How To Cope With Weight Gain In Recovery

Eating Disorders Are Not About The Food

The extreme anxiety at meal times and debilitating body insecurities are undeniably real and overwhelmingly consuming when you suffer with an eating disorder. But these are the symptoms of the problem, NOT the problem itself.

An eating disorder is an emotional illness that manifests itself THROUGH the food but what’s going on underneath is the real problem.

Part of the recovery process is accepting that your body and mind will change. The body heals before the mind does, but it is vital to look at the whole picture to get you all of the help you need.

Fear Of Weight Gain In Eating Disorder Recovery

One of the biggest fears many of our clients in eating disorder recovery have is weight gain – particularly if they have Anorexia, Orthorexia and/or have been restricting themselves of food or have been in a binge/purge cycle.

Feelings of resentfulness are often rife as you feel you have worked so hard to get rid of what you saw as the “problem areas” of your body (hint: there are no such things) and now you are in a position whereby you are having to regain weight which will go back to there. In your head, letting your body heal through weight gain means letting go of control.

Accepting weight gain can be a long, emotional and difficult journey.

But believe us when we say body changes are never as visible as you fear and we are here to support you all the way. When you begin to physically feel better, your fear of weight gain can lessen – even more so when your treatment is holistic – looking at the underlying causes and empowering you to see yourself and speak to yourself more positively too.

How Does Weight Restoration Work?

For weight restoration, the body has to first use food to reconstruct body tissue which has been lost during starvation. It can then start to repair organs, bones, muscles, joints, cells, blood, skin, hair, nails and hormones.

It is important to ensure you are eating the best you can; this includes eating a wide range of foods and trying not to avoid a whole food group (such as carbohydrates).

When following weight restoration meal plans as created by you and your Nutritional Therapist, it is common to experience some symptoms. These can include bloating in the stomach, face, wrists and ankles, constipation/diarrhoea, headaches, low blood sugar, night sweats and increased anxiety. This is not very nice but this discomfort is only temporary while your body is getting used to regular nutrition again.

Although it may feel that the weight has gone back to those areas your eating disorder has told you are not thin enough, pretty enough, good enough, it doesn’t sit in one place. Instead it spreads naturally across the body, eventually plateauing at a weight that is suited to you at the time. (Remember that our bodies are always changing)!

Coping With Weight Gain In Eating Disorder Recovery

  • Write down a list of reasons to recover. Refer to this when you are struggling to cope. Remind yourself of how you want to live your life and what you would love to contribute to the world, even if it is to just help one person (yourself).
  • Use positive affirmations to face your fear of weight gain head on, such as “My body is going to change and I am ok with that.”
  • Reach out and talk to other people who have been through it, but bear in mind that every individual is different and their recovery journey is different.
  • Your brain needs calories to function and do all of the wonderful things you are or have once been passionate about – remembering this will help you to cope with the recovery process.
  • Accept your body because it allows you to live your life by your own values and not by eating disorder values. Try to work towards body neutrality.
  • Have appreciation and respect for your body as it is repairing. You will have clearer skin, brighter eyes, thicker hair, stronger nails and your bones will hurt less.
  • Try to focus not on your weight and how your body looks but how you feel – who you are is not what you look like.
  • Be aware that your body will stock up reserves until it knows you are regularly going to feed it. Your ED has encouraged you to punish your body enough but it now needs that reassurance that you will look after it.
  • Eat regularly. Eat appropriate portions and eat at mealtimes.
  • Drink fluids, particularly water. This is good for your body but also helps the body to properly digest food.
  • Don’t exercise during the restoration period unless you have agreed this with your therapist/GP.
  • Try to get enough sleep.
  • Avoid body checking and weighing yourself without your therapist/GP.
  • Unfollow/unsubscribe from magazines or social media accounts which make you question your body image.
  • Have self compassion and practice self care. Nurture yourself and think about how you would speak to someone (a friend, a family member, a partner) you love.
  • When you are ready, take small steps towards going shopping or going through your wardrobe to find the clothes that make you feel good on the outside now that you have worked on feeling good on the inside. It is important to remember that you may be one size in one shop and a completely different size in another.
  • Revisit hobbies you can completely immerse yourself in and that bring you joy. Gaining the weight you need to will help you to feel more energised for doing these things again.
  • Continue working on your recovery – when we begin to feel better, we feel we can release some of the activities that have been helping us when really we need to keep going with these.

[Photo by Jernej Graj on Unsplash]

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