Anorexia recovery is hard, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
There were things that I didn’t expect to come across because no one had told me before, so I thought it might be helpful to put a little list together for anyone else who might find themselves in this position.
This was a big one for me. Once I started eating more I was suddenly absolutely starving. It’s not just like being hungry when you’ve missed lunch, it’s an intense emptiness that doesn’t seem to let up no matter how much you eat. It’s absolutely terrifying, but I promise you it will pass. Once your body realises you’re not going to stop feeding it again, it lets up.
Weight changes and plateau
You might lose a little bit of weight to start with when your metabolism kicks in a little, which has happened to me before, but it has usually been followed by a short period of extremely rapid weight gain. Getting past this point feels basically impossible and that you will carry on gaining at this rate forever, but you won’t. Once you push past this, it will plateau.
I didn’t know what a set point was before I started recovery as an adult around 10 years ago. For those who don’t know, it’s the weight your body sits at naturally without having to use any sort of restriction to keep it there, and it can range up to around 5kg. I cannot stress this enough – your body is not designed to sit at a weight you can only sustain through restriction. It’s about learning to trust in the process and remembering how clever your body is at sustaining itself exactly where it should be.
I had terrible acid reflux – purging was a really significant symptom of mine and once I started eating proper meals AND keeping them down, I had dreadful reflux. It lasted for well over a year I reckon, but it did go away eventually.
Some of that rapid weight gain at the beginning of recovery is water retention – your body is clinging on to whatever it can get because it’s terrified of being starved again. I had swollen ankles initially but they went down after a few weeks.
One thing you might notice is where the weight goes on your body – for a lot of people it goes directly around the stomach area which for most of us is one of the worst places it can go. This is because your body is putting it straight where your vital organs are to protect them. After a while of eating better, it will start spreading out evenly over your body.
These are some things I noticed, so I hope they might be helpful to any of you going through this journey at the moment.