The Fear of Lack in Eating Disorders

What if my husband finishes the last of the cheesecake and there’s none left for me?

What if I eat my whole meal plan and I’m still hungry at the end of the night?

I just feel like I need to eat my whole meal when I’m at a restaurant.

If I don’t eat now, what if I get hungry later?

What if I start eating and I never get full?

I need to save my carbs up for later in the day in case I really need them.

These are common statements I hear when I meet with clients for nutrition counseling.  They come from a variety of people — those struggling with binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, chronic dieting, or other types of disordered eating.  What do they all have in common?

ANTICIPATION/FORTUNE TELLING:  Each statement has to do with the future.  In psychology, this is a type of cognitive distortion.

FEAR OF LACK:  Worry that you won’t have enough.



Now take a few minutes and ask yourself:

Do you ever have “fear of lack” thoughts when it comes to food?

What do the thoughts look like specifically for you?

When was the last time you had one of these thoughts?

Have you ever noticed them pop up during a certain time of day or a certain season of your life?

What action typically results after thinking these thoughts?


“Fear of lack” results in ignoring hunger cues:

Eating beyond satisfaction or comfortable fullness because you’re afraid there won’t be enough left for you later–>

  • Increased risk for purging:  because you feel guilty or uncomfortably full
  • Increased risk for binge eating: “Well, I screwed it up anyway, so I might as well go all out”
  • Increased risk for restricting later:  “to make up” for earlier

Restricting during the day to “save up” for the night –>

  • Lack of energy during the day
  • Increased risk for binge eating due to hunger



For many people, these thoughts persuade them to stay in eating disorder behaviors.  It’s a lack of trust in the body.  It’s a fear of “not enough.”  It’s an attempt to control, fight for what we need, and “take matters into our own hands.”  This might not just be about food.  This might be a little deeper…what do you think?  Does this fear of lack come out in other areas of your life?

I can see the fear of lack come out more in my life when:

  • I’m stressed.
  • My brain is focused too much on myself and “this world.”
  • I’m insecure.
  • I’m isolated…closed off from relationships with people and God.
  • I don’t regularly practice gratitude.


During these times, I try to lean on God’s truth:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  Psalm 23:1

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland.  Isaiah 43: 20

Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. Matthew 15:36-37

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

He promises me abundance.  A life bigger and better than I could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  Of course, he doesn’t promise a life free from struggle, but if we walk with him, he’ll “teach us the secret of facing plenty AND hunger, abundance AND need.” (Philippians 4:11-12).

SO, when you find your mind focused on the thoughts listed above about fear of lack, here’s what you might do to overcome them…

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