What’s the reward in Anorexia?  

In a discussion the other day, the topic of rewards in disordered eating behaviors came up. One of the questions I was asked is: “what is the reward in anorexia??”

The person asking me the question spoke about how they could understand the temporary rewards or pleasures from binge eating behaviors in disordered eaters but, could not grasp the reward in restrictive eating patterns found in anorexics. So, I pondered…

So… what IS the reward in the seriously restrictive eating patterns found in Anorexics?

Part I: –> Hunger Pangs

I battled anorexia here and there in my fight with disordered eating. Borderline Anorexia is how it all started for me… (I will make sure to remember to blog about my eating disordered start, soon). Basically, I had gone through months with horrid stomach pains due to eventually diagnosed gall bladder disease and pancreatitis; the mentioned caused me to undergo a cholecystectomy or, gall bladder removal surgery. I had an NPO order upon my hospital admission meaning: absolutely NO food or liquids, whatsoever, by mouth. And, when they said NPO, they really meant it; like, I was seriously instructed to spit out my spit. No saliva. No nothing. This, literally, taught me how to go weeks without food. It taught me that, if you let it go long enough, your stomach will just give up and stop growling. After 2-3 days, I didn’t even care to eat. And, after surgery, I really didn’t want to eat because, well, it hurt.

A natural bodily reaction to hunger is hunger pangs. According to Webster’s Dictionary:


Definition of Hunger Pangs: pains in the abdominal region which occur in the early stages of hunger or fasting and are correlated with contractions of the empty stomach or intestines.


Hunger pangs is your stomach’s verbal unhappiness with being hungry!

Part II: –> Hunger Pangs = Restrictive Game ON

The moment hunger pangs start is when the anorexics restrictive dieting game begins. Holding out until the stomach gets the hell over it and moves on is the goal.

But, what’s the motive?

Part II (cont.): –> CONTROL meets COPING mechanism


From the research I’ve done and the experience I’ve had, establishing and maintaining control and/or coping via disordered eating mechanisms are almostalways the motivating factor in restricting. And, by restricting, I surely don’t mean just not eating that extra dinner roll or that cookie after dinner. No, no. This is a much more seriously-restricting matter.

Once an anorexic has passed the point of hunger and their hunger pangs cease to pang, they have (for now) won the hold-out, restricting game. If you ask an anorexic, they will more than likely tell you, this is not a fun-and-games type-a deal. Nah… this is a terrifying, anxiety-laden, life-or-death-matter type-a deal. They must restrict and they must beat the pangs and win the game, or… well…

Disaster in Part III: Euphoria meets Failure

Euphoria is to restricting just as catatonic states of binging is to a binge eater or bulimic.

…Euphoria turned Failure.

Failure like minutes-pre-binging to a bulimic. Guilt like minutes-before-purge to that same bulimic. Shame like minutes-post-purge. Anxiety like minutes after moments of revelation to any disordered eater. Revelation. Disordered eaters are well aware at some revolutionary moments in time that what they are doing is nothing short of disastrous. But, sadly, the devastating and irrational cyclical game usually wins and continues to spin… and, spin… and, spin…

And, Repeat:

Part I…
…Part II…
……Part III…

So, what’s the “reward” in Anorexia. Well, I guess the (sad) answer is:

To continue, and, to continue & continue to WIN

The goal and the reward is to continue to win a quite literally, continuously losing, restrictive game.