Fluid Retention with Eating & Metabolism Issues

By May 18, 2012

I am a senior in high school and last year I developed an eating disorder. I weighed about 162 lbs. at a height of 5’8″ and I always felt that I was overweight. After trying several times to lose weight healthily, I starved my body until I weighed 128 pounds. I wanted to continue to lose weight, but my family and friends intervened and I was forced to start eating again. Right away, I jumped up to about 135 lbs. again. I do a lot of exercise and eat about 1200 calories a day. Now, 6 months after I started eating again, I weigh around 140. I have tried to increase my calories, but I am so afraid that I will gain weight that I collapse back into compulsively counting out exactly 1200 calories to eat each day. If I gained weight on 1200 calories, what will happen if I increase even more? Also, I have a metabolism issue. I really want to raise my metabolism, but right now I am too scared to try. I guess I have 2 questions really: First, how can I raise my metabolism so I can eat normally again without gaining weight in the process? And second, I also eat a lot of salt. Sometimes 3-4 times the recommended amount (it gives flavor without calories). How much water weight will this make me retain and how can I rid myself of it?- Melinda

Dear Melinda,

First, I am so glad to hear that you have supportive friends and family—and that you listened to them.  Their concern and honesty kept you from causing serious harm to your body, and stopped you from heading down a destructive path.

But it sounds like you are still living in fear when it comes to eating and exercise.  Part of this is because you are putting too much emphasis on the number on the bathroom scale.  There are a variety of body types and shapes; not everyone is meant to look thin, and thinness doesn’t always mean good health.  Check out the article “Heaviness and Weight Gain – Explained…”  The issue of water retention is discussed there, along with other helpful information.

Since you feel you have to add a lot of salt to your foods, I am concerned that you are really not enjoying your choices and are being overly restrictive.  There is no need for you to obsess over calories each day.  You need to learn to trust your body to tell you how much food it needs—to eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are comfortably full. If you do this and make healthy choices most of the time, your body weight will naturally gravitate towards what is healthiest for you.  The reason you gained weight back after starving yourself is because you had become unnaturally thin.  Read the articles “A Healthy Diet for a Healthy Weight,” “Understanding Hunger and Fullness Cues” and “Eleven Keys to a Healthy Lifestyle” for some guidance on how to get back on track.

Last, I’d like to address the question about your metabolism.  Starving your body and cutting back on calories like you have been doing has actually been slowing your metabolism.  When you start making healthy choices in accordance with your body’s hunger and fullness signals, it will be better for your metabolism. Other ways to improve it include eating three meals a day with healthy snacks as needed (as opposed to skipping meals) and exercising moderately to build muscle (especially strength training).

You don’t mention in your letter if you have ever had professional counseling to explore your worries about eating and your body.  I would highly recommend that you see a therapist who specializes in eating disorders, to help you fully break free from your obsession with calories and body weight.  You will feel so much less pressure and you can begin to enjoy life in a new way.

My best to you,



I’d just like to reinforce what Ann has said about getting some exercise. Our bodies have the ability to develop muscle even into our eighties. Muscle burns a lot more calories than fat does, and that raises your metabolism. If you can begin to build in light weight training into your life, you’ll be able to eat more calories and still maintain your weight. You’ll also feel a lot better about your body, no matter what weight you are.

– Constance