Anorexia Recovery – Will Weight Gain Gradually End?

By November 7, 2012

I am finally on my way to recovery and have gained about 4 pounds in the last month (I am at ** pounds now and under the care of a physician). I am so excited to think that soon my food obsessions will be behind me. I have a question for you about the process of gaining weight. By adding enough calories daily to gain about a pound a week, will this mean that I will gain a pound a week indefinitely, or will it gradually end? I am enjoying eating normal amounts of food, and don’t want to think that when I get to a healthy weight I’ll have to eat less. However, a pound a week over a year or more will eventually bring me to the point of being overweight! Thanks so much. This service is a great source of hope and encouragement to me. – anonymous

Dear visitor,

Congratulations on your progress in recovery this far. I share your excitement!

I’m encouraged that you are looking ahead to your future, desiring to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Since I can’t see you and do a full assessment, I can only answer your question in general terms, but I hope you find this information reassuring.

You have to understand that while you were under-eating, your body perceived that as starvation, so your metabolism slowed down. In the early stages of recovery from anorexia, it is important to increase food intake gradually and be gentle with the body, to avoid what’s called “rebound edema” which is fluid retention that can cause discomfort and medical complications. Once past this phase, your body can actually handle more calories, because your metabolism will start to increase. So it’s not an exact science in which you will always eat the same amount, day after day—especially because our activity level is never the same. Also, I don’t know your age, but your fuel and nourishment needs will change if you are still growing and developing.

Ultimately, you will reach a point at which you will not have to rely on counting calories or food servings to meet your body’s needs. Again, with underfeeding the body, the appetite mechanisms get messed up, such that you lose sensitivity to hunger and fullness signals (which are like built in calorie counters to meet fuel needs). As you continue to normalize your eating and improve your nutrition, you will recover those sensations.

It’s wonderful that you are under the care of a physician, but I also think you would benefit from seeing a nutritionist who specializes in disordered eating. He or she could help allay some of your fears about weight gain, monitor your process, and guide you through needed adjustments to eventually maintain a healthy weight. You will eventually come to a place of confidence in making decisions about eating—free from obsessions and worry. Ask your doctor for a referral, or see “Finding a Nutritionist” for more information.

I’d also invite you to read through some of the articles in the “Eat Well, Live Well” section of our site.

Take care!