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Frightened to death of fat - gaining weight in anorexia recovery


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Hi,

 

I'm looking for some encouragement in my journey to recovery in anorexia. I have decided I want to get better and I've been trying to eat 1400 cals a day. Right now I weigh 44kg, which isn't so bad I guess, I have to gain 14 pounds. I was wondering if I should try to overeat for a while for my body to readjust, like maybe eat 2000 cals or should I just keep increasing my cal intake incrementally, and if so, by how much, and should it be from every week? I am afraid that if I do that I will gain only fat and no muscle.

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  1. You say '44 kg isn't so bad', but I really think this is a distorted view of your weight.  44 kg is underweight for the vast majority of the population, except for those that are really short (e.g. under 5').  
  2. 2000 calories is not overeating at all.  Most people eat at least that much to maintain their weight (more if they're active or a teen).  I know it feels like a lot (and I'm not there yet myself), but you need to realize that it really isn't 'overeating.'
  3. You say you're afraid of fat.  Does this mean you're afraid of eating fats or afraid of becoming fat?  I know that a lot of people with EDs (myself included) are scared of adding fats to their diet but the truth is that these are essential for proper functioning.  Fats are necessary for nutrient absorption.  Lipids make up your nervous system (including your brain!).  Fats do NOT make you fat, so don't be scared to add them to your diet.
  4. When you gain weight, your body will repair itself.  Your body will add mass to your muscles, bones, internal organs, etc.  You'll also probably retain some water.  You won't just gain fat and no muscle.  Fat is deposited when the body has excess energy that it needs to store.  Your body needs to repair itself, and it doesn't have much extra energy to spare!  Of course, you'll gain some fat because a little essential fat is healthy.  But you certainly won't gain only fat.  Your body took away from your muscles during your ED, and it will rebuild the during recovery.
  5. I'm being a little hypocritical because I'm probably not increasing my calories as fast as I should.  But I'd say to increase them as fast as you can without triggering yourself.  Hedgren (a doctor on this website who specializes in EDs) recommends upping them 250 calories every 2-3 days until you've reached a minimum of 2500 calories (3000 if you're a teen).

I hope this helps provide some reassurance.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around it myself.  But I think (hope) it will start getting easier the more we increase our calories.  :/

Well, you will have to increase to 2500+ if you want to gain weight and repair your body. You need fat, although I know this can be a difficult fear to overcome. When I began increasing 6 weeks ago, I increased 250 calories every 3 days until I got to 2500, but you will need 3000 if you are a teen. At first you may gain more quickly until  your metabolism catches up, but this is normal! I would recommend getting rid of the scales for a while. Scales can make you very paranoid. And you won't gain fat by eating fat, you gain by eating calories. You need to gain some fat, but I share your fear. But you won't keep gaining forever. And this really isn't overeating. Its a normal amount of food. Although it seems like a lot right now, it is definitely manageable. Some people eat up to 9,000 calories. I know its hard to conquer these fears, but you really have to do it to save your life. Good luck!

When I say 44kg isn't so bad, it's just I mean its not classified as bad enough for hospitalization and I'm still functioning fairly well, but I still know its too little. You talk a lot of sense though. No I'm afraid of becoming fat but I've realised I have to include some essential fatty acids in my diet. I don't think you're a hypocrit because by the very nature of your ED, and my ED, we are scared of taking the next steps. I have definitely heard that the more you increase, the easier it gets. I read this article on psychology today and I think this quote from it is extremely useful:

 

2There is no point in waiting for the magical moment at which you decide, once and for all, that you want to start eating more again, or to regain weight.  Your starved state is making you unable to think flexibly enough to fully comprehend the possibility of eating or living differently, or even the possibility of wanting to think about and enjoy things other than food; it has hidden from you who you really are, and made you believe you are nothing but the anorexia; it is making the smallest piece of food feel like too much.  For these reasons you will never truly want to recover, but you have to seize all your feelings of despair, desperation, hope, recklessness, and curiosity in order to make yourself plunge into that first day and first meal of recovery.  As long as you keep yourself going, keep eating, through the first difficult weeks, it will get easier and easier"

 

I re-read it everytime I get scared, maybe you guys will find this article useful too. I have the urge to ask you and compare how many calories you are eating but I guess if we started to compare we'd get even more paranoid. Also, where can I find posts or advice by Hedgren?

Thanks so much for your help.

