Monday, 20 March 2017

The Long-Term Effect Of Eating Disorders That Nobody Talks About

I found the following article really interesting and thought it may interest some of my readers as well. All of my organs became very weak when I was unwell (particularly my hear) and I often wonder about whether or not those organs have repaired fully yet or not.

This is why I think it so important to continuing nourishing your body, even after you become weight restored as a lot of the damage that you do to your body during starvation may not be reversed even when you are weight restored.

The Long-Term Effect Of Eating Disorders That Nobody Talks About                  

With Healthy Heart Month in full swing, you might be hearing advice everywhere from your family doctor to your favorite newsletter about what to cut out of your diet to keep your heart strong. Ditch the soda! Cut the carbs! Skip the butter! Oh, wait, butter's back in! But maybe olive oil is better?!
While most of us can take this influx of diet advice in stride, those at risk for eating disorders are vulnerable to this deluge of information. In many cases, the eating patterns that eventually precipitated a full-blown eating disorder started with the intention to be healthier and feel better—both physically and emotionally. In a sadly ironic twist, those behaviors have likely contributed to the serious decline in health often associated with eating disorders.

Eating disorders are more than just a psychiatric illness.

In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness (or behavioral health disorder). So not only do they lead to a host of social, mental, and physical problems, but they actually put someone at increased risk for other health problems. Cardiovascular complications are one of the biggest risks for those struggling with eating disorders. The heart is made of muscle and basically functions as a pump that moves blood first to the lungs to pick up oxygen and then out to the extremities to bring oxygen and nutrients throughout the whole body. Our hearts are clearly key to our ability to live and function normally, and eating disorders put strain on the heart in a number of ways.

1. Weaker heart muscles

First, when one does not take in enough food to support our level of activity, the heart rate slows down as the body tries to conserve energy. Also, blood pressure will drop due to dehydration or because the muscles of the heart weaken. When blood pressure is low, it's harder for other organs—like the kidneys, the brain, or the liver—to receive the nutrients and oxygen that the heart usually pumps in their direction.
People with low-weight eating disorders actually lose cardiac muscle mass. All muscles of the body are subject to wasting away if we aren't nourishing them. Heart muscle is no exception. Underweight patients may develop mitral valve prolapse due to shrunken heart muscle cells, or they can develop heart failure due to a weakened heart that can't pump well.

2. Shifts in the heart's chemical environment

A second concern is the development of abnormal heart rhythms, which happens frequently when someone is suffering from bulimia nervosa. The behaviors of binge eating and purging (which can involve not just vomiting but also laxative and diuretic use), can lead to dehydration and dangerous shifts in electrolytes in the body. When the chemical environment of the heart is abnormal, the heart is at risk for arrhythmias, which can cause heart palpitations, fainting, and even death.

3. Cardiac disturbances

And thirdly, there are a host of cardiac rhythm disturbances that are directly caused by weight loss and malnutrition. These are undoubtedly causal in the heightened risk for sudden death seen in people with anorexia nervosa.
Despite these very serious cardiac concerns, many people with eating disorders are reluctant to get help. The disorders themselves are marked by a brain-based type of denial that can make even seeing that there's a problem very difficult. As a clinician, I find that sometimes the presence of these heart issues can help someone see just how high the risk to their health really is.

Healing your body from an eating disorder

But even those who begin the process of recovery have to be very cautious about their heart health. For someone who has been eating very little, starting to eat more can cause its own dangerous shifts in electrolytes called refeeding syndrome, which again puts the person at risk for cardiac complications. Thus, some patients will need to be very closely monitored by a medical team during this process.
The heartening news is that most of physical complications of eating disorders are reversible with good nutrition. Once the body and mind are recovered and a knowledgeable support team is in place, the person has a great chance of living a long, healthy life.

If you've suffered from an eating disorder, keep the following in mind:
  1. Take any cardiac event very seriously. If you experience any chest pain, are getting dizzy when you stand, have a fainting episode, or notice your heart rhythm seems off, get to a medical provider as soon as you can.
  2. Enlist the support of others. We know that eating disorders thrive in isolation, and recovery thrives in community with others you care about. Let someone close to you know that you're worried about your health.
  3. Know that recovery is always possible. Even people who lived with an eating disorder for a very long time can expect a full and lasting recovery. It's not easy and can't be accomplished alone, but EVERYONE suffering from an eating disorder can be helped.
The recently deceased George Michael once said, "You'll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart." Listen carefully to the messages your heart is sending you. And with the right treatment, you can find peace from the burden of eating disorders.
For additional information about the Eating Recovery Center, call 877-789-5758, email, or visit to speak with a master's-level clinician.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Weight gain is not negotiable if you want to recover

In order to recover from a restrictive eating disorder, you WILL NEED to gain weight (especially if you are currently underweight). As much as we would like this to be untrue, if you are not willing to gain weight, you will not recover as this just shows how unhealthy your mindset is. It is only when you challenge and overcome this type of unhealthy mindset, that you will be able to continue making recovery progress and actually make a full recovery. As well as needing to reach and possibly exceed a healthy weight in order to recover mentally, you need to do this is order to recover physically too. Whilst starving yourself, your body weakens and stops functioning as it should in order to conserve energy. Your energy reserves run dangerously low and all of your internal organs and bones are at risk of severe damage also. The following article explains the toll that anorexia or other restrictive eating disorders have on your body due to starvation. 


