Body Image And Weight Gain Q&A #2 // Eating Disorder Recovery
How to Gain Weight as a Recovering Anorexic
Anorexia is a serious disorder that affects millions of people, and once you're on the road to recovery one of the most difficult obstacles is gaining weight. In order to recover, you must learn to alter your relationship with food and eating, and recognize which food options are best for your overall nutrition.
Choosing the Right Calories
Choose nutrient-dense foods.Nutrient-dense foods are foods that are calorie-heavy but also filled with nutrients our bodies need to fuel activity. These are essential for recovery, as they will help to restore normal levels of micronutrients in your body and decrease the risk for developing conditions associated with nutritional deficiencies, such as osteoporosis or hair loss. While certain foods, like empty carbs and junk food, can move the number on the scale up fast, they're not as healthy an option as going for high-calorie, nutrient-dense choices.
- Nutrient-dense foods are beneficial in that you need to eat less to gain the benefits. This can be particularly helpful to people recovering from anorexia, who struggle to adjust to typical portion sizes. A small or medium serving of a nutrient-dense food provides needed calories and nutrition.
- A nutrient-dense meal generally includes high-protein options mixed with fruit, veggies, and healthy carbohydrates like brown rice and whole grain pasta or bread.
- Some examples of nutrient dense food include salmon, chicken, walnuts, bananas, flaxseeds, shellfish, whole grain bread, olive oil, brown rice, oatmeal, yogurt, and dried fruits without added sugar.
Add extra calories when you can.When you have an opportunity to add an extra 50 or 100 calories, take it. Any amount of calories helps the process of gaining back weight.
- Plant fats, such as nuts, are healthy and high in calories. Add mixed nuts to a salad. Nut-based spreads, like almond or cashew butter, can be added to toast and sandwiches. Hummus is made from chickpeas, and can be a great dip or addition to a pita wrap.
- Consider adding extra salad dressing to salads or pasta, ketchup or mayonnaise to grilled meat or sandwiches, sour cream to Mexican dishes.
- When possible, opt for high-calorie condiments and dressings such as ranch, mayonnaise, thousand island dressing, and Caesar salad dressing.
- Granola, loaded with nuts and dried fruits, is a good source of nutritious calories and can be added to yogurt or eaten as a snack.
- Drizzle canola or olive oil, which both contain healthy fats, over salads, soups, casseroles, and whole grains.
Drink your calories.Many calories can be gained by drinking beverages that contain nutritious calories. Liquids aren't as filling as whole foods so you can add nutrients and calories without feeling bloated.
- Good, healthy liquid choices include 100% fruit juice, kefir, skim milk or milk alternatives (such as soy or almond milk), buttermilk, and teas sweetened with natural sweeteners like honey.
- Smoothies, made from fruits and veggies, are ideal. They are calorie-heavy, easy to consume, and can be bolstered with a variety of healthy additives like wheat germ, nut butter, and protein powder.
- Meal replacement smoothies and drinks are also a good choice, and available at most groceries stores. For optimal weight gain, however, eat them in addition to solid food snacks and bolster them with fruits, powdered milk, or soft silken tofu.
Changing Your Attitudes About Weight and Eating
Be prepared for the physical consequences of recovery.Many people recovering from anorexia have an unhealthy mentality about food and weight that is reinforced during the recovery process. People recovering from anorexia often feel discouraged to continue on the path to weight gain when they hit certain setbacks. Being aware of these potential physical consequence and their temporary nature can help you cope.
- Abdominal weight gain is common in those recovering from anorexia. While the reasons for this are still debated, the vast majority of studies indicate any abnormal weight distribution normalizes after one year of recovery. In other words, this side effect is temporary. Many people recovering from anorexia find it helpful to look at stomach fat as a positive sign of recovery and health.
- Rapid weight gain, especially in the first days and weeks, is also common. Fluid between the tissues in the body's cells and glycogen stores in the liver and muscle are replenished, which leads to quick weight gain. Do not weigh yourself too often during the early period of recovery as you may become disturbed by how quickly the number on the scale moves up. This is a healthy, normal part of recovery and weight gain slows as you reach a normal, healthy weight for your body.
- Be aware there may be some unpleasant physical side effects. When the body has been deprived of food for so long, reintroducing normal eating habits are a shock to the system. Side effects include diarrhea, nausea, weakness, sleep disturbances, a heightened sensitivity to cold, a weak bladder, and constipation. Be aware going in such side effects may occur, but view them as signs you're on the path to a healthier, happier you.
Change your food attitude.Many people recovering from anorexia see diet as a means of continual deprivation, an attitude that leads to the development of anorexia. Challenging yourself to view food as an important part of a healthy lifestyle rather than a necessary evil is a vital step to weight gain and overall recovery.