HJ

Original Post by hammyjem:

When I say 44kg isn't so bad, it's just I mean its not classified as bad enough for hospitalization and I'm still functioning fairly well, but I still know its too little. You talk a lot of sense though. No I'm afraid of becoming fat but I've realised I have to include some essential fatty acids in my diet. I don't think you're a hypocrit because by the very nature of your ED, and my ED, we are scared of taking the next steps. I have definitely heard that the more you increase, the easier it gets. I read this article on psychology today and I think this quote from it is extremely useful:

 

2There is no point in waiting for the magical moment at which you decide, once and for all, that you want to start eating more again, or to regain weight.  Your starved state is making you unable to think flexibly enough to fully comprehend the possibility of eating or living differently, or even the possibility of wanting to think about and enjoy things other than food; it has hidden from you who you really are, and made you believe you are nothing but the anorexia; it is making the smallest piece of food feel like too much.  For these reasons you will never truly want to recover, but you have to seize all your feelings of despair, desperation, hope, recklessness, and curiosity in order to make yourself plunge into that first day and first meal of recovery.  As long as you keep yourself going, keep eating, through the first difficult weeks, it will get easier and easier"

 

I re-read it everytime I get scared, maybe you guys will find this article useful too. I have the urge to ask you and compare how many calories you are eating but I guess if we started to compare we'd get even more paranoid. Also, where can I find posts or advice by Hedgren?

Thanks so much for your help.

HJ

 

Thanks for sharing that, it was very helpfulSmile

Hedgrens Posts

Original Post by hammyjem:

When I say 44kg isn't so bad, it's just I mean its not classified as bad enough for hospitalization and I'm still functioning fairly well, but I still know its too little. You talk a lot of sense though. No I'm afraid of becoming fat but I've realised I have to include some essential fatty acids in my diet. I don't think you're a hypocrit because by the very nature of your ED, and my ED, we are scared of taking the next steps. I have definitely heard that the more you increase, the easier it gets. I read this article on psychology today and I think this quote from it is extremely useful:

 

2There is no point in waiting for the magical moment at which you decide, once and for all, that you want to start eating more again, or to regain weight.  Your starved state is making you unable to think flexibly enough to fully comprehend the possibility of eating or living differently, or even the possibility of wanting to think about and enjoy things other than food; it has hidden from you who you really are, and made you believe you are nothing but the anorexia; it is making the smallest piece of food feel like too much.  For these reasons you will never truly want to recover, but you have to seize all your feelings of despair, desperation, hope, recklessness, and curiosity in order to make yourself plunge into that first day and first meal of recovery.  As long as you keep yourself going, keep eating, through the first difficult weeks, it will get easier and easier"

 

I re-read it everytime I get scared, maybe you guys will find this article useful too. I have the urge to ask you and compare how many calories you are eating but I guess if we started to compare we'd get even more paranoid. Also, where can I find posts or advice by Hedgren?

Thanks so much for your help.

HJ

I love that paragraph you shared.  It is so true- ED is like a fog that it's impossible to see beyond.  It's easy to keep procrastinating recovery, but I'll never feel like it's the 'right time'.  ED will never be satisfied, not until we're dead.  Recovery is a leap of faith.  It feels wrong, but I think know in the end it will be worth it.  :)

Yeah, I don't think it's the best idea to compare calories right now.  I'm not up to the recommended 2500, but I'm working on upping it.  I guess the thing that's holding me back is that I've tried recovering before.  I gained back the weight, but I didn't recover from the psychological aspects of ED, and I just ended up relapsing.  But right now, I'm trying to recover the right way: addressing both the physical components (e.g. eating) and the mental components (e.g. anxiety, inability to properly cope with emotions, etc) that are driving the ED.

Regarding 44 kg- I know what you mean.  I tell myself my weight "isn't so bad" too, because it's not nearly as low as some people's on here.  But the truth is, your weight will NEVER be low enough for ED.  Each time you reach a new low, ED will STILL tell you it's "not so bad."  It's all a part of ED's lies.   

I know people who have struggled and are not even underweight who have pace makers from their ed. Everyone has a different body and you never know when you will cause damage that can't be reversed. When people state on here "not that bad" I feel it is an excuse to not move forward to health in a quick and full manner. You need to get to a healthy place asap and if you want to recover it means eating a weight gain mp and getting to a healthy weight. 1400 is not that. So that means increasing every at least few days till you get up to at least 2500-3000. Yes you may be scared but the only way to get past that is to face it. It is true it does get easier but it is also true that it is going to take a lot of hard work. Part of what helped me is taking 1 day at a time, to stay consistent no back and forth calories etc.

Thank you adrienne, abbi and soxgurl for the encouragement. I think there is nothing more helpful than talking to people in the same situation. It's so very difficult to keep increasing the calories and not feel horrendous because of the water weight. I've been having terrible fluid retention for the past week and at times it gets me down, but then I remember that fluid retention is because my body is repairing my cells, and that it will go away when my body readjusts. I think thats the part I'm having the most trouble with but I keep telling myself its only temporary, and I want to have health over discomfort.

 

I wanted to share an experience also from the past week having decided once and for all to break free. I usually dread going out socializing to parties or bars because 1) I will only drink sugar free soda 2) I'm freezing cold at night 3) I get very tired because I haven't eaten enough calories to keep my energy up for the night.

