Before the FAQ, I am going to address some common misconceptions concerning MM/my own personal opinions:
Since you encourage eating “unhealthy” foods as much as we want, and tell us to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, do you believe we can just eat junk food for the rest of our lives?
No, I believe a balanced diet is good for the body as the body requires all different types of nutrients and it is important that we get them. If you develop a healthy relationship with food and your body, this will come effortless as you follow your hunger and cravings, and intuitively eat. We have become so disconnected from our bodies that we read information on what we should do with them in regards to food and exercise, instead of actually listening to them. Our society is one that makes us so focused on our bodies: how they look, what we do with them, and what we put into them, that we are panicked and obsessed with it. We follow other people’s advice on what to do with our bodies and pay no heed to what our bodies are communicating to us. We have become completely out of touch with them. Healing, and repairing that relationship between you and your body will allow you to reconnect and work with your body, rather than against you. This will lead you to naturally eating a balanced diet – this includes “junk” food too.
Do remember that the above is about remission, and that during recovery it is expected that your diet will not be balanced due to nutritional and energy deficiencies. It is still important – especially so – to go with your hunger and cravings during that time.
Does the fact that you advocate no exercise in recovery mean you think people should remain sedentary forever?
Not at all. I think physical activity is an important part of life and health, but it is a tricky subject for those in remission from restrictive eating disorders. You can read my full views on it on question 37 below.
Sometimes you tell people to see their doctors for information and advice, and other times you suggest going against their advice – why is this?
It is nationally recognised that doctors can be incredibly ignorant when it comes to eating disorders (and mental health in general), and can prescribe methods of recovery which I believe will not set you up for a good recovery and will not lead to remission and will indeed be harmful rather than helpful. This is why I sometimes suggest that the doctor’s advice is not good for physical or mental recovery from a restrictive eating disorder. It is up to you whether whose advice you choose to listen to – I am not medically qualified, but I’m aware of the recovery process in ways some doctors are not. And some doctors know things about the recovery process that I am sure I am not aware of. There are also awesome doctors out there who will help, and where an RED is concerned, it is important to see a doctor for physical observations, health checks, and referrals to mental health services. Where worrying medical issues are concerned, I will always advise seeing a doctor because whatever suggestions I can give on the matter, I could be wrong. With anything physical that you are worried about, you should see your doctor. I can give suggestions as to what the physical ailment might be, but I could make a mistake, and that is why you should see your doctor to make sure. Doctors, although sometimes ignorant about eating disorders, have a plethora of knowledge surrounding medical issues and it is always best to put them to use if you can. Again, they are not always right, but they most likely will be if it is something serious. You can read more about my views on doctors here.
- I don’t think I’m skinny or sick enough for recovery…
That is your eating disorder trying to manipulate you into continuing on the road to death. It is trying to make you feel like you don’t deserve recovery so that you will continue to obey it. No healthy, non-ED person would get the flu and say: “You know what, I’m not ill enough to get better. I need to make myself even more ill before getting well again. I don’t have the worst flu that I could have, and I need that before taking medicine.” That sounds ridiculous, right? Exactly – the fact that you think you should get more sick before getting well again just shows how sick you are. If you ever find yourself questioning whether you should get better from something because you don’t feel sick enough, that’s when you can tell just how sick you really are. You will NEVER be sick enough or skinny enough for your eating disorder. Not until you are dead. Keep in mind that you cannot accurately measure how sick you are because of the way your sickness manipulates you and undermines it. Your eating disorder wants to kill you, remember that.
- How do I go about telling my mum/dad/sibling/friend/partner that I have an eating disorder?
A letter is in my opinion the best way to initiate a conversation about something important. It gives the writer of the letter time to consider carefully what they want to say and how to say it, and it gives the recipient time to absorb the information and process it. This enables them to work out their feelings and decide how to respond. Initial conversations face to face can become negatively emotional as people respond instantaneously with an emotional response rather than thinking about the situation properly first and working out how to suitably respond and work through their emotions. After a letter, you can then sit down and talk about it and it should be a little easier. There are other ways too: face to face straight away, email, even a phone call or a short text just to open up the conversation if the former options are too hard for you. Communication is key, and however you feel is the best or even easiest option to start a conversation, is far, far better than not doing it at all.
- I want to recover but how do I get rid of all the anxiety?
Unfortunately, you don’t: it is why recovery is so difficult. I use this metaphor for eating disorders and recovery: There is a terrifying dragon in your garden, and every time you try to leave your house the dragon tries to eat you. You have a choice: you can resign yourself to being trapped in your house forever, or you can find a weapon and go out and fight it. These are the choices you have regarding your eating disorder. You can either choose to remain trapped by it or you can face yours fears and fight it. You can only make the anxiety stop by eating eat minimums and resting. You only make it stop by going against your eating disorder. It creates new neural pathways in the brain, making your new behaviours eventually become normalised (right now your old behaviours – those created by your eating disorder – are normalised because you have repeated them so often). This is when the anxiety will start to lessen. The more you do something the easier it will become. You cannot avoid the anxiety unfortunately as it is all part of the process and is one of the reasons why recovery is so very hard. One way to cope with it is to shout back. Distinguish its voice from yours and argue back and beat it with logic. Another way is to distract yourself by watching a good movie/reading a good book/writing/painting/drawing/blogging etc. I have an article on anxiety management which you can read here.
