I am 17 years old and developed anorexia when I was 14. With the help of a psychologist, I managed to bring my weight up to a healthy weight. However, this year my weight dropped right away again; I have since regained all of the weight I lost plus about an extra 5 kilograms. I am scared I will continue to gain weight (as it hasn’t stopped yet) because I can’t seem to stop eating. I try to eat healthy, balanced meals but, about once a week I will binge and I tend to feel “hungry” all the time. I would really like to just be able to eat normally. At the moment, I am too scared to go to social gatherings where there will be food. I am scared I will not be able to control myself and keep eating and everyone will be able to see how hopeless and useless I am. I would like to get in touch with my body, be happy and healthy and maybe lose those extra 5 kilograms. Thanks – HB
Regaining weight in anorexia is very challenging, so I applaud you on the hard work you have already done. My first question is whether your “healthy weight” is your definition and/or falls in line with what your physician/dietitian also define as healthy. When we fight against our body’s natural set point weight, we can often feel extra hungry until we safely maintain a weight within this natural set point. Also, the fact that you are only 17 years old tells me that you are likely still growing into your adult woman’s body. The weight that was normal at age 14 will likely not be the same at age 17. This will also be the case into your early twenties until you mature into an adult woman.
Of course, there still may be some emotional underlying issues that can be confused with “hunger,” so keep checking those feelings out with your therapist. Sometimes stress, boredom, loneliness or fear can be misconstrued as “hunger.” Once you have ruled out these two factors (accurate set point range or feelings), then its time to trust your body. Give yourself permission when you feel overly hungry to simply eat until satisfied. Usually when we fight these urges we end up overeating later in secret, and it perpetuates an unhealthy relationship with food. Try not to feel guilty when you do eat a bit more; there will also be times when you eat a bit less. Trust your body to make up for natural variance in eating and appetite.
I recommend researching Ellyn Satter‘s definition of “normal eating.” She has written several books on feeding children, but also has good advice for those recovering from eating disorders. Take a deep breath, relax and allow yourself time to really practice intuitive eating. You are on your way, but it does take time and trust. Hang in there, you can do this!
Juliet N. Zuercher, RD