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Anorexia recovery and weight gain

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  • Anorexia recovery and weight gain


    I'm 18 and recovering from anorexia/eating disorder. I am severely underweight and need to gain weight. Looking around on the forums, there seems to be different reccommendations of what to eat; I want to gain some strength and muscle since I look "bony" at the moment, and also gain minimal body fat. I get enough protein, but should the remaining calories mostly come from carbs or fat? Mark seems to say fat, since it lowers insulin levels and thus less body fat is stored; yet, some of the forums suggest to eat high carb because dietary fat is stored directly as fat, whereas carbs are more thermogenic. I always thought lower carb was better to minimize fat gain, but now I'm confused and overwhelmed with all the info out there. I think the bottom line is, I'm also anxious and soo uncomfortable about gaining body fat, even though I know it's inevitable. I'm pretty sedentary although I try to move around a lot, since at the moment I can't handle strenuous exercise.

    Also, I know to gain muscle mass lifting is best, but I have tendonitis, so I can't lift weights or do bodyweight exercises that use my arms. Is there anything else I could do to build strength?

  • #2
    Feed your brain first. Start with animal protein and fat.
    The Champagne of Beards


    • #3
      Plenty of protein, definitely. However, since you are young I don't think trying to become 'fat-adapted' is optimal. Prolonged periods of low carbohydrate intake can affect your thyroid and induce fatigue, sluggish metabolism etc. and you don't want any health problems or jeopardise your health in the long term.

      I'm 23, went VLC and those were the worst twelve weeks of my life. It was pure torture. I'm a relentless experimenter and stuck with it, following every suggestion but as the weeks progressed I was progressively feeling worse and worse. You're risking mineral and nutritional depletion (potassium, magnesium, calcium). The low carbohydrate community have a very dogmatic approach. When I started eating starch in the form of potatoes/white rice and more fruit, I felt back to normal. Now I eat most of calories from carbs, with some fat. Glucose is essential and a natural fuel source, you're still growing.

      Recovering from anorexia was a hard, emotional journey for me. I had to renegotiate my relationship with food and let go of any emotional attachments I had to eating patterns and obsessive behaviour. Don't worry about fat gain, I eat a lot of carbs and incorporate some medium intensity cardio regularly, and I'm very lean (from someone who is very prone to weight gain. I have a slow metabolism and gain weight easily if I'm not careful). Enjoy a variety of food and don't worry about ratios etc. I should also note that your workouts will suck without carbs. Have a potato or white rice. Snack on delicious fruit. Fat is great for satiation but a poor fuel source.

      However, I encourage you to experiment if you're still unsure. Try high fat/low carb for four weeks, and high carb/low fat for four weeks. Note your workout performance, too. I bet high carb will work better for you, it generally does for us young folk.

      My typical daily intake is about 200g carbs, 120g protein and 50g fat. Sometimes these ratios aren't efficient, so I have a carb refeed probably every few days with about 350g carbs, 100g protien and 10g fat to maintain energy levels. Make sure your carb sources are mainly from starch and fruit. Don't rely on crates of celery to provide you with efficient energy.
      Last edited by Mikee5; 07-02-2013, 04:11 AM.


      • #4
        That's a serious condition - forums like this may not be right for you right now.
        Advice can be extreme and can be extremely wrong for you.

        If I had to suggest something :

        It would be eat natural/real foods (try to avoid processed foods and sugar - but if you want to try some of that too then do so).

        I think any thoughts of getting the fat/Carb/protein ratios and amounts perfect for YOU is wrong and way off target - you first how to re-learn to eat anything/everything ( though mostly real food).

        If you want to eat something - then eat it!
        Open the pantry and fridge - put the food on a plate and eat.
        Meat, fish, chicken, rice, fruit, veg, cheese, yogurt, soups........ whatever there is, or what you want.

        Lifting weights is not for you now IMO - just get a little easy walking in each day.

        Just eat and don't worry about getting everything perfect.

        Relax and enjoy life.

        Just my opinion......

        Good Luck.
        Last edited by EatMoveSleep; 07-02-2013, 05:00 AM.