- Shouldn’t I be trying to eat healthily? Aren’t processed foods bad for me?
Processed food is the best thing for recovery: high in energy (to fill that calorie deficit and repair the extensive damage), high in fat (helps with regaining your period, aids bowel movements, and most importantly the brain is made of at least 60% fat so needs it to heal), and is most easily processed by the body, which is obviously quite essential to your damaged digestive system. Chocolate releases endorphins too remember! Usually in recovery people crave “junk” food because this is just what their bodies need. Appetite settles down when the body is healthier to include cravings for a massive variety of foods: chocolate, milk, fruit, cereal, doughnuts, pizza, pasta, vegetables, fish, steak, cake….EVERYTHING. No foods should ever be off limits.
What is most important in recovery is to listen and respond to any cravings that you have. Many people crave “junk” food, but you may also experience cravings for dairy, cereal, and meat/fish. You can have cravings for anything! You may also find that you have cravings for odd combinations of food, and that is perfectly normal too. Just respond to what your body is asking for.
- I’ve gained weight really really fast; is this normal?
Yes a LOT of people find that initial weight gain can be very quick but a large portion of that weight is going to be water retention/food weight/poop weight (the digestion of food in someone with a restrictive eating disorder is much slower and so takes some time to get back up to speed) at the beginning. Don’t worry – it’s perfectly normal, and the weight gain will slow down.
- I’m really bloated – it’s really uncomfortable and my stomach is visibly distended. Is this okay?
Yes it is normal and okay. I have a video on this very topic actually, so check it out. When you first start eating properly, your stomach is shrunken and your digestive system doesn’t work properly, which is why you experience the bloating and discomfort. Your digestive system works a lot slower than a healthy person’s digestive system and so everything gets a bit “backed up” as it were. With adequate and consistent refeeding it will go away in time. I found that a hot water bottle and some herbal tea (chamomile was my choice of tea, but apparently peppermint is very popular) helps with bloating, distension, and feeling very uncomfortable in the stomach area. It can be hard to deal with mentally as well, so try escapism if you start to feel horrible: getting lost in a good book or movie or painting or writing helped for me.
- If everyone’s set point is achieved by eating minimums and you can maintain that by eating as much as you want, then how come there are overweight/obese people?
Check out my “health at every size” section under “links” and read this.
- I still get my period: does that mean that I am not sick? / I got my period back, does that mean I am now healthy and weight restored?
No, not at all. Lots of people do not lose their periods even when reaching a really low weight. Nature has determined that it wants you to reproduce to keep your species going and it will keep your reproductive system functioning for as long as it can. Also, if you are on the pill, you are not having biological periods and are having a fake, pill-induced period, which you will continue to have even when your biological periods have ceased.
If you have lost your period during restriction and now regained it – congratulations! However, it does not mean you are healthy; it means that you are healthier. It does not mean that you are in any way weight restored. As I said above, nature has determined that it wants you to reproduce to keep your species going and it will keep your reproductive system functioning for as long as it can, so this is also true of it returning. It will be one of the first things that your body gets up and functioning again, because it wants you to reproduce before you die. So although getting your period back is a fantastic sign, it does not mean that you are healthy or weight restored – it means that you are on the right path.
- I am sweating so much especially at night! Why is this?
Your metabolism is speeding up or your hormone function is beginning to return to normal. It is a really good sign but it is unpleasant I know. I ended up drenching the sheets so badly I had to keep changing them. It shouldn’t last too long, and there’s not much you can do except maybe take the duvet out of your sheets and just use the sheets so that it is light and airy and you won’t get so hot. If you are experiencing hypermetabolism, you will most likely need to increase your intake.
- I eat minimums consistently but have stopped gaining for more than a couple of months and am pretty sure I am not at my set point – am I at my set point, and can I start eating intuitively now?
If you are still underweight, or not near your pre-ED weight, then no, you are almost certainly not at your set point. You may be experiencing hypermetabolism (see the link on the question above) and therefore you need to up your calories quite a bit to provide your body with enough energy. I would advise starting by increasing by 500 and then again another 500 if nothing happens (and yep, again if nothing is still happening).
If you are a healthy weight (but not loads below your pre-ED weight) then you could well be at your set point, although remember that you weight is not static as you are a growing woman/man, and your weight will continue to climb with age as you develop from a child to a fully grown woman/man (you will stop growing completely at about 25).
If you are a healthy weight then you can start doing some tests on your hunger cues. The way to see if you reach adequate calories consistently whilst eating intuitively is to eat to your hunger cues and write down everything you are eating and add up the calories at the end of the day. Do this for about 2-3 weeks and average out the calories consumed (add them all up and divide by the amount of days you have been doing it for). If it comes to 3,000 calories (providing these are your guideline calories) then you know that your hunger cues are reliable. But if it is below by more than about 400 calories (in remission, energy intakes will vary slightly from person to person) then you know that your hunger cues are not reliable as of yet and need to keep counting. I have a video on this topic here.