What happens exactly? Here's a look at what anorexia does to the human body.

The first victim of anorexia is often the bones. The disease usually develops in adolescence -- right at the time when young people are supposed to be putting down the critical bone mass that will sustain them through adulthood.

"There's a narrow window of time to accrue bone mass to last a lifetime," says Diane Mickley, MD, co-president of the National Eating Disorders Association and the founder and director of the Wilkins Center for Eating Disorders in Greenwich, Conn. "You're supposed to be pouring in bone, and you're losing it instead." Such bone loss can set in as soon as six months after anorexic behavior begins, and is one of the most irreversible complications of the disease.

But the most life-threatening damage is usually the havoc wreaked on the heart. As the body loses muscle mass, it loses heart muscle at a preferential rate -- so the heart gets smaller and weaker. "It gets worse at increasing your circulation in response to exercise, and your pulse and your blood pressure get lower," says Mickley. "The cardiac tolls are acute and significant, and set in quickly." Heart damage, which ultimately killed singer Karen Carpenter, is the most common reason for hospitalization in most people with anorexia.

Although the heart and the bones often take the brunt of the damage, anorexia is a multisystem disease. Virtually no part of the body escapes its effects. About half of all anorexics have low white-blood-cell counts, and about a third are anemic. Both conditions can lower the immune system's resistance to disease, leaving a person vulnerable to infections.
Anorexia Damage Starts Early

Even before a person with anorexia starts to look "too thin," these medical consequences have begun Many young women who begin eating a severely restricted diet stop menstruating well before serious weight loss sets in. Since so many people with anorexia are teenage girls and young women, this can have long-term consequences on their ability to bear children.

Gaining weight will allow your body to function more optimally again and to reverse most of, if not all of the damage you inflicted on it whilst your were starving yourself. Even if you manage to partially recover mentally so that you can live like a relatively normal person, if you are still underweight your body will not be able to function properly. The chances of you conceiving a baby are reduced if ever you want to become a mum and you are more likely suffer from illnesses or infections as your immune system will not be as strong as somebody who is a healthy weight. Also if you are underweight, this indicates that you are still not eating enough  (as otherwise your body would return to a healthy weight) which suggests you are probably missing out on particular nutrients and minerals that your body requires. This puts you at risk of things like Anemia (due to lack of iron) and osteoporosis (due to lack of calcium).

In my experience, I was not able to make any real recovery progress until I gained a significant amount of weight. The hard thing about gaining this weight is that you need to do it when your anorexic thoughts are still incredibly strong and overpowering. It isn't until you get closer and closer to a healthy weight that these thoughts begin to fade and are replaced with healthier'and more normal thoughts. There is no real secrets or techniques to making these thoughts go away. As hard as it is, you just have to push through them and remember that by fighting these thoughts you ARE getting closer to having the life you want and deserve. I suggest trying to stay busy so that you have other things to focus on and just have faith that if you continue fighting your anorexic thoughts, in time they will fade. And how do you gain weight? You basically just do the complete opposite of everything your anorexia tells you to do. You limit or stop your physical activity, you eat more then you ever have in your life and you stop doing all of those destructive things that you have done in the past.

I remember some nights my thoughts would be so strong (in regards to the fear of and actually gaining weight) that I just had to go to bed and cry myself to sleep. But I never gave into my anorexia and always just woke up the following day and ate everything on my meal plan, limited my exercise and went against everything my anorexia told me to do. I knew that I couldn't give into my anorexia by listening to its demands as this would be like giving it ammunition it needed to beat me. Once I gave into my anorexia once, I knew it would be so easy to continue giving into it and this would not allow my thought processes to change. So I stuck to my guns and consistently beat my anorexia and that is how I got to where I am today. So no matter how hard it may seem, just remember that it is possible and you can do it. No matter how loudly your anorexia screams at you and how bad it makes you feel, it cant actually hurt you. That pain is just temporary. And by enduring that pain now, you will be able to have a lifetime of happiness in the future.

I know that gaining weight as slowly as possible seems like the best way to gain weight to someone with anorexia but from my own experience I do not think this is the best thing to do. To be honest, gaining weight incredibly slowly just draws out the painful process of weight restoration and means that you are just inflicting extra suffrage on yourself. I was gaining about 500-700g per week when I was actively recovering and I found that this was a good rate to do it at. I feel it was a good rate of weight gain as I could adjust to my physical changes without relapsing while still keeping a good momentum. Gaining weight at this rate also made it obvious to me whenever I needed to increase my calories (due to my weight gain stopping). If I was gaining less then this per week, I think I would have been more likely to just brush off failure to gain weight in any particular week which would have stopped me from moving towards my goal of complete weight restoration and recovery. 

I believe that gaining weight is not the only thing you need to do in order to recover, in fact it is only the beginning. But it is one of the first essential things for you to do before you can make any other type of real recovery progress. So I highly encourage you to start doing it as soon as possible. As you do manage to gain weight, your body will start functioning properly again and you will also start thinking more clearly too. And I know it probably feels like accepting your body at a higher weight is impossible but I promise you its not. I am currently about 15 kg heavier than my lowest weight (which I couldn't bare to leave at the time) and I love my body more now then I ever have before!  The truth is you will never feel ready to start gaining weight so you just need to make the decision and start. I promise you it will be worth it!