Today marks one month since I started my eating disorder and diet recovery. Here are some of the physical and emotional changes I've been noticing.
Today marks one month since I started my eating disorder and diet recovery. I received so much love and support on my eating disorder "coming out" post, as well as, so many women reaching out to say that they have felt or feel similar to me. I wanted to write an update since, even in a little over a week, I feel like things are continuing to change, shift, progress... rapidly. Here’s what I mean.
As I mentioned in my first post, the approach to recovery that I am following encourages eating a MINIMUM of 2500 calories per day (for a woman my age/height). Some people spoke up about this after my first post to say to moderation and intuitive eating are always the best approach, but for me, I knew that going straight to intuitive eating wasn’t going to work for me. It would still allow me to sneak in restriction and not overcome my fear of certain foods as quickly as I believe that I can if I just go all in, facing my fear foods and my fear of eating too many calories head on. I can't have that pressure because I know I would judge myself on whether I was doing "intuitive eating" and "moderation" right and if I felt like I wasn't, it would create shame, anxiety, and just plain throw me off-track.
Also, in the very beginning of recovery, most people aren’t that hungry yet because their hunger signals have been turned off (more on why in a bit). So, it seems logical that at least to get the ball rolling, I needed to have some guidelines to get my body functioning again.
The first couple weeks I went straight for it, challenging some of my biggest fear foods like cereal, cookies, donuts, cheesecake, carrot cake, burger and fries, and pizza. I didn’t eat them all in one sitting or one day and I don’t feel like I have had a true “binge” or what some people call “feast eating” during my recovery, but I gave myself permission to eat whatever I want, whenever I want.
I’ve loosely been tracking calories by adding up rough estimates on my phone calculator on various days, and I was easily consuming 3000-3500 calories each day over the past week. It was challenging for my brain to allow me the permission to do that even though, based on my research, I know this is what my body needed.
Now, I didn't jump straight to that amount right away, I let my body guide me and made my way up to this range gradually. First it was a stretch for me to eat 2500 calories in one day, but then after a few days of that, it seemed like my hunger switch got flipped on and I was hungry all the time. So, I listened to the hunger and ate what it was asking for. Again, not in a binge but just eating higher calorie foods throughout the day.
Then, for a few days I was closer to the 3000 calorie mark. And then a few days after that I was easily hitting 3500 calories. This lasted for maybe a week and now I feel like my hunger has settled down a bit. I’m also not craving donuts and pizza like I was last week. I thought, “Omg, am I going to crave these foods forever? When is this going to stop?!” It was all I wanted to eat. I was like a 12 year old.
But my cravings for them slowed down actually fairly quickly in the grand scheme of things. Who knows if they will come back, but for now, I’m actually struggling to find foods that sound good. Actually that’s not true. What happens is that nothing sounds good and then all of a sudden, “chicken with rice and gravy” will pop into my head. Wtf? Like home-cooked, not something from a can. Or popcorn. Or a salad with red onion and fresh mushroom ONLY. I feel like a pregnant woman, ha!
Last week was all about sugar and now this. It's like my circuits are rewiring. Many of the foods I ate on a regular basis prior to recovery still don't sound good either. So, I'm being patient and following the guidance as best as I can in the moment. Another problem with this is that I don't want to make big batches of things because once I eat it once, I tend to be done with it and onto the next thing. Ay!
I wanted to mention some of the interesting changes I have noticed in my body this week.
During weeks 2-3 I noticed that I started shedding hair LIKE CRAZY. I had to swiffer every few days, as if I had a dog! This seems to have calmed down. I did some research on it, and it can be a symptom of recovery that doesn’t last too long (hopefully). Most women begin to notice new, baby hair growth after a few months of recovery and over time, their hair comes in thicker and very healthy. I don’t think my hair has ever looked unhealthy, however I was a bit concerned by how much I was shedding. I’m glad it has slowed down.
Again, during weeks 2-3 I would wake up drenched with sweat. Even if I slept with just a sheet on. This seems to be subsiding, however I do notice that my body temperature is naturally on the warm side versus usually cold like before. I was at a trade show the other day and I was literally sweating all over my body. Even my boobs were sweating! This is another sign of recovery, as the metabolism is naturally rising to manage the higher food intake.
I have been having some headaches the past few days, which I am not sure if they are from the weather change or possibly from not eating as much sugar this week. I know that may sound weird, considering that it’s been a short period that I have been eating more sugar, but really it feels like a caffeine withdrawal headache, and that’s not it, so I don’t know what else could be causing it. The only thing I have changed this week is that I have been eating less sugar. I rarely get headaches so I am hoping this passes soon.
I haven’t exercised in a month. If you would have asked me if I could do that several months ago I would have said, “Yeah right!” It’s weird how normal it now feels to NOT work out, when for YEARS that was a daily must!
I’ve been walking to run errands here and there but it’s a leisurely walk. Some days it feels good to take a walk and others it feels better not too, and I have been allowing myself to follow that guidance and for it to be OKAY if I barely walk more than 1000 steps in a day some days. (I used to try to at least get in 9,000 steps on my phone tracker previously.)
Some nights I turn on some music and dance slowly in front of the mirror or stretch on my yoga mat, incorporating some of my seductive stretches I learned from pole dancing class and it feels good to connect with my body in that way. I think it is important for me to tune into feeling sexy and feminine in my body “even though” I have gained weight.