- Are we supposed to stop eating Your Eatopia “minimums” once we gained to our pre-ED weight?
No, you will maintain your weight at your set point around your minimums. They are for life, although when you are in remission you will reach around minimums effortlessly and will not have to count but will eat intuitively. Because everyone’s hunger varies, this may mean that you are slightly under, or slightly over the “minimums”.
- I don’t feel hungry for minimums so can I just eat less because my body doesn’t want more?
Unfortunately some people experience unreliable hunger cues in recovery. It is not that your body doesn’t want more; it is that restriction has messed up its ability to communicate to you what it needs.
I know that you don’t want to eat since you are already forcing the minimums in, but some people find that increasing intake further can help trigger hunger cues.
- I see lots of people recovering by eating healthily and exercising and eating around 2,000 calories a day. Why should I not do that?
Being torn between so many things in our culture when it comes to weight and food is really hard. We have society steeped in diet culture on one hand, “recovered” people on Tumblr/Instagram/etc eating far less than they should be and working out and doing what they think is “healthy” because of an influential combination of diet culture and their eating disorders, you’ve got your ED trying to get you to compromise with it, and then you’ve got this method that you’re unsure about. With all these mixed signals it’s confusing, I know. And that’s okay. You’re anxious, and you don’t want to go against the grain, since “the grain” appear to be healthy.
Those girls maintain on 2,000 because their metabolism is suppressed and because they are undereating. I would not say that the “2,000 calories and exercise” recovery bloggers are recovered. At one point late on in my recovery I actually tested out eating 2,000 calories, because I was curious as to whether it would satisfy me or not. I thought to myself ‘I wonder what it feels like to eat those recommended daily allowances’. I did it for 2 days and it was hell! I was starving all day. My concentration was not good at all. I was moody and snappy and tired. 2,000 calories SUCKS. Why maintain on 2,000 when you can maintain on 2500-3,500+? 2,000 calories a day will keep most people unhappy and unhealthy. It will keep them hungry. 2500-3,000+++ will repair your body, fill that calorie deficit, get you healthy again, and get your life back. You don’t want to live a life where you place restrictions on your calorie amounts either. That would just be a life of compromising with the ED and living in not even a semi-recovered state as you’d still be being controlled by the eating disorder. And you deserve so much better than that.
I also wrote an article with sources as to why the RDA of calories is not enough. You can read it here.
- Why do some people increase their “minimums” to 3500 or more?
Some people have kids or an active job (including being on their feet all day – for example, being a waitress/waiter), or unavoidable activity which means that their “minimums” are 3,500.
Some people just feel like they need more energy, and feel better eating more than what their minimums were, and that’s great.
Some people in recovery start to see their minimums as maximums, so they make the decision to raise their minimums so that they are not restricting.
It is also recommended on Your Eatopia that those without their periods, or those experiencing starvation symptoms, to eat 3500 calories minimum.
- Today I’m really hungry. Is it okay to eat more than “minimums”?
YES. Those “minimums” on Your Eatopia are called “minimums” for a reason. In fact the “minimums” are generally for everyday activities and 99% of those recovering will need a lot more than minimums to fill the huge calorie deficit and repair the extensive damage done to the body. Have a read of this post on extreme hunger and check out my video on the topic.
- I am not happy whatever weight I am at. What am I doing wrong?
You need to find out what it is that you are using your eating disorder to cover up for or numb or distract you from. There are deeper issues at work here than you and your body. You should get a therapist if you can to help you explore your issues and your eating disorder.
- Surely normal people do not eat minimums? I am pretty sure I don’t know people who eat 3,000 calories a day. I also can’t stop comparing my intakes to others.
When it comes to comparing intakes, you have to realise that you CANNOT compare your intake to those around you. Firstly, you have absolutely no idea what someone eats in a day. You can’t compare your lunch to someone else’s lunch because they may be eating a smaller lunch because they had a mahoooosive breakfast. Or they may go home and have a big hearty evening meal with a giant slice of cake with cream. People have larger appetites at different times. You have no idea how much people eat, and sometimes people eat less in front of people because they are also thinking about how someone might judge them. They may go home and eat lots where they don’t feel the pressure of other people’s eyes on them. You just never can know or judge someone’s eating habits based on what you see.
Secondly, you cannot compare yourself to non-ED people. You are in recovery from a restrictive eating disorder. They are not. Your needs are not their needs, your body is not their body, and your body is filling a huge calorie deficit, and trying to do a whole load of repairs, whereas their bodies are not.
Thirdly, people who are healthy, non-restrictive eaters, do reach around minimums. They just are not aware of it because they do not count calories and do not care to do so.
Focus on yourself, rather than on other people and their eating habits. You need to take care of yourself and put your recovery first regardless of what you think anyone else around you is doing.
- What is the difference between binging and extreme hunger and reactive eating?
Reactive eating is a reaction to short-term restriction – whether intentional restriction or not. So reactive eating could be when you end up undereating one day and then you eat a lot more than normal the next day. Extreme hunger is something that you experience in reaction to long-term restriction and can last quite a while and will have you eating 5,000-10,000+ calories a day in order to repair the damages done internally to your body.