        • #5
          Don't overthink what you are doing; believe me if you are eating real foods and eating to a point where you are full (not stuffed, but definitely satisfied), your body will naturally get to its "ideal" point in terms of weight and composition. It's definitely easy to become obsessed about food. Just relax, enjoy, and be mindful. I hope that helps.


          • #6
            In my experience, eating this way helps with tendonitis. I had it in my elbow during a period of lots of poor food choices and it went away within a day or two of getting my food back on track.

            I agree with elfman5150 completely. I don't think there's any need for you to track food in any sense, just eat good food.

            I also think that this forum may not be the best place for you. I don't mean to be rude, but a lot (if not most) people here are trying to lose weight and it seems like a conflict of interests. If you are not currently, I hope you will consider seeing (or continuing to see) a physician or psychiatrist about the emotional aspects of recovering from anorexia.
            Depression Lies


            • #7
              You say you get enough protein, but how much is that? You should be eating an excess of protein to help your body put on muscle. Many dietary recommendations are for people who are trying to maintain. And some are just plain wrong, seemingly based on something somebody saw on a vegan site on the internet.


              • #8
                What is underweight? How much do you weigh now? And how much do you want to gain that will place you in the "normal" range. (Who set that range anyways? ) Do you plan on any weight training exercising?

                Right now I think the best thing to do is eat what you like and consume the least harmful types of foods from all 3 macronutrients. Aim for 33/33/33 caloric intake would be the easiest because right now I think what you need is calories if you are indeed significantly under weight.

                I wouldn't be concerned with building muscle at this point until you achieve a "normal" weight baseline. Are you capable of lifting heavy weights anyway? Do you have enough strength to weight train if you are underweight right now? Could you suffer injury to any bones or what have you, by lifting more than you can handle?


                • #9
                  Hi all,

                  Thanks for all the comforting and supportive advice. I think you're right that I'm overthinking things, and that's probably part of the ED and orthorexia. There's so many recommendations on the forums to avoid wheat (which I still want to eat once in a while so I was so disappointed when I read this), eat LC or high carb, high fat, etc etc but I think I should just try to eat how I feel is best for me and my energy levels. Eating higher carb makes me anxious, so I think I'm most comfortable sticking to lower carb for right now especially as I'm restoring weight. I'm also just doing pilates/walking to gain strength back.

                  For anyone who has recovered, how did you deal with things like cravings, fat gain, body composition, gaining muscle?


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Alfi56 View Post
                    I'm also just doing pilates/walking to gain strength back.
                    Please, be careful with that and never force yourself. Research "female athlete triad". Even pilates could be too harmful right now, if your body is seriously damaged. You'll find more information about that in one of the articles I strongly recommend you to read (the "Insidious activity" one).

                    I have a wonderful site to share with you, you should consider reading all the articles on it before deciding to go fully paleo:

                    Your Eatopia - Blog Index

                    The most important four articles in my opinion are:

                    1) Your Eatopia - Blog - I Need How Many*Calories?!!
                    2) Your Eatopia - Blog - Insidious Activity *
                    3) Your Eatopia - Blog - Phases of Recovery From A Restrictive Eating*Disorder
                    4) Your Eatopia - Blog - Inpatient*Underfeeding

                    Try to read those four articles first if you could. It's really important.

                    Take care and don't let some paleo fascists fool you.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Alfi56 View Post
                      For anyone who has recovered, how did you deal with things like cravings, fat gain, body composition, gaining muscle?
                      My cravings aren't as bad as they were prior to Primal, but I get them occasionally. I find I can resist it much easier now, the urge to binge is very brief and less frequent, especially with more stable eating patterns. I don't feel the constant hunger and raging desire to grab all the cookies in the bakery section of the store and eat until I'm sick.

                      The fat in my diet has really helped with appetite suppression and satiation, I use to fear fat. I swore I wouldn't touch butter again, but I gorged on sugary cereal and enormous bowls of pasta. I've actually lost weight doing Primal (was in recovery prior to PB) and I'm leaning out! I don't feel weak and I can see some definition around my stomach and my arms and legs feel more toned.

                      The whole carb thing is debatable, but based on my observations and reading the experiences of others, younger people need the carbs and glucose and lower carb is inefficient. Experimenting is key.