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WIAW: When Enough Is Not Enough

I’m constantly using the word “enough” when I talk about what I eat.

I’ll get done with a meal and say, “I’m still hungry” and my boyfriend will say “Well, why don’t you eat more?” And I’ll say, “No. I’ve had enough.”

Or I’ll be confused about why I’m hungry at a time I don’t expect to be and say “That’s weird. That lunch should have been enough.”

It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with the concept of “enough”–it’s just that usually when I say “enough,” I’m talking about something external to my body and what it’s actually telling me it needs and wants.

This was a big problem, of course, when I had disordered eating. I had in my head that a certain calorie number each day was “enough” (it wasn’t), and I would often eat mini-meals instead of real meals because I thought it would be “enough” to hold me over until the next meal. But it wasn’t really enough–my hormones disappeared, my period stopped, I started getting cold all the time, and I couldn’t concentrate–all signs that my body wasn’t really getting what it needed to perform all its functions.

Even after I was weight-restored, I frequently caught myself back in that habit of saying, “Oh, this meal is enough.” Sure, I’d adjusted what I thought of as “enough” food. But did I get my period back? Nope. Still not really enough. It wasn’t until quite recently–in the past half a year or so, having bumped up my intake beyond even what my weight-restored self thought of as “enough,” that I finally got my cycle back.

So what I’ve been trying to focus on lately is ignoring that “enough” voice. It hasn’t made me healthier. It hasn’t made me happier. It hasn’t done anything for me, as far as I can tell, except make me anxious and hungry.

With this in mind, sharing a full day of eats for Jenn’s What I Ate Wednesday linkup.Breakfast was mesa sunrise cereal with lactose-free milk and bananas, plus vegan soy sausage and tea, of course!I got a bit of a slow start out the door, reading blogs and packing lunch, plus my bus commute takes a while. By the time I got to work, I was quite hungry again!

I was very tempted to tell myself that I’d eaten “enough” at breakfast to not need to eat again so soon. Instead, I told that voice to shut up and ate a Clif bar.At lunch time I wasn’t feeling hugely hungry, but I knew I was going to spin class in the afternoon and I don’t like to eat too close to when I exercise, so I went ahead and ate some chicken salad I’d packed plus gluten-free crackers and carrots.

Chicken salad from Dianne’s Low-FODMAP Cookbook

I did go to spin class as planned. I probably should’ve eaten something afterward, but the snacks I had at my office didn’t appeal to me, so I decided to just finish up grading papers and then grab supper as soon as I could get home.

Supper was leftover macaroni casserole I made for my friends who went together to this big swing dance event in Denver, plus salad topped with sunflower seeds and ranch.I was still a tad peckish after eating this. Again, I was tempted to say that this should be “enough” supper, but I had a couple little chocolates also leftover from the big swing dance weekend and they sounded like just the thing.

Finally, I ate again at about 9:00. Beef jerky for a random snack because it sounded good and it seemed like my body could use the protein after a tough workout and partly because it’s what I had.


Do you ever find yourself telling yourself you’ve eaten “enough” when your body’s telling you something else?


Is it just me, or does “enough” start to sound like a made-up word when you say it enough times?


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  1. Love this post! Good job telling those inner voices to F off; they are not helping anyone. This was definitely a huge thing for me when I was in the midst of disordered eating, but even now, I do sometimes catch that thought. I never pay attention to it anymore; I’m always like “um, no it’s not ENOUGH, because I’m frickin’ hungry.” But it was definitely a process to get to this place.

  2. Cora says:

    Haha – I think all words start to sound completely insane when you say them a lot. Words are weird.

    The idea of “enough” is also unfortunately weird. I’m not sure where I stand on it these days, but I do know on days where I am extra/more hungry I do find myself thinking “that should have been enough.” I’m trying to embrace the more-hungry days and just see them as my body revved up and wanting more, but its a continual practice.

    1. Joyce says:

      It is continual practice, for sure.

  3. This happens to me all the time. I end my day with a big bowl of ice cream and tell myself I have had enough food but my tummy tells me… more. I will go over my day of food in my head and try to decide if I really ate a lot or if I may still be hungry until i realize, if um hungry I’m going to eat more regardless of what i ate today.

