got trough starvation. Somedays or hours i feel my food in stomatch but moustly not. These is only one way to solve this problem. I think we have to increase our daily calories but not so rapidly - too fast fleshing.

Question is when its finish ? How long it takes to get to normal ??? And how much kgs/pounds we will gain ...

Quite often, those with eating disorders lose the sensations of hunger & fullness.  I've struggled with anorexia half my life and I haven't felt hungry or full in almost a year.  It is very scary, and it's hard to know how much and what, to eat.  

I've been in treatment many times for my eating disorder, and in every program every patient has a meal plan to follow, usually based on either calories or diabetic exchanges.  Usually for the first few months (or more) patients are either never hungry or always hungry, always full or never full.  It's very individual.  The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to make a meal plan (or go see a nutritionist) and follow it, ignoring your hunger/fullness cues at the moment.  After a while, they should (your hunger/fullness cues) adjust to the proper amount of food you are eating.  It is very important to always follow this meal plan, though.  It prevents bingeing and it prevents restricting.  

So....I will try to explain my story... Im 24 old, 178cm high and had around 118kg march last year.

I started with diet, eating around 2000kcal. Daily nutritions i kept like this : Carbs ~200gr, Protein 150gr, fats 60gr. 

My exercises from begin started with 45mins aerobic exercises 3x/week. Later in december 2008 i started with weight-lifting to keep muscles in my losing-fat program.

Also i started writing notes about weight, losing fat and growing on muscles. I kept losting app. 1 kg/week. In december 2008 I also bought a weight Omron BF500 which shows percents of fats, viscullary fats and also percentage of muscles of body. 

All was ok till to janurary 2009 my weight-dropping started slowing down. I had 84kg and i tried to drop as much as i can. I continued and hardly i went to 78kg in begin of april 2009. In this period of  time I got virus which made eczemas on my body. Amazing is that my waistline also stoped around at 90cms (from new year). Question is - probably i slowed down metabolizm ???

My lowest pecent of fat was around 7 (78kgs-april 2009) which is under normal and percent of muscles i have around 47% due by bodybuiliding. In this low percentage of fat i noticed i was very weakly, i felt very coldy, without energy .  And after symptoms started ...In end of april 2009 i started never get full of food.  Now 6.5.2009 i got up on weight. From my ~78,5 which i had, it is about 80kg, percentage of fat is growing up and also percentage of muscles going up a bit (still doing weight-lifting).

Problems with cold and feeling without energy, weakness went hopefully out. But still i have wried problem to get fully of food. Some hours i feel it, but as i said moustly no.

Question is how long will my body recover (approximetly) ? And shoudl i keep power-lifting i already removed aerobic exercises ...

also i found something about this syndom. Probably it is cause thyrocid - hormone imbalance. Look detailed : hypothyroidism (detailed -  Hashimoto's thyroiditis )

Eating disorders and restriction sounds like they can permanently change your appetite.

I have developed new ways of measuring weather I am hungry; I lose concentration and think more about food lol. I also crave the actual food I am due to have, if I have not eaten protein then by lunch time I will crave fish - my mouth will physically salivate over the thought of the food I crave.

I just do not get any physical hunger signals in my stomach - my stomach never feels hungry. Ever.

personaltrainer87 in how way you get to such eating disorder ? U kept starvation or how ?

btw. : Hopefully, this is first day of last month when i finally started feeling food in my stomach and had physicaly feelings about it. Thanks god it isnt cause problems i wrote about (hypothyrodisim) - or maybe it is counted in cause starvation changing a lot in human body - depression, mania, sensitivity to cold, fatigue, panic attacks, high cholesterol, reactive hypoglycemia, constipation, migraines, muscle weakness, cramps, memory loss, infertility and hair loss and even hormones.

My big fault was i kept starvation. I totaly slowed down metabolism and it seems its gonna better and better with me even though at the expense of weight-gain again. Well it is payback for my crap.

You need some fat in your diet. Good fat's like olive oil trigger a chemical reaction in your body/brain that signals your body to feel full. Try using oil & vinegar as dressing on your salad or add that cheese to the sub.

thanks for tips, i already added good and bad fats. Im eating app. every 2-3 hours.