Mental hunger is when you are hungry and your brain is sending signals via making you think about/crave/want food rather than feeling it physically like with a rumbling stomach and can be experienced in both reactive eating and extreme hunger and every day regular hunger. Mental hunger is just another way to experience hunger.
Binging is not binging «« please read this link.
I do not believe that no one binges (for example BED), but I do believe that most people with restrictive eating disorders do not experience actual binges, and is a result of reactive eating or extreme hunger. I am aware that there can be an emotional element to binging and purging, however it can also be a cycle of restriction, reactive eating, and then purging because of guilt.
Where BED is concerned, it absolutely exists and deserves validation, but I also think it is over-diagnosed and it is also misdiagnosed frequently in those recovering from restrictive eating disorders who are experiencing the very logical extreme hunger, and those who are dieting and reactive eating. It is very rare for someone with an RED (restrictive eating disorder) to develop BED, or vice versa, as you generally have one or the other.
- My dietician/doctor/therapist says that I need less than minimums a day but I’m still starving. My BMI is healthy so I don’t need to gain any more weight but I am still so hungry.
We often put a hell of a lot of faith into health professionals, for obvious reasons. Doctors are trained medical experts, dieticians specialise in food, and therapists are meant to know what is best for us.
However, they are not always right and they are also people too, with their own opinions and biases and judgements. They are also trained to society’s calorie guidelines. That is what they are told we need, so that is what they tell us that we need. That doesn’t mean that they are right. I have written an article on doctors and other professionals which you can read here, and I have written an article about how we need more calories than the RDA. Fortunately there are some professionals that are better educated in calorific needs in general and in recovery, but they can be hard to find.
You are starving because you need to eat more. You cannot decide whether or not you need to gain any more weight. By consistently eating to your minimums you will maintain at your set point which may or may not be the BMI that you are now. Nobody; not friends, not family, not strangers, not doctors, not dieticians, not your eating disorder, and not your confused brain can tell you that you don’t need any more to eat. Only your body can tell you that. Your body is telling you that it is hungry. Now that you have your hunger cues back, it is your body you must trust. Your body wants you to be the healthiest it can be. It is your body’s job to keep you alive and thriving. It is built to tell you how to survive. Please listen to it and respond: it’s so important in recover.
- What made you choose to go to MM guidelines?
I wasn’t aware of MM in my first 4-5 months of recovery, and so wasn’t really aware that I was in a “semi” recovery. Or really, I was in denial: I knew deep down that I had a problem with exercise but I felt that I was being healthy and that what I was doing (adequate calories but compulsive exercise and obsessed with “healthy” foods) was much better than anorexia and that loads of normal, non-ED people did what I was doing so maybe that was the way forward. When I discovered FYourEd, I realised that some people were recovering in a way that was far less rigid, far more relaxed, and far more free. From there I was led to Your Eatopia, whereby I found that I could relate to the majority of the blog posts and suddenly I realised that I could stop listening to my eating disorder and to diet culture and could start listening to what my body and I wanted instead. It was so freeing. It gave me permission to do what I so desperately wanted to do: eat, unrestrictedly, and rest, and not exercise. It told me it was not only okay, but amazing, and necessary, to do those things. It gave me so much relief to know that I was allowed to not follow the rules of my eating disorder and to follow my desires instead.
- Is it normal to feel physical pain in recovery? I am meeting minimums and I am experiencing physical pain and/or exhaustion.
Yes it is totally normal to feel those things in recovery, but obviously there are all different sorts of pain that one can experience. Aches and pains are normal, but if it is a specific pain, please see a doctor (in fact, see one anyway just to be sure). Read about why it is common to have aches, pains, and exhaustion here.
- Now that I am hitting minimums, I can’t stop thinking about food. It’s worse than when I was starving. What’s happening?
When you were starving your brain was malnourished, your hunger cues got messed up, and you severely suppressed your metabolism. Now that your body recognises that it is being consistently provided with food, it is calling for more. And more. And more. Because it desperately needs it, your body is doing the equivalent of screaming very loudly “I NEED ENERGY!” You have thousands and thousands and thousands of calories to make up for. And thousands and thousands and thousands of calories are needed for repairs on top of filling that huge calorie deficit. Food preoccupation is also a normal biological response to starvation.
Your body’s top priority is to heal itself and get itself healthy. It was dying before, and now it needs time and a massive amount of energy to repair. This may mean that your concentration is severely affected for a while. It can make school or work very difficult. If needs be, it is a good idea to take some time off for recovery. Your health is of the utmost importance and if you feel that you cannot work or go to school then that is fine. Talk to your boss/school and try and work something out. I have a video on that subject here.
If you are unable to stop working because it is the only source of income that you have, then it is going to be hard, but I assure you that it gets better, and that the more you feed your body the faster it will fill the calorie deficit and repair the most essential damages and then it will settle down a bit, leaving you not feeling so consumed by thoughts of food.
- Why has my hair started to fall out more in recovery?!
Don’t panic! This could be a good sign. When you restrict severely, some of your hair follicles stop working and therefore hair in those follicles stop growing. With re-feeding and recovery, those hair follicles start producing hair again, and they are pushing out the dead hair to make room for new, healthy hair. 😀 Another reason hair loss could be occurring is because hair is a little behind time and so can reflect what was going on three months ago (which could be a time when you were still restricting). Be patient. It will be okay.