    1. Joyce says:

      One of my mantras when I was recovering was “If I’m hungry, then I should eat”–no matter what

  4. Quill says:

    I’ve had this from time to time – I know I had a big dinner, but in the evening I’m hungry again. Usually I wind up eating something. Even though I have never suffered disordered eating, I can relate to much of what you discuss in this blog – I think most people in our society can. I feel like our society as a whole suffers eating disorders – one glance at any supermarket magazine rack, magazines claiming to be about “health” and “fitness” have headlines mostly about looking good or “sexy,” by which of course they mean thin, likely unhealthily thin. Last spring, even the magazine rack in CSU’s mental health counseling center, where some patients likely are suffering eating disorders, was covered with such things – I submitted at least two complaints about this, I think they finally did change it.

    A thought came up seeing the content of this blog – first a section about your thoughts of if you’ve already eaten “enough,” if you should or shouldn’t eat more if you’re still hungry (clearly should), then a section about what you ate over the past week. You always keep diligent track of what you eat throughout the week – I ponder if they are related. I don’t know how you do this, if it’s by taking pictures of everything and looking through them later, writing it down, or just remembering. Especially in the latter case, as someone who’s suffered eating disorders and fears you were eating too much, I wonder if having in mind what you’ve eaten in a given day impacts this, causes you to think a bit more about it, and have anxiety. While I know that’s one of the main purposes of this blog, which is great, I wonder if you’d do better if you deliberately sort of lost track of what you’ve eaten and just go off your appetite. Think “What did I eat today? Was it enough? Eh, I forgot, no idea, I’m hungry now.” Not saying you should do this, but it’s something to ponder.

    1. Joyce says:

      Oh I wish I could forget what I’ve eaten in a day! I imagine it’s hard for folks who’ve never had disordered eating to wrap their brains around, but I can’t even fathom forgetting what I’ve eaten.
      That said, I do keep track of what I’ve eaten partly because What I Ate Wednesday is a thing in the blogging world, and I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I think it’s super important to demonstrate what normal eating looks like when we have so many problematic messages about how our eating is “supposed” to look. I also think it’s useful to show my readers that I have these anxious thoughts and I don’t act on them. But yes, there’s also a downside to keeping such exact track of what I eat. I actually wrote a post about that quite a while ago:

      1. Quill says:

        Oh yeah, I recall reading that one. Your tracking your food certainly has it’s purpose, for others’ benefit. Like most things in life, a trade-off.

  5. I always have to have a few bites of chocolate after dinner – no matter how much I’ve had. There’s a whole other part of your stomach for dessert. LOL!

  6. This really spoke to me today. I definitely still find myself telling myself that a meal was “enough” or that I “should” be full. I think sometimes, it might have something to do with being full but not satisfied. One thing I’ve been learning is that if I stick to my “you’ve had enough”, I end up not feeling satisfied for the rest of the day. Thanks for this, and your chicken salad looks dee-lish!

  7. Kaylee says:

    Catching up on blogs in the morning is exactly what I’m doing now! A lovely way to start the day.
    I often get caught up in what “enough” looks like, comparing what I ate to days before or in the past. Definitely not a healthy mindset. I have to remember that days will differ. What was “enough” for me on one day or even at one meal won’t necessarily satisfy me, whether that be physical or emotional or social, all the time.
    And yes enough is a funny word. Oh the English language, which I’m sure you appreciate.

  8. Answering your questions in the opposite order: yes! In fact, I find every word to sound odd when I’m typing or reading it very frequently in a short span of time. Why does that happen??
    And oh the “enough” issue. Definitely something I still struggle with occasionally. Especially when I – or maybe just the ED voice – feel what I ate would have or in fact [when eating with others] was enough for somebody else. But we’re all different, our days/amounts of sleep/movement/metabolism are different so that’s why there’s no preset enough. Keep that in mind please, brain, ‘kay?!

  9. Evangeline says:

    I always read your thoughts and come away feeling so encouraged, Joyce. It’s so silly that we give ourselves arbitrary limits for food. You also pointed out that even when you thought you had adjusted and found the right levels that were “enough,” it still wasn’t quite enough. That’s one area of recovery I’m still working on. Also learning that what’s “enough” for one day can (and will) fluctuate daily, weekly, monthly.

    “Enough” almost sounds like a sneeze or a cough if I say it too much. And words with a “gh” on the end that have a “ph” or “fff” sound make me uncomfortable. Ahh the English language, never ceases to baffle me.

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