I do want to return to the gym, but I want to do it from a mindset that is healthy. I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet. Can I still celebrate changes in my physique without it being disordered? Can I go and focus purely on how I feel? I think so. Some people say that they hated going to the gym and after recovery, they never go back. They find other, less intense movement to incorporate for exercise.
I don’t have negative feelings about the gym. Spin class? Yes. Hate it. But the gym? No. I do genuinely love working out, so I do see myself back at the gym again. Maybe 2-3 days a week, gently easing into it to begin, and then seeing how it goes from there. I don’t see myself going more than 3-5 days max though.
I don’t know how to say this without getting too graphic, but things definitely got worse before they got better. My system needed time to adjust to more food and different foods (aka GAS). Things are definitely getting better than the first few weeks, however I don’t know what I would have done if I had to work with other people all day or be in a small enclosed space with others. Thank God that my boyfriend wasn’t in town this month!
I wasn’t going to weigh myself, but... then I checked in with myself and decided that no matter what the number was, I would be okay with it. I felt like I wanted to know *mostly* because I wanted to understand the changes that were happening. It would be cool once I am fully healed to have this information to share for other women and also for me to understand how my body handled everything. I’ve learned a lot about the process of recovery from the physical standpoint and I find it fascinating.
For example, during my research I found a theory that anorexia is actually an evolutionary survival mechanism that kicks in for people who are predisposed to it, boost energy (when there is no food) and stop feeling hunger signals so they can migrate to a place that has food. Once food is reintroduced, a phase of extreme hunger is natural and normal so that the body can restore all of the systems and processes that were shut down during the famine. Once those are restored, hunger signals return to normal and any excess body fat and water is released, returning the individual to their normal set point weight.
During recovery, the body holds excess water in order to help repair cells as quickly as possible (water is slippery and aids in the process). Water actually weighs more than fat, so this is why many women can gain fairly quickly in the beginning of the recovery process.
In a lot of recovery blogs/videos women choose not to share numbers because with an eating disorder, we are ruled by numbers. I feel like it’s helpful for me to share some numbers, to help other women at least have an idea of what happened for me. I find that for me, the less I know, the more afraid I am to doing anything different. When you are that control-driven type person, sometimes hearing the "numbers" for someone else can be encouraging, even if you know that your journey will probably not be exactly the same. (My two cents, at least.)
For me, so far I have gained about 10 pounds from my average weight, and about 25 pounds from my leanest. I don’t know that I will ever return to that leanest weight, however I do think that there’s a chance I will return to my average weight once the recovery process is complete. I do have more cellulite right now and just generally feel bigger. Especially my boobs. I had no idea they could ever be this big! Sometimes they get stuck under my arms. Is this a thing that happens? I have no idea. I've never had boobs big enough to know. Even when I was heavier I don't remember them being this big.
Part of this feeling "big" (besides the boobs) might be body dysmorphia and my “eyes” adjusting, however part of me feels “bigger” because I notice it’s harder to move around. I don’t know how to explain it, but I just notice the difference bending down or when doing certain stretches. I am trying not to be attached to the idea that my body will return to any specific size because even if it does, who knows how long that will take.
I want to fall back in love with my body, honoring it every step of this process. I want to feel like a Goddess and shed the negative emotions that I sometimes feel about the weight gain. This is a work in progress.
Beyond this, I still feel like I have so much to share that I have learned. These blog posts are meant to be about me sharing my journey more so than they are about teaching (at this point), so I haven’t shared a lot of the resources and specific scientific research that I have found because it feels a bit exhausting to go into teaching-mode right now.
That said, some women have reached out via email and I have shared my resources with them to use on their own journey. If you have questions, please do reach out.
For now, what I have shared feels good to share. I am also still dealing with heavy periods and that is a whole other topic with it’s own research, both science and chakra (woo-woo) based. And, I started seeing a therapist to heal some old family wounds that I’ve realized need attention and love.
All in all, I’m feeling mostly good. Very emotional, but this is part of the process. Recovery from any sort of addiction (mine has been control) is not a pretty process. If it were, then we wouldn't be so scared of it!
I’ve also noticed that the discomfort can sometimes be uncomfortable for those around us that don’t know what to say or how to help, however I have been surrounding myself with amazing women who have been so incredibly supportive and loving during this process.
I’ve been easy on myself about what feels good and doesn’t feel good to do in terms of going out as well. For example, there was a big meet-up with all kinds of people last week that I was invited to and I decided not to go because being in a big networking environment doesn’t feel good to me right now. One on one with close friends who get me? Yes. Trying to do the whole, “So, what’s new with you, how is business?” thing does NOT feel good at all. So I gave myself permission not to go, even though outside influence would definitely have told me to go.
Listening to the signals from within is EVERYTHING right now. I’m doing my best to tune in and support my body in healing. I’ve done the research, filtered what feels best to me, and now it’s really about taking consistent daily action accordingly.
I’m sharing my journey real time to hopefully help you not be so scared if you can relate to me. Also, even though parts are really uncomfortable… I remind myself daily that what is even more uncomfortable is spending the rest of my life restricting, overexercising, and shaming myself if I eat “too much” sugar or gain a few pounds. Or even worse, passing along these terrible prison-like way of thinking about food and my body to my future children... all in the name of beauty.And the truth is, even with the discomfort, I am having these moments of pure bliss for no reason at all. Just... pure happiness. So, when you read this month one check in, know that even though I am sharing the down-and-dirty, there’s a lot of GOOD in all of this too.
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