Well im adding new good reading about this problem around ,,cant get full''.

Read here : thyroid problems , Weight or Slimming

I think brain trying to recover body. THS (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) balancing T3,T4 hormones using by thyroid gland.

In my case, i noticed (by weight omron BF-500) my new kilograms are percetage mostly new muscles on my legs and whole body. Ofcourse fat is added too around breasts and stomatch to protect important organs - like heart.

btw... Does anyone know name of this disorder (medicine for eg.) ?

Entouragefan01: You approached me on another site recently, but I decided to join this site & respond to you here.

In my opinion, you are definitely suffering from the eating disorder, anorexia nervosa. The amount you are eating isn't really a lot of food for a young man of your stature. To be honest, your current eating regimen sounds quite restrictive, and you seem far too obsessed with watching your fat & coal counts. I would recommend seeing your doctor & getting a referral to a dietician and/or therapist. Your "worries" are obviously interferring with your life!

MY problem is that I used to be hard-core bulimic, meaning I'd binge on huge amounts of food and then purge it all in one big breath, so I'd be completely empty again. (Btw, this made me very, very ill, and I wouldn't recommend this method of weight control to anyone.)

I alternated my binges with periods of anorexia. I definitely lost my ability to feel hunger OR satiety. It was quite the dicotomy:  I was weighing just under 90 lbs (at 5'9",) but I could put down more food than anyone I knew (even pro body-builders, marathon runners & morbidly obese people) 

But over time, it got harder & harder to purge, no matter how much I ate. Sadly, I got up to eating over 20,000 cals per binge, and then eventually, NO amount could touch my appetite. Plus, I could no longer purge because I NEVER FELT ANYTHING IN MY STOMACH! The food seemed to skip my stomach altogether & go straight to my intestines. The only way I knew I had eaten anything was when I felt the urge to go #2, but that only happened every 3 or 4 days.  I was eating 'round the clock, but my appetite could not be satiated.

Needless to say, I gained a lot of unwanted weight (remember I am anorexic too, so this was terrifying for me.) So now I alternate periods of extreme Binge Eating Disorder with extended periods of severe Anorexia since I can't purge & still do not want to gain any weight.

Right now, I have a BMI of 15.1, but I still have no concept of what it means to be "hungry" or "full"....ever.  It's a day-to-day battle that is horribly frustrating & never-ending. I have seriously contemplated suicide because of this craziness.

I have explained my problems to MANY doctors, endocrinologists, internal medicine experts, dieticians, obesity & eating disorder experts, psychiatrists, and so on, and NOBODY has an explanation as to why I'm like this, nor do they have a solution. Also, I haven't found a single soul in this world who understands exactly what I'm going through with this chronic inability to feel satiated. I feel like a friggin' freak.

Maybe somebody on THIS site might be able to fully relate, but I doubt it. If you DO have a similar prob, I'd love to hear from you.... until then, I guess I'm going to remain an anomalyCry.


Your are severely underweight and malnourished, so your would not be thinking straight, as well as having a body that has no idea how to feel about food.

You need some IMMEDIATE clear things you need to do.

The fact is: you will not be able to suddenly feel full and satisfied again. It may never happen

ALL YOU CAN DO is eat in a normal way; you may never be able to feel hunger or satiety, so you are going to have to learn to do the right thing.

Over time, you may start to feel like food again.

I probably got to a BMI of about 15 during my anorexia and have lost the ability to feel hunger signals in my stomach.

My body has learnt its own way to tell me it needs food; I still do not feel hunger in the normal sense in my stomach, but once I got into a pattern of eating normally, my body eventually learnt how to tell me when it felt like food.

Once I got into a regular pattern, over time, I would start to get a craving for the particular food I need, for example: if I have a large chicken breast or piece of fish with salad for lunch, then by mid afternoon, I will salivate and crave fruit/sweet potato/carbohydrates.

My body tells me when I need a particular thing; it is not hunger in terms of calories, but the desire for the carbohydrates, fats, or protein my body craves.

This works fine, although even when I eat enough calories, if I lack carbohydrates for example, then my body still sends out the craving signals and signals me to eat the carbohydrates it craves DESPITE not deeding the actual calories.

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