in a society that praises weight loss, weight restoration in eating disorder recovery is nothing short of complicated. it’s one of the most daunting tasks you’ll take on because it challenges you in so many ways. it feels impossible until it’s done. there’s so much irrational fear that rises at the beginning, but staying mindful of the long-term goal is necessary for quieting that voice of doubt!
in case you needed to hear it, remember…the weight will distribute, the bloating and pain and discomfort will subside, the hunger cues will regulate. food will become less of a chore and more of a pleasure. the way you look will stop dictating your life, and you’ll find validation and happiness in the feats you accomplish that are beyond visual perception. you are strong, you will endure this process, and i promise you, you’ll find your way.
please note that it’s SO important to work closely with a medical professional during this time. your weight and your health are a serious issue and need to be addressed in a manner that matches this. i weight restored under an inpatient hospitalization program led by a team of doctors, and later i continued outpatient with my parents and an outpatient team monitoring my intake. i am NOT a medical professional and am not providing medical advice. i’m simply sharing my experience and what i learned from the process after going through it myself.
some tips for dealing with weight restoration;
power through the first two weeks.
this is arguably the scariest part of the process. it’s also the most vulnerable time to slip back, so support during these days needs to be at an all-time time. whether that support comes from your family, friends, a treatment team…anyone, anything. something to hold you accountable.
*fun fact: @healthfulradiance actually began as an eating disorder recovery food diary to hold myself accountable during weight restoration. yep! way back in the day (any OG followers remember @seekingstrongerwings? yep, that happened too). i used the instagram recovery community as a means of support. i would post my breakfast because once it was out there in the world, i felt i had to stick to it. i exposed my meals because it stripped me of my ability to hide and lie, say i ate something without ever being accountable to actually do so.
anyway, make sure you hold yourself accountable, however that looks for you. this isn’t your norm, the whole eating 4,000 calories a day thing. (i want to note here that you should be working with a medical professional to increase caloric intake in a safe and methodical way. going from eating restricted amounts of food to doubling or tripling that amount overnight can be SO harmful to your body, please take caution!!!!). but it won’t be your norm forever, you can’t see it that way. it’s your norm for right now, so the quicker you get over the shock factor that comes with it and the more you normalize it, it will get easier.
okay, so your body is changing…don’t. fixate. on. it. i know what you’re thinking, “ALL of the weight is going to my ______, what’s going on!?”. THE WEIGHT WILL DISTRIBUTE. please be patient, please trust your body, please believe in the process. when i was weight restoring i was paranoid that my stomach would just grow and grow until it quite literally exploded. the weight will find its way to the right places but it won’t be able to do that if you stand in its way. give things time.
during that grace period, move on with your life. during this time i spent a lot of time with others, as focusing on socializing kept my mind occupied. my sisters and i would take silly little day trips on weekends. i would run pointless errands with my mom, help my dad with housework, call my grandma and chat for hours (something i still do, because IMPORTANT). the more time i spent investing in my relationships and making memories, the less time i had to pick myself apart. i spent less time with myself because my judgement and attention weren’t what my body needed. my body needed food, rest, and everything else would fall into place.
i didn’t even know what the phrase meant until my roommate at the hospital warned me about it when i went home for thanksgiving. i remember so vividly her sitting on her bed, wishing me a safe trip to my cousin’s house, “oh, and whatever you do, don’t body check. avoid full length mirrors!”. we didn’t have any of these at the hospital. seeing one for the first time after a month would surely be triggering.
while you’re weight restoring, your body will change shape and size. this is inevitable and shouldn’t come as a surprise. this is also rationally speaking. eating disorders are irrational, and it will convince you that you’re doing the wrong thing. NOT TRUE. the best way to avoid having to confront this irrational fear is to avoid seeing it. for some time, it’s going to be DAMN HARD to look at yourself in the mirror. you’ll feel out of place, foreign, confused. this is natural and it’s okay.
i weight restored in the summer in NJ, where most days are spent in bathing suits and not much else. i knew i couldn’t spend those months holed up in my room alone. i needed to go on those beach trips, have my friends over swimming, grab ice cream for lunch. these were challenges in my recovery that would make me better. what made them manageable for me was doing them all in a baggy t shirt, aka avoiding tight clothing. when i found myself in a bathing suit, i never, ever looked in a full length mirror. body checking, no thanks!
swimming with others was extra hard because i found myself wanting to compare my body with theirs. i was always envious of so-and-so’s this or that, never happy with my own body. but what helped me work through this was constant positive self-talk. when i found my mind slipping into comparison, i made a point to step back and say, “does this matter at all to me? is this going to help me get through this recovery?”. the answer was always no. and so i was able to move on rationally knowing that i was on the better path.
use this time to really push your palate. try EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. you gotta eat, you might as well enjoy it! this time was when i really began to pick up cooking. i figured, i have to eat, why not make it fun? i cooked a lot with my parents and broke nearly all of my food rules in the process. nothing was off limits anymore. i was free to gain the weight however i wanted to. and while i initially didn’t WANT to, knowing that i HAD to gave me that extra push to try it all.
today i eat *mostly* plant-based. i don’t eat much meat (except for my dad’s sunday meat sauce and my mom’s meatballs!), i don’t eat dairy, but i do eat fish and eggs. hard to put a label on all that! nevertheless, one thing i want to make super clear is that while i was weight restoring, I HAD NO LIMITATIONS ON MY DIET. i believe i earned the right to eat the way i do today. while recovering i ate everything. i made it a point to restore my relationship with ALL foods, no limits, no restrictions. the way i eat today reflects what i’ve found to leave me feeling and functioning my best. this is because these are my CURRENT goals. while weight restoring, your only goal is to restore your health and put on however much weight is needed to do so.
again, i’m not a medical professional in any way, but i love to chime into this recovery conversation when i can. if you’re currently weight restoring, i hope these tips can prove useful to your journey! remember, all discomfort is temporary, but the rewards that come from that pain are timeless.
now what’s for dinner!?