- I keep waking up in the night starving. Should I ignore it or eat?
- How do you manage grocery shopping without freaking out about stuff like calories, nutrition, fear foods, etc.?
It becomes easier the longer you have been in recovery. I actually really enjoy grocery shopping now because I get excited about the meals I am going to make and the nice snacks and the baking I am going to do. I think I appreciate food far more now that I am not restricting myself from it.
Remember that you have made the choice to recover, and grocery shopping is necessary to your recovery process.
When I committed to recovery, going shopping became a lot easier because I knew that I could not behave how I did before and I was so starving that I was enjoying eating all the foods that I had deprived myself of. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as easy as I’ve made it sound, but once you commit, you know logically that calories are not something that you need to worry about unless you are not eating enough. As for nutrition – all food is nutritious in different ways. And fear foods I worked through over time, although I ate quite a lot of them early on, and the hardest ones I challenged a bit later with time once my brain had healed and I was able to think more logically and with a better perspective.
- Will exercising make me overshoot?
It is more likely that those who exercise will overshoot, because the body is still using a huge amount of energy to exercise and so you will be creating an even bigger energy deficit than you already have. If energy is going towards exercising there isn’t enough to go towards repairs etc and the body will still view itself as being provided with inadequate energy, and so can cling to every calorie and push your weight up further and further until you stop exercising. You are also far more likely to get a lot more severe edema (water retention). Exercise can also stop repairs from happening – you would not exercise on a broken leg because that would make it far worse and it would not heal, so why would you exercise on a damaged body? It will not be able to heal properly if you do this. It is also extremely eating disorder driven and you will never mentally recover if you do not challenge and stop ED behaviours. Exercise can also be a factor in stopping your period from returning.
- I’m trying to convince myself to do MM but after extensive amounts of research I can’t find anything solid to support the claims made on Your Eatopia…
Every single blog post has research with references to each and every study mentioned. There is also vast amounts of other research that have resulted in similar information – some of it is linked in my “links” section which you can check out if you wish. Not only that but there are loads of people on the forums that the MM guidelines are working for, and those who are in remission because of it. If you don’t believe it then that is up to you. It’s your decision at the end of the day and you have to make up your own mind as to what you want to do in regards to your own recovery. My links section has a section with articles in that support weight set point theory that are nothing to do with YE – and it did not take me “extensive research” to find them. But your recovery is your recovery, and only you can decide what you do with it. The most important evidence to me is the fact that I and many others have recovered using MM or similar to MM and it has worked. To me, seeing people in remission from using that method is the biggest supporting evidence.
- What exactly do I have to repair within my body?
When you starve yourself, your body isn’t getting enough energy from outside resources, and when it isn’t getting any external energy, it looks internally. The body starts cannibalising itself. It takes energy from fat, muscle mass, and your organs in order to keep vital systems such as the nervous system and heart muscle functioning. Catabolysis is the process of a body breaking down its own muscles and other tissues (organs, bones, etc) in order to keep vital systems such as the nervous system and heart muscle functioning. This can also lead to muscle atrophy. The brain also starts metabolising its own neurons, and the brain shrinks. Starvation also causes atrophy (wasting away) of the stomach.
This is why you will experience things like bladder weakness, “brain fog”, being unable to perceive yourself as hungry, weakness, and maybe even noticeable muscle atrophy. Etc etc etc.
Most damage caused by eating disorder are reversible with proper re-feeding if you have not hit menopause. If you have hit menopause, much of the damage can be repaired but there could be some long-lasting effects.
- I feel like a failure for how quickly I’m going through recovery. Surely I should be dreading eating more? Instead I can easily eat thousands of calories. I feel like I should want to restrict when I gain weight but instead I go eat everything in sight, and then I feel guilty for eating. It makes me feel like I never had a problem and “recovery” is just an excuse to eat loads.
If I had a pound for every time I heard someone in recovery say that they think that they never had a problem/are recovering too fast/recovery is just an excuse to eat loads, I would be rich. RICH I TELL YOU.
This is such a ridiculously common thought for people recovery from eating disorders that it is so obvious that it is produced entirely from the eating disorder itself.
When I started recovery, it was a hard choice to make. More than hard. It was terrifying and I was doubtful but within a few months I had fully committed to the idea. When I started eating, it was a relief. I had to deal with an onslaught of negative emotions after every meal or snack, but it was a relief. I had given myself permission to eat and I was enjoying the act of eating, even if I was most definitely not enjoying the emotional aftermath. Because I found it so easy to sit down and eat a meal, or devour half a cake, or eat a whole large box of Thornton’s, I thought that maybe I hadn’t so bad after all, because otherwise why would I find eating so easy? Maybe I didn’t really have an eating disorder. Maybe I had just had some kind of fake eating disorder. Why was I even enjoying eating? I was supposed to hate food! Why would I see my weight go up and then still be unable to lessen my portions even though I hated seeing that number increase? I was a fraud! A greedy, out of control fraud who was guzzling up everything in sight and just using recovery as an excuse to eat everything that I wanted!