- Have a good support system. Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who eat well and have a healthy body image and relationship with food and eating. It's hard to recover from anorexia if you're in the presence of a perpetual dieter or someone who binge eats and drinks. You need models for a healthy relationship with food, weight gain, and eating.
- Keep a food journal. Keeping track of food intake can lead to healthier eating habits, but it can also lead to a healthier attitude overall. Track how you're feeling before and after you eat, and what kind of thoughts you're having that may affect eating habits and lead to unnecessary food restriction.
- Learn from others. Seek out success stories from other people recovering from anorexia, whether from local support groups or online resources, and figure out what they did to change their relationship with food and eating for the better.
Get counseling.Anorexia is a particularly dangerous disorder, and if you suffer from anorexia you are unlikely to simply put weight back on without psychiatric intervention. A variety of psychotherapy approaches demonstrate effectiveness when dealing with eating disorders, and seeking out a counselor in your area can keep you on the path to gaining weight.
- Select a therapist who is up to date on all the science of eating disorders. When contacting a potential therapist, ask about their training, their experience treating patients with eating disorders, what their treatment options and goals are, what certifications they hold, and whether they're part of any professional eating disorder organizations.
- In particular, look into cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The objective of CBT is to change faulty thought processes about food such as all-or-nothing thinking, judgmental thinking, and catastrophizing. A CB therapist will help to break the patterns of disordered eating through the use of food monitoring, thought monitoring, meal regularity and nutritional monitoring.
- Family counseling is also important, especially for adolescents.
- To locate a therapist in your area, you can try calling the psychiatric department at a university and asking for a list of recommendations of people trained in their program, calling a large clinic and asking for a referral, and talking to friends and family members who are receiving counseling or therapy.
- Do not limit your search to providers listed by your insurance company. Even providers who claim they don't accept your program may be able to make an exception or offer you a discount of some kind.
See a doctor who specializes in nutrition.Once again, anorexia is serious and you can't expect to gain weight in a healthy fashion going at it alone. Seeking professional help from a nutritional specialist is vital to gaining weight. Weight gain is important, but some side effects can be dangerous to your health. A physician should be supervising the recovery process and meeting with you in a medical office on a regular basis.
Follow-up with your treating medical provider.Weekly weigh-ins, vital signs measurement, and periodic laboratory testing including CBC, serum electrolytes and serum amylase levels are important. Make follow-up appointments with your doctor and don't skip them.
Altering Your Eating Habits
Practice mindful eating.How you eat is as important to weight gain as what you eat. Mindful eating is a practice with roots in Buddhist teachings and aims to reconnect us with the experience and enjoyment of eating. The end goal is to eat based on physical cues, like the body's need for hunger, rather than for comfort or out of boredom.
- Eat slower. Take time to savor each bite and chew more. This will make you realize you're full faster, which can lead to a healthier relationship with food and hunger.
- Eat in silence. If you eat meals with family members or friends, this may be difficult, but suggest a period of silence to focus on the food. Turn off the TV and your cell phone as well.
- Focus on the flavor, and consider how much you are enjoying the meal.
Eat throughout the day.Anorexia is a disease often defined by erratic eating patterns. Your body needs a continual source of energy all day, especially so if you're trying to gain back weight lost through a disorder like anorexia. Eat regular meals, spaced about three to four hours apart, to gain weight in a steady, healthy fashion.
- Snack more frequently. Reminding yourself to eat more often, to snack between meals, and to eat whenever you feel hungry can help you learn to follow cues from your stomach. Get into the habit of snacking throughout the day on small healthy foods. This can increase your daily calorie intake without overloading your stomach at each meal.
Learn normal portion size.Gaining weight after being anorexic is difficult because your perception of portion size is warped. Adjusting to normal portions can be a tricky part of the recovery process.
- Do not skip meals. This prevents you from adapting to normal portion sizes, as you're more likely to go overboard at your next meal and end up feeling sick and discouraged. Eat three meals a day with snacks in between.
- Measure and weigh your food. Humans are not good judges of size, so keep a small scale and measuring cups on hand when preparing meals. Make sure you're getting a full serving of your favorite foods.
- Learn handy cheats in regards to size and weight. For example, 3 ounces of lean meat is the size of a deck of cards and 1 cup of breakfast cereal is about the size of a fist. Gather tidbits like this, from online and from friends and doctors, so you'll have a good sense of how much food is adequate.
- Plan your meals beforehand, keeping in mind how many calories you'll need and what types of food you should consume for a healthy goal for that day.
QuestionHow much weight gain per week is safe and sustainable for a recovering anorexic?
Family Nurse PractitionerFamily Nurse PractitionerExpert AnswerYou want to aim for 2 to 3 pounds per week in a structured treatment setting; however, most outpatient programs find weight gain goals of 0.5 to 1 pound per week to be more realistic.Thanks!
