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  • Helly Barnes

Greed and Eating Disorder Recovery

A very common fear of people in eating disorder recovery is that they are just being 'greedy' when they are experiencing the high levels of hunger that are driving them to want to eat more than they have previously allowed themselves during their restrictive eating disordered life up until that point or when they do experience recovery binges or feast eating.

People frequently say,

"What if I don’t need the amount of food I want to eat or I am eating?";

"What if I am just being unnecessarily greedy?"

Well… there are so many responses to this but they all ultimately lead to the same answer, which is, you are not being greedy at the moment but you really should AIM to be greedy for your recovery and future life!

Defining 'Greed'

In order to really get into details with this, let's dive into what 'greed' actually is.

Taking a dictionary definition of the term ‘greedy’, we get:

‘A selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed…”

Exploring this definition further and applying it to eating disorder recovery:

If you are anxious and worried about being ‘greedy’ then, by my reckoning, you already fail to meet the definition of the word because people who are truly selfish are on the whole unaware that they are being so and even if they are aware of their selfishness, they have no negative feelings (e.g. guilt, shame, self hate) about it.

So, if you are upset that you might be or have been greedy then you are failing to meet the ‘selfish desire for more of something than is needed’ part of the definition.

Next, we come to the word ‘excessive’ in the defnintion, which, as a reminder states that to be greedy is to have an ‘excessive desire for more of something than is needed’.

I think we all know, and if you don’t yet, then I am here to tell you, that in eating disorder recovery, you can’t eat too much (although you most certainly can eat too little!).

You NEED to break all restriction in eating disorder recovery so that your body can heal and your brain can rewire and if you do have binge eating as a result of earlier restriction, these binges are part of a normal human body getting food for survival in the best way it knows how. And, with recovery and consistently breaking the restriction, your body will ultimately stop driving you to binge or feast eat as it becomes adequately and appropriately nourished.

Therefore, if there are no upper limits to what you eat in recovery, then it’s not possible to have that ‘excessive desire for more than is needed’ because your body needs it all at this point in time.

Once again then, you fail to meet the definition of greed!

And when it comes to food, if your body is asking you for the food and if you do want to eat a lot of food, it is because your body is asking you for it, then it is sending these signals to eat because it needs the food! Therefore, you are not being greedy because, no matter how high an intake your body and brain are driving you to consume in recovery, it is necessary and part of the healing process.

If you go with it, your body will restore, heal and repair inside and out and when it has and it trusts you to feed it, it will stop sending you the signals to eat such huge quantities (although a normal human still needs a significant amount of food just to maintain health!).

Where The Fear Of Greed Comes From

Let’s face it, this fear of being ‘greedy’ in recovery really and truly stems from two things:

The first is good old eating disorder generated fear. The eating disorder creates huge and irrational fear responses to eating more food than you are used to and so your brain creates stories as to what is causing the aversion that you have to eating more, or uses strong emotions, such as greed, as a means to make you avoid the food it perceives to be a threat to your life.

Your brain telling you that you are greedy to want more food is trying to protect you.

Your brain is wrong of course but it can also be very convincing. However, the only way to overcome those 'greedy stories' your brain is concocting is to eat as much as you genuinely want and need to despite the stories, so that your brain learns that food is not a threat and it will then stop telling you that you are greedy for something as necessary as eating and adequately feeding your body!

The second reason you will have this fear of being ‘greedy' in recovery when you want to eat more is because of our society and good old diet culture.

We live in a society and culture in which feeding a human body adequately is frowned upon and seen as a weakness. It is a sad fact that we have all grown up being taught through all kinds of channels that we should eat less than a certain amount and only certain foods and it takes a lot of learning in recovery of the true facts as to what a human body needs, while learning to recognise the lies that the powerful diet industry spreads.

Don’t blame yourself that you have automatic thoughts that you should not eat ‘too much’ because that is what you have been taught through our warped society but learn to challenge those thoughts and fears of greed and take action against them. The more you can do this, the sooner your brain will learn and with time, food and recovery, those fears of being greedy for eating all the food you NEED, will disperse.

Change The 'Greedy' Story

Ultimately though, I say in recovery, change that view of being ‘greedy’ when it comes up, trying to put another pothole in your recovery.

You won’t lose that fear of ‘greed’ anytime soon but when it arises, start to say back to yourself,

"Good. I am aiming to be greedy in my recovery, greedy for food to heal my body and mind, greedy for a recovered life and greedy for freedom…’.

And then act with those intentions, get recovered and continue to be the wonderful, unselfish and free person you really are and you really deserve to be.


I have also created a podcast version of this blog post on my podcast series, Feck It, Fun, Fabulous and Free in Eating Disorder Recovery (available on all main podcast platforms or click the link in the menu above!).


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