No, that was my eating disorder trying to regain its full control of me again. It was trying to make me stop eating by calling me greedy, by calling me a fraud, by saying that nourishing myself after intense starvation was “guzzling”. Telling me that I clearly wasn’t sick enough if I gave in that easily. Telling me that it was wrong to enjoy food. Wait what? WRONG, to enjoy food?! Kinda illogical right? Why would it be wrong? Would you ever tell your friends or family that it is wrong for them to enjoy the food that they eat? No, you wouldn’t. So why is it wrong for you? People with eating disorders don’t actually hate the taste of food. People with eating disorder don’t not enjoy eating. We just can’t bear the repercussions of eating: the screaming of our anorexia/bulimia/EDNOS/anorexia athletica/ortherexia voice, telling us how greedy and fat and worthless and disgusting we are. But when we choose recovery, we choose to stand up for ourselves and say NO, we are WORTH recovery, we DESERVE to eat, and we WILL rise above those negative voice/s and squash them down to size. The voice trying to manipulate you back into following it. It is a murderer. Do not listen to its lies.
Trust me though; you’re not going through recovery quickly. When you reach adequate calories, you still have a hell of a way to go. I reached adequate calories really quickly and I was still recovering 24 months later. It takes a long time whether you reach minimums quickly or not. I urge you to reach them as fast as you can because it’s long enough as it is. The more the better, really (obviously after you have increased slowly if you are at risk of refeeding syndrome).
- If the upper end of BMI is inaccurate and people can be healthy at an overweight or obese BMI then is this true for the lower end of BMI? If eating too little causes people to be underweight and unhealthy, surely there must be a point when someone eats too much and is overweight and unhealthy?
To become thinner than your body is natural meant to be (at your setpoint) then you have to restrict and that is uncomfortable and miserable would you not agree? You are eating less than you want and need, all of the time, and it hurts physically and mentally to do this. So to become heavier than your natural setpoint, you would have to eat more than you want, all of the time, and eat so that you mentally and physically do not want any more but still go on eating, to the point of being sick and miserable and in pain. With the exception of people who have binge eating disorder, people just do not do this. (BED is however frequently misdiagnosed in those in recovery from REDs when the person recovering is clearly experiencing reactive eating or extreme hunger). Other than these circumstances, and those that suffer from Prada-Willi syndrome, people do not keep eating when they do not want to, when they mentally or physically do not have any inclination to eat, and are suffering if they eat more. Unfortunately, because of restrictive eating disorders, and the way that society is, people will suffer in a similar way but through NOT eating when they need to, for the opposite effect of becoming underweight for their own body.
BMI is more accurately a description of someone being a lower weight than needed on the lower end of the scale because being underweight is not natural nor is it healthy (although there is a tiny percentage of people that are naturally on the very low end of a healthy BMI, yes). It is pretty obvious that restricting is going to cause problems when your body and mind are telling you to eat and you ignore it. There is evidence to show that those in the underweight category of BMI experience health issues. The upper end of the BMI system is a load of crap because it has been adjusted to fit our society. Did you know that in 1998, the National Institutes of Health lowered the overweight threshold from BMI 27.8 to 25? The move added 30 million Americans who were previously in the “healthy weight” category to the “overweight” category.
The vast, vast majority of people are only able to reach an underweight BMI by starving themselves. People reach average, overweight, and obese BMI’s by providing their bodies with an adequate amounts of energy. This is why underweight BMI’s are more accurate of telling you that you are not providing your body with adequate energy which therefore results in poor health, and the higher end of the BMI scale does not mean much because it has been proven that being an average, overweight, or obese BMI does not result in poor health. In fact, those classified as “overweight” by the BMI system are actually the group that are living the longest. The vast majority of those who are underweight by BMI terms are suffering side effects of malnutrition and starvation, whereas those with a “healthy” BMI and upwards have been proven to be healthy.
Here is a graph for you:
The only way you go below your setpoint is to make yourself miserable by starving. The only way to go above your setpoint is to make yourself miserable by over-eating. If anyone is eating however much and enjoying the food, then that is healthy. If they are in pain and forcing it in to the point of suffering, then yeah, I’m sure you can go over your setpoint. But who do you know who does that on a regular occasion (unless you know someone with BED)?
- I need some motivation to push me towards recovery.
Here is my personal list of reasons to recover and reasons not to relapse, to remind you what you will gain in recovery and what misery you will go back to if you relapse. I also have videos about eating disorders and identity here and here.
- Has MM changed your life? If yes, how so?
Yes: it saved it. Maybe not in the literal sense because I spent 6 months in what people on Your Eatopia called “quasi recovery” (which is a kind of semi-recovered state) and gained to a minimally healthy body weight for me and so was out of immediate danger BUT the life I was living was still very much entrenched in my eating disorder and although things were a lot better than when I was deep in atypical anorexia, I developed quite an ortherexic mind set and it was still a difficult, ED-driven life. I compromised with my eating disorder, and I felt like it was real recovery because it was what all the “health” and fitspo recovery blogs on Tumblr and Instagram were telling me to do. Now I look at them quite sadly, because I remember how I felt that I was just doing recovery the right way and being really healthy when really I was still stuck in limbo: not allowing myself to do what I wanted regarding food and exercise and still focussing on keeping my body weight down.
