Recovery Guidelines

These guidelines are for those recovering from restrictive eating disorders (REDs) and chronic dieters.  REDs include anorexia, bulimia (yes, bulimia is a restrictive eating disorder), EDNOS, (now called OSFED), ortherexia, anorexia athletica, and ARFID. These guidelines can also be used by anyone who wants to break free from unhealthy eating patterns and self-punishing behaviour that includes restricting food and abusing exercise (this means forcing yourself to exercise when you are not enjoying it).

The calorie guidelines that I provide below are directly taken from Your Eatopia and are part of the MinnieMaud Method of recovery but are not limited to that approach. In fact, many treatments encourage 2500-3000+ calories in recovery and beyond, and those calorie amounts are what you can expect to eat both in recovery, and remission, and are what normal, healthy, non-ED people eat. You can read more about that here.

I chose to use the Your Eatopia calorie guidelines because they are concise and based on a wealth of research.

During recovery you can expect to exceed the intake suggested for you. By a lot. This is awesome, and what your body is expected to do: not only does it need energy for the day, but also to gain weight, repair extensive internal damages, and fill a huge calorie deficit created by restriction. You have restricted your body for a long time. You can expect it to need more than what an energy-balanced, healthy person would need, which are the intakes suggestion below. This is why Gwyneth Olwyn, who runs the Your Eatopia site, refers to them as “minimums”: they are the minimum amount of calorie you should be consuming a day.

You need to eat to the calorie guidelines every single day in recovery. Always remember that it is the minimum amount that you are expected to eat. Always respond to any additional physical, or mental hunger. Both are signals from the brain to tell you that the body needs energy, right now. Always respond to any cravings, however weird they may be (and they can get weird, believe me). Trust your body.

Sometimes people in recovery have no hunger. This sucks, because it means that you will have to eat the minimums regardless of whether you feel hungry or not, which can be difficult. You still need to eat the minimums. Your hunger signals will normalise with time and patience and adequate refeeding.

Your weight does not have an effect on these calorie guidelines.

Stop weighing yourself. It only increases the chances of you relapsing. Seeing that number does nothing positive for your recovery. Get rid of your scales. Smash them if you want (it’s quite therapeutic I’m told). If your progress needs to be monitored for health reasons, get blind-weighed by your doctor, partner, parents, therapists, whoever – