"Whew" eating is the flip side of being too stressed to eat. It happens in the calm after the stressful event. I've noticed this pattern over the years. There will be a stressful situation or illness that causes me to lose my appetite and lose weight. Afterward, when things begin to normalize, I will naturally be hungrier and attracted to high-calorie, high-reward foods. It used to freak me out ("I can't stop eating chocolate!"), but now it makes complete sense. It's my clever body perfectly regulating appetite and metabolism over time. During a strong stress response, of course I'm less hungry. I might need to run or fight! Afterward, there's an energy debt to repay. I'm very interested in food, but if I go with it and eat, my appetite levels off again.
If there has been some kind of chaos in my life, it's exciting to realize I'm "whew" eating. That means I'm feeling safe again and settling into a new routine. The key to the whole thing is a lack of judgment. You notice your changing appetite and honor it. Too often, diet brain will want to celebrate a stomach flu or family crisis as a weight loss opportunity, then berate you for eating more when things settle down. If you notice those thoughts, remember that it's just restrictive noise. A changing appetite serves a purpose during and after stressful situations.
Have you experienced "whew" eating, or its cousin, stress weight? That's a weight achieved through food poisoning, divorce, or something similar that is never going to be sustainable. It is not your new normal because the way it came about was horrible. It was not the result of healthy choices, self-care, or anything you can continue to utilize going forward. Therefore it's temporary.