When I found Your Eatopia and the MM guidelines, it freed me. It finally gave me permission to do what I really wanted to do: let go. Let go of eating “healthy” and not allowing myself what I really wanted to eat. Let go of the “I have to exercise” feeling. Let go of the rules and routines and the “should”s and just listen to what I actually WANT.
After that I started developing and growing as a person. I had movie nights with my friends and ate whole pizzas. I faced my fear foods and drank milkshakes and ate whole family sized packets of malteasers in front of the TV and started putting sugar in my tea and butter on my bread. I started going to meet my friend’s for coffee in the early afternoon rather than meeting them in the early evening because I had to fit in my exercise first before I could allow myself the time to see them (and then when I did I’d be totally exhausted the whole time). I started enjoying walks in the countryside with my camera, and gentle yoga with my friends: giggling when we couldn’t get into the positions, instead of getting hot and sweaty and tired doing high intensity aerobics and swimming 100 lengths in one go. I started getting into social politics and really into feminism, and I started reading books and marathoning TV series and baking delicious treats and eating them without getting mad at myself. I started cooking for my family and going to the cinema with my brother and being okay with having a few casual drinks at the pub with my friends. I became energised and I became me. Thanks to MM.
- I’m worried if I give into my cravings and eat everything and reach my set point I’ll look huge.
Your concerns about reaching your setpoint and gaining any weight are eating disorder driven. You have to accept that your perception is warped right now and to other people you probably look a lot different to how you see yourself. Even if you don’t appear underweight to anyone else that doesn’t mean that you are healthy. The important thing to remember is that you are sick right now. Your rationality, your logic, your perception, and your cognitive functions are all not working as they would if you were at a healthy weight for you. This isn’t meant as an insult: it’s just what happens to your brain when you starve yourself, and it happens to everyone that does that. A starving brain is a brain that cannot function properly. You have already been able to deduce that you have an eating disorder or severe issues with your eating, because you are here. That is a fact. Worrying that eating an adequate amount to recover and to provide your body with enough energy will make you look huge is not a fact, it is a feeling. It is a feeling created by your eating disorder to keep you entrapped in its claws. You have to remember to trust facts, not feelings, because the former is truth and the latter is most likely not when it is your eating disorder creating them.
What you should do is recover. You should give in to your cravings and provide your body with what it needs. You would never ignore any other bodily urge (such as itching, sneezing, yawning, going to the toilet, or blinking), so why would you ignore the sensation of hunger and cravings? Your body is trying to keep you alive and healthy. It’s time to hand over trust to something that wants you alive (your body) rather than something that wants you dead (your eating disorder).
- I am now at a healthy weight, but I think about food and exercise and restricting all the time. I thought once I was weight restored and stuff the thoughts would stop. Why is this?
You are stuck in a semi-recovered state – which is not uncommon for someone recovering from a restrictive eating disorder. A “healthy” weight is VERY much relative to your body, not your BMI. Unfortunately doctors and other professionals haven’t caught up with the whole “weight set point theory”. You see, your body has a setpoint of its own; a setpoint where it is healthiest. Just because you have reached a “healthy” BMI does not mean you are at a healthy weight for your own body. For example, I reached a “healthy” weight in quasi recovery just like you, and lo and behold I was excessively exercising to a point where it came before anything else in my life, eating pretty damn “clean”, obsessively counting calories, and still always thinking about food. I was at a BMI of 20-22 at that point. You need to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, hitting adequate amounts of calories, and you need to quit the exercise. Thinking about food is a biological response to starvation, so if you are still obsessed with food, your body is still starved.
You don’t get to choose what your natural weight is; your body does. Your body knows best and no doctor or psychologist can tell you at what weight you are healthy at, they can only tell you when you are out of the severe danger zone.
Also, exercise slows down repairs in the body and brain and can stop them altogether. You would not walk on a broken leg so why exercise on a broken body? You need to let it rest and heal, and you need to give it adequate energy to do so.
- What is refeeding syndrome and how will I know if I am at risk/am experience it?
Please read my website post on the topic.
- Is exercise okay when you’re weight restored?
Weight restoration does not mean that your body is healed. It takes around a year at least to recover physically from an eating disorder, and sometimes a hell of a lot longer. When you are not recovered, formal exercise is going to put a strain on your body, continue to create an energy deficit, and keep it from recovering and healing fully.
Regardless, exercise is almost definitely going to prove troublesome for you if it has become compulsive and a part of your eating disorder. If you reach remission and then decide to take up exercise again, that is up to you. However, there is a high risk that it could be detrimental to protecting your remission and could very easily send you into relapse. Here is an important article to read from Your Eatopia: I suggest you read the entire article which explains how exercise for ED people is different from non-ED people and addresses how you are sabotaging your physical recovery by exercising.
- Are you saying that we should lead totally sedentary lifestyles for the rest of our lives?