QuestionWhat weight should a 17-year-old girl be if she is 5'5"?
Family Nurse PractitionerFamily Nurse PractitionerExpert AnswerIf you look at the standard BMI chart for a female of her height, the range of “normal” weight is between 118 lbs to 144 lbs.Thanks!
QuestionHow much olive oil makes one lipid serving?
Family Nurse PractitionerFamily Nurse PractitionerExpert AnswerIn 1 tablespoon of olive oil there are 13.5 grams of fat, or lipids, which is about 21% of your total daily fat intake.Thanks!
QuestionIf I am anorexic, should I do exercises like push ups or is it bad for me?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt depends on where you are in your recovery. Your heart loses muscle as you lose weight which is a definite reason that the mortality rate of anorexia is so high. Do not do anything that will place stress on your heart, because you and your body need to heal. Check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.Thanks!
QuestionWould I be considered anorexic even if I feel fat while everyone else tells me I'm not?Community AnswerBody Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one's own body part or appearance is severely flawed (e.g. your weight), and is commonly a cause or effect anorexia nervosa, but not necessarily. A doctor needs to see you to diagnose you properly.Thanks!
QuestionHow can I avoid re-feeding syndrome if I am trying to re-feed myself at home?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerRe-feeding syndrome is not hard to identify. You will experience fever and dizziness for a couple of days, and if that happens, get to the hospital as soon as possible. My nutritionist told me to drink a liter of full-fat milk (or milk-product) every day for a month until my BMI was above 16 again. Depending on your weight now (my BMI was 13), start out with 1000 calories a day, dividing fats, carbohydrates and proteins equally across three meals.Thanks!
QuestionWhat can I do to gain weight in less than thirty days?Community AnswerTry to consume mostly calorie-dense foods and try to limit physical activity as much as possible. If you are sticking to a meal plan set up by a doctor, don't be afraid to eat more than suggested - it will only help your goal of weight gain, challenge your eating disorder, and make the recovery process go by quicker. Don't let a small setback or relapse affect your long run, and most importantly, make sure you have proper support and care from your family and team!Thanks!
QuestionWhat is the average weight of a 54 year old man who is 5'9"?Community AnswerYour weight depends on your body type, and a variety of different factors. A healthy weight for a 54 year old male of that height would be anywhere from 125 to 169 pounds, but to get more personalized information for what's healthy for your body, you need to consult a professional.Thanks!
QuestionHow much should I weigh if I'm 17 years old and 5'6"?Community AnswerIt depends - every body is different and naturally stores fat differently. However, the general rule would be anywhere between 124 and and 155 pounds.Thanks!
QuestionIf I'm getting over anorexia, should I be okay if I work out daily?Community AnswerIt depends where you're at in your recovery, both physically and mentally. The "rule of thumb" tends to be waiting until you've hit your body's natural set point (the weight where your body naturally wants to be, which you should be able to maintain without trying), had three regular periods, mentally feel in control of the thoughts and been behavior-free for quite a while, and have your doctor's approval.Thanks!
Is the nutritional value of milk the same as yogurt for a recovering anorexic?
I am anorexic and underweight. Should I job around my house if I eat frequently and need to gain weight?
- Individuals who are recovering from anorexia sometimes crave junk food and sweets due to the extreme hunger associated with early recovery. While this might be scary, it is important to listen to both your physical and mental hunger cues in order to allow your body to fully heal and trust you. No food should be labeled as "good" or "bad" and as long as you do not restrict yourself of nutrient-dense foods to "make up" for it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying foods marketed as unhealthy.
- When you first begin recovery, eating can be painful and cause stomach cramps and nausea. This is normal, and symptoms diminish with time. If symptoms are preventing you from eating, talk to a doctor for suggestions on how to lessen their severity.
- If you have any craving, do not resist it! Cravings are normal, and it is important that you learn to recognize and to satisfy these needs.
- Anorexia is a life-threatening disorder. If you are recovering from anorexia, do not attempt to treat yourself without the help of a trained eating disorder professional, a nutritionist, and your regular physician. Gaining weight is important, but can put you in physical danger when done without medical supervision.
- Individuals who have been consuming very few calories — that is less than 1,000 calories a day — should take extreme care when increasing intake. When the body has been in a period of starvation for a prolonged time, the sudden increase in food intake can cause a serious complication called re-feeding syndrome which causes electrolyte imbalances and fluid deficiencies. Talk to your doctor frequently during the recovery period and know if you're at risk for developing re-feeding syndrome and what steps you should take to prevent it.
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Video: DEALING WITH WEIGHT GAIN & RECOVERING FROM AMENORRHEA
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