Friday, 8 May 2015

While recovering you cant eat like a 'normal' person

Sometimes I find myself thinking the following things and i'm sure i'm not the only recovering anorexic out there that has these types of thoughts.

"Non Anorexic people dont eat this much, so why should I?"

"Normal people skip meals and they dont lose weight, so why do I?"

"Non Anorexic people dont need to eat if their not hungry, so why must I?"

The truth is we are right when we think that 'normal' people don't need to do what we must do everyday, but this is because they are not in recovery from Anorexia. You must not listen to these types of thoughts and let them stop you from doing the right thing for your recovery. Your anorexia will use these types of thoughts to justify not acting in the best interest of recovery. When you think these types of thoughts remind yourself of the following things;

Non anorexic people dont need to eat anywhere near as much because they dont necessarily need to gain weight like you most likely need to. Your body is so damaged from being starved for so long that you need heaps of extra energy to repair your muscles and organs, regain essential weight, as well as so your body can carry out all of its usual everyday functions.

While the other people I work with eat only usually eat a single sandwich and drink only water and coffee, this is what I eat at work each day. Yes I eat a lot more but I have learnt not to focus on this and to just focus on myself and my recovery. 

“If you eat 3000 calories every day and stay completely sedentary, then that’s 21,000 calories that go into you for one week.

That may sound like a lot however we have to subtract the 7,000 needed for the actual fat and muscle rebuilding that has to happen each week. Fat is not an energy storage unit, it is the largest and most critical hormone-producing organ in your body.

That leaves 14,000. But then there is the amount just to keep you breathing, heart beating—that basal metabolic rate thing that just keeps you alive. Estimating, that assigns another 7,000 or so.

To repair damaged heart, skin, nails, hair, kidneys, digestive system, brain areas, bone and blood formation systems…you are actually giving your body only 1,000 calories a day to go to that effort. That’s if you dependably eat 3,000 calories each day.

The less you eat, the longer it takes to recover as the harder it is for your body to find any excess energy to repair the damage.” (

Even once you are weight restored you will most likely need to eat more than normal people just to maintain your weight. I know it can feel annoying but really it's not that bad. I am sure many people who are overweight would love to be in your position. Who cares if you need to eat more, embrace it and enjoy it.

In the 2 to 6 weeks after completion of refeeding and termination of a weight restoration program, patients with anorexia nervosa required greater than normal caloric intake to maintain a stable weight and had elevated levels of activity. By contrast, such patients studied 6 months or longer after weight recovery had normal caloric intake and activity levels. The prolonged delay in normalization of caloric intake and activity is mirrored by the slow resolution to normal of the neuroendocrine dysregulation that characterizes this disorder. This suggests that treatment for weight maintenance in anorexia nervosa should be extended aggressively for months after the return of a healthy weight so as to restore normal neuroendocrine function and thereby enhance the likelihood of permanent recovery.(
Non anorexic people can skip meals because their bodies are in a healthier state so that they will not instantly lose weight if they eat a little less one day. When your body is at a stable set point it is able to put various mechanisms in place to prevent leaving this set point if you eat more or less. If you are recovering from anorexia your body is most likely not at a stable set point and therefore you are more suseptible to losing weight if you skip a meal.

The reason is that the brain, through a structure called the hypothalamus, is regulating our metabolism and our behavior strongly to keep its own goal weight. In other words; there is a strong physiological force that defends your weight. In the short term it does not matter if we eat more or exercise less because the body keeps its weight with different compensation mechanism. However, if we eat more for a long time and gain weight, these strong forces will work to try to keep the new weight. (

If a normal person isn't feeling well or simply isn't hungry, they do not need to force themselves to eat and they can still remain perfectly healthy.Recovering Anorexics however do not have this luxury. It is really important that during recovery we are eating atleast a minimum recovery amount each day no matter what our appetite may be.

They may find their hunger cues are non-existent for an extended period of time. When a body is malnourished it wants to conserve as much energy as possible and unfortunately that includes not sending hunger cues. At the same time that they’re not getting hunger cues their fullness cues can also be out of whack. While it takes someone who eats meals consistently about 20-30 minutes to feel full, a person who is malnourished or restricting their food intake can feel full after only a few bites because their stomach anticipates that they aren’t going to fed or are going to be fed only a small amount.

In those cases it’s important to keep eating on a regular schedule so that the stomach and brain can start relying on that consistent food intake and start to send hunger cues more efficiently. Other than feeling the usual stomach grumble, there are other ways the body can send signals that it’s time to eat. Those can range from: headache, difficulty concentrating, or irritability and they can vary greatly from person to person. Working with a dietitian is one of the best ways to develop a meal plan that will allow a person to feel safe making food choices and recognize proper hunger and fullness cues. (

I find that the best way I can always eat enough is by sticking to my meal plan (as a bare minimum of course), no matter what. I try to eat my meals every three hours whether I am hungry or not and always completely finish each meal, regardless of how full I am feeling.

You can't expect to make a full recovery if you are only willing to eat like a 'normal' person. Remember that you will not need to continue to eat like this for the rest of your life, one day you will be healthy enough to start eating intuitively and more normally if that is what you want to do. While recovering you need to be fully focused on yourself so try to stop comparing how you eat to those around you. Those around you aren't relying on food as medicine to save their lives, but you are. 

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