No, I do not view exercise as unhealthy full stop. Formal exercise IS unhealthy for those in recovery, those in remission, and those who are forcing themselves to do exercise that they do not enjoy. Exercise is not healthy if it is causing any mental distress or is driven by an eating disorder or any other compulsion. That’s just not healthy. It’s the same concept as forcing vegetables down your throat that you hate because they are good for your body. It’s not healthy to do that. It’s not okay to force yourself to eat something that you hate because you think it may have positive effects on your innards. Physical activity is only healthy when it is both physically and mentally enjoyable – just like you should only eat the vegetables that you truly like the taste of. Which brings me to the article Insidious Activity (which is the article linked in the answer to the question above), which talks about why physical exercise works differently with ED brains and actually triggers destructive behaviours within us and can cause relapse.
Slaving away at the gym, pushing yourself to run miles, lifting weights, doing aerobics alone in your room, making yourself swim even when you are tired or sick, etc etc – these are all unhealthy methods of exercise. Exercise should not be viewed as exercise, in my opinion. If you are doing physical activity because you feel you need to do some exercise, to burn calories, to alter your weight, size, or shape – then that comes from a mentally unhealthy place and therefore renders it unhealthy (not to mention the whole exercise not working the same way in our brains as those without an eating disorder). Swimming with your kids, playing badminton in the sun with you friends, doing yoga with friends and laughing as you struggle to get into funny positions, or walking in the countryside to enjoy nature – that’s healthy activity. AS LONG AS you are not viewing it as a method in which to burn calories or alter your weight, shape, and size. If recreational activity is done for fun and enjoyment or being social, then great! But always be aware of how manipulative an eating disorder is and how it can very easily persuade you that you enjoy some kind of exercise. You need to be able to distinguish between you and your ED 100% before doing any kind of physical activity.
Again, you can check out my videos on exercise, that are linked in the question above this one.
- What are some calorie dense foods that I can eat to help me reach minimums?
- Hot chocolate with full fat milk or even cream (or half and half)
- Cheese on crackers
- Cake/other bakery products (brownies, flapjack etc)
- Cereal with full fat milk (muesli is the most calorie dense)
- Baconnomnomonm (by which I mean bacon)
- Ice cream
- Fast food
- Pasta with cheese
- Egg fried rice
- Fried foods
- Full fat Greek yoghurt (or any yoghurt) with honey/jam
- Peanut butter!
- What if I want to go vegan/vegetarian in recovery or what if I am already vegan/vegetarian?
Going vegan, or even vegetarian, is not a good decision AT ALL if you are in recovery. You cannot make an informed, healthy decision on your diet in recovery. It is not at all okay to restrict your diet in recovery, as this is almost always going to be an attempt by your eating disorder to manipulate your diet and start trying to restrict it down again. Any decision to change your diet in a restrictive way must be made AFTER the recovery process is over, when you are in remission. Even then it is a recipe for disaster but in that situation at least you are in a stable place to make an informed decision and can monitor the situation.
If you have become vegan or vegetarian during your eating disorder that was almost certainly an ED-driven decision and in recovery you need to revert back to your original eating habits. Only those who have been raised on a vegetarian or vegan diet have stronger points for staying true to those diets, but it can very much limit foods and therefore have a negative effect on their recovery.
- What is the difference between disordered eating and eating disorders?
Disordered eating is unfortunately what many of the population of the Western world experience, and disproportionately it will be women who have issues with food and weight. Disordered eating are those who have an unhealthy relationship with food and weight and are constantly trying out new diets (which will generally not last long each time as they are not people predisposed to eating disorders), new exercise routines, new ways of losing weight etc, or try to eat only “healthy foods etc. They are people who engage in milder, disordered behaviour and are constantly trying to lose weight or get “healthier” but, although it takes up a chunk of their thoughts, it does not consume them. They are influenced heavily by society and do damage their overall happiness by having an unhealthy relationship with their bodies and with food, but it does not take over their world.
People with eating disorders have a severe mental illness, which can be triggered by numerous things: accidental restriction or restriction due to illness, diets, a traumatic event in their lies, bullying, etc etc the reasons are endless. These people are predisposed to an eating disorder and those who are not predisposed who go on diets will react like I have described above, and will not keep the diets up as their bodies resist them. Those with eating disorders, once triggered, will spiral and get worse and worse (unless it is caught early on which would be the best case scenario) until eventually their entire world revolves around food and their weight. Relationships get destroyed, personality is almost completely replaced by that of the eating disorder, hobbies and passions will diminish, and the person’s health and happiness will completely deteriorate. People with eating disorders get consumed by it. People with eating disorders have all aspects of their lives become affected by it for the most part.
Disordered eating is unhealthy and negative, but eating disorders are life-destroying. The former is influenced by our shitty society and its obsession with thinness and perfection, the other is a severe mental illness caused by a combination of genetics and environmental triggers.
- I’ve gone past my pre-ED weight! Why is this?
Your pre-ED weight is not necessarily your set point, especially if you were under 25 pre-ED (which I large proportion of us are). Your body is still growing and developing from a child’s body to an adult until you are around 25. Your set point is not static until your body is fully grown and developed.
If you were over 25 pre-ED, you may have a temporary overshoot in weight, which is normal and quite common. It is also not uncommon for those to actually not be pre-ED when they thought they were. Some people’s eating disorders start before they are aware of them.