Recovering Anorexic: Will Certain Types of Food Change Body Shape?

By December 12, 2012

Hi, I have just discovered your site today. I am a recovering anorexic (never had treatment or hospitalised). I am a Christian, attending an eating disorders group called “Celebrate Recovery.” My eating has greatly improved over the last 7 years and since 4 years ago, I now do very little exercise. I have put on a significant amount of weight which has laid itself primarily on my behind and thighs, whilst the upper half of my body still appears very anorexic. Can I change this pattern by the type of foods I eat? I tend to snack on bread mainly — would eating more protein help to increase the tissue/ fat on my arms neck and chest? Crazy I know, but I am aware that my upper torso looks anorexic, whilst my lower torso has become well rounded. With thanks – Angela

Dear Angela,

First, I want to commend you for the progress you have made over the past seven years. It’s wonderful that your eating has improved and you have a regular support group. I will try to address your concerns as best I can, but without the benefit of a full assessment, can only provide general information.

When a women is too thin, her true shape is not obvious; this was the case for you previously. From your description, it sounds like your subsequent weight gain and body changes have been quite normal—and healthy. My guess is that you happen to be pear shaped, like millions of other women, and it shows more now. This is a good thing, but you are understandably adjusting to the change.

Try to be honest with yourself. Is it possible that you have unrealistic expectations for what your body should look like? If so, you are like countless other women who are negatively influenced by the media’s narrow portrayal of so-called beauty. We see too many air-brushed pictures of celebrities with “Barbie bodies,” which don’t represent the diversity of shapes and sizes that exist in the world. In addition, many celebrities are currently getting plastic surgery, so we are seeing fewer and fewer normal bodies. The truth is that each natural body shape and type is uniquely beautiful—and we need to celebrate our differences.

My main point is to caution you not to adopt a mindset that something is wrong with you because of the way you were created. The composition of your diet will not affect your natural shape; exercise will tone and strengthen your body, but won’t transform a pear shape into an hourglass (or an hourglass into a ruler shape). Read the article “Understanding Body Types” for more information. Body acceptance is a huge part of the recovery process from disordered eating, and I believe you are ready to take this next step.

I am concerned, however, that you say your “upper torso looks anorexic,” implying that you may still be too thin and have not yet reached optimal health. Have you had an exam with your physician lately? If he/she is concerned about your weight, you would benefit from a referral to a nutritionist (who could also analyze your eating patterns and diet composition to answer your questions more specifically). If your doctor is not concerned and it is primarily a body image issue, discuss this with your support group and/or seek a counselor for individual guidance.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Appreciate, respect and care for the amazing body you have been given, and don’t let a cosmetic issue keep you from fulfilling God’s purposes for your life.


Ann Capper, RD, CDN