Fat Storage and Restoring Weight In Anorexia Recovery

By December 17, 2012

I am twenty years old and have had anorexia for six years. I have started to regain weight but I have an obsession that the faster I gain weight, the more fat I will store. This is greatly affecting my ability to be healthy. Do you have any advice to help me get this notion out of my head? – Triona

Dear Triona.,

Although this is a very common and, I think, natural question to ask in recovering from anorexia, there is no proof that the faster you restore weight, the more fat you gain. Here is what we do know:

First, each body is different. Our hard-wired DNA, the genetic code for all sorts of traits, is responsible for how much adiposity (body fatness) and how much muscle mass is natural for our individual bodies. This varies greatly from individual to individual. Since you’ve had anorexia since the age of 14, you likely do not know yet exactly what your “adult woman’s body” is supposed to be. Are you naturally lean? Where do you restore weight? What kind of shape do you have? These are questions for which you may or may not have answers for. We ultimately know that it is impossible for us to change our body’s DNA. I cannot make my eyes naturally green or my height 5’10” no matter how hard I try. Nor can we be much leaner or much fatter than within a reasonable range already pre-determined by our body’s genetic code.

Second, our bodies are smart at knowing how to restore weight. In other words, if your internal organs were compromised, then rebuilding and repairing them is top priority (especially an organ like your heart); after that, if you need internal or visceral body fat stores to protect internal organs, weight restoration may go there next.

Finally, if all the vitals are covered, your body will know when it is okay to restore weight to other areas; either adipose or muscle, whatever is needed by the body.

So, stay on track with your nutrition and activity plan, and let your body do what it will with restoring weight. Perhaps a bigger question to ask is, “What would happen if I’m actually okay at my set point weight?” Coming to terms with not only weight restoration but also body acceptance is a huge step forward in recovery. This is easier said than done, but continue striving because it leads to lasting success and freedom in recovery.

Kindest Regards,

Juliet N. Zuercher, RD