Gaining Weight in Recovery

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Gaining Weight in Recovery

Hi! I am currently trying to recover from anorexia. I was at a really low weight, and I'm currently in a day program to help with meal management and weight gain. However, I've been really struggling with how my body looks as I've been eating more calories each day. I constantly feel uncomfortable and bloated, and I feel like my stomach looks extremely distended and that I look like I'm pregnant, even though people tell me that I look completely normal. Has anyone else experienced this? I'm so often afraid to eat because I don't want my lower abdomen to get any larger, and I'm afraid it won't redistribute throughout my body like I'm told it's supposed to. I constantly check my body in the mirror...every time I'm in the bathroom I have to look at my stomach from all angles, and if it seems any larger, I really start to struggle. And what makes me feel even worse is that I didn't used to feel this way about my body...I didn't used to have to constantly body check, I ate when I was hungry, I didn't care about how much I weighed, or anything like that. My eating disorder started as an attempt to control my body and sort of as a self-destructive thing, and now I feel completely out of control as I've been trying to get better after being hospitalized. I just feel so superficial and vain and ridiculous for caring so much about the way my stomach looks and being so fixated on it, and I'm extremely ashamed of those thoughts and behaviors. I've also been struggling with overeating late at night and struggling with hunger cues, which is contributing to the bloating and distention in my belly. I often feel so out of control and feel so ashamed and disgusted with myself that I have panic attacks and just completely fall apart afterwards. I guess I'm just wondering if anyone has experienced either of these before, and if anyone has any advice on how to deal with the weight gain/bloating and the overeating/mixed up hunger cues/anxiety over eating in general. Thank you so much in advance!

Hi sdownen,

Thank you for reaching out here! I think a lot of people who have gone through weight recovery can relate to your experiences. A lot of these symptoms sound very familiar. I want to say first that I think it's great that you're working towards recovery and that you're so self-aware and able to recognize these symptoms in yourself. I think a great next step for you might be to talk about what you're going through with the doctors/professionals at your day program. Since they know you personally and they know more about your indivdual circumstances, they might be able to provide more personalized advice.

Please know that it's very common for the body to experience lots of side effects during weight recovery, including the kinds of things you describe regarding your change in apperance, feelings of discomfort, etc. Many of these symptoms are temporary and can subside as you keep moving forward towards recovery. Also know that your focus on food and appearance is the "ED voice" talking. You aren't ridiculous, and the fixation is coming from the ED, not from you. The anxiety and panic symptoms are likely all wrapped up in the ED symptoms, too. The ED wants you to stay sick, so as you listen to and follow your doctors' advice, the ED will fight back.

There are many great self-care techniques you can use to keep your mind occupied and try to divert your focus away from food and appearance. I've heard that a lot of people find things like mindful meditation helpful. You can find videos online and even apps that have guided mindfulness meditation sessions where they walk you through breathing and relaxation. These can be done in times when you're stressed, and can even be helpful when done regularly in times when you aren't feeling acutely stressed. I also love this NEDA "master post" with self-care links: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/self-care-master-post .

I hope this helps at least a little. Recovery can be a complicated process. Stay strong, and keep in communication with your treatment providers about your symptoms and what you're going through. Feel free to post here whenever you need some support or a listening ear. :)

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