Having increased my calories this week I have actually gone out twice, and for the first time in a long while I actually enjoyed myself, and wasn't thinking about getting home and crashing into bed. It was so good to spend time with friends and meet new people, something that I stopped enjoying when my ED took hold. It also made me sad for how much of my young life is consumed by the ED, because I am only 22.

I decided that I didn't want to waste a second more or miss out on any fun a moment longer. It only made sense that being happy and having energy is so much more fun and rewarding than being skinny, and makes me wonder why the hell I want to be skinny so bad. I've decided that living life is more important.

I am still horrendously frightened everytime I consume a calorie, but it is getting slightly easier, and I hope that it continues to get easier. Also I upped my calorie intake by 200. I encourage/challenge anyone else to up their ante :) It's still frightening but this is no existence, and life is not a rehearsal.

Yay!  It makes me so happy that you've been able to break free of your "ED prison" for some time and enjoy life.  :)  I know how easy it is to isolate yourself; I live alone and tend to be a naturally introverted person as it is, but ED makes it even worse.  ED really takes away your enjoyment in life, I've found.  I'm also 22-- this is supposed to be the best time of our lives, right?  It's so great to hear that you're finally experiencing freedom.  Keep up the good work!!

I'm just curious, were you always introverted or did you become introverted since developing an ED? Sometimes I feel that the "ED Me" is a different person to who I was before, if I compare my interests and habits and views of myself I seem to have changed quite a bit because of my ED. Sometimes I wonder will the old me come back when I am healthy again.

 

Socializing is a big difficulty for me with this eating disorder because everyone my age drinks alcohol, and lots of it, and afterwards eat a lot of fast food. Several times a week even. And I feel weird and out of place and ashamed that I don't drink because I'm afraid of the calories in drink. It's a huge part of my culture.

I've always been introverted to a degree.  But I think there's a difference between being introverted because I genuinely like being by myself and isolating myself because I'm too afraid to break out of my ED routine.  Also, I've had anxiety issues for as long as I can remember (my OCD was the cause of my ED, rather than the result of it), so this probably also contributed.  I don't have social anxiety per se; I'd just rather be alone.  I like having my "routine" and thus, going to social events tends to be somewhat anxiety-provoking. 

Also, there's nothing wrong with not drinking at age 22.  I spent my entire undergrad career without having any alcohol.  For the first three years, I didn't have an ED, so this wasn't really ED-related; I just didn't care to drink!  Nothing wrong with this, as long as it isn't something that's being influenced by ED decisions. 

I think the biggest way ED has changed my personality is that it has made me more blunted.  It's a way of numbing out emotions.  I don't feel sad, but I don't feel happy either.  I've lost my energy, my spark, my enthusiasm for life.  I want to get that back!

Glad it helped you. I can tell you I had such severe edema in my weight gain. I could not lift my legs hardly on to a chair and had major refeeding issues. It was mentally and physically painful. I am here though today and it did settle down with consitent healthy behaviors. This is very uncomfortable now but in the long run will make life more comfortable trust me.

Good job on going out socially and increasing calories. I hope you can continue and move forward asap. I can tell you that my ed made me into a totally different person and not in a good way. Pre ed I wasa fun loving,social,care free person. In my long battle of 12 years I became a isolated,worried,anxious mess. After recovery weight wise and healthy behaviors I am not my old care free self but have become better in those aspects. It just takes time for this to happen. I know that is part of the frustration in recovery. I remember when I was doing all I was supposed to healthy behaviors yet life was a struggle mentally I was like what the F but it takes time to rebuild and repair a life and mentally from this. Am I making sense? Hang in there

I think meal planning, and the mental guilt that comes with it is the first, and one of the most essential steps toward recovery.  Last week on my blog I posted about how to make following a meal plan a little easier.  If you are interested please check it out.  The tips I suggested really helped me, and I promise once you start following a structure, although i still have some emotional/metal guilt, you will feel a lot better.

I know its hard, but i hear its totally worth it.

good luck <3

Adrienne, how long have you had your ED? You say your emotions feel blunted, I can't imagine what that must be like, it must be difficult to deal with. I am the opposite, I can't get my emotions to stabilize even for a couple of hours, I could be fine one minute and the next I'm depressed and I see no way out. I would never be suicical though.

Abbi your refeeding issues sound like they were a serious struggle, it must have taken so much strength and courage to keep going with your oedema being that serious. It puts my bloating into perspective now! I keep having to lie down because I feel like I weigh a ton, is that the right thing to do or should I get up and move around?

Cjh, where can I find your blog?

the link is in my blog.  I hope it helps.  and please feel free to contact me directly if you need any clarification.  ive been at this recovery thing for a while so i love to trade tips of what has worked for me, what hasnt, and suggestions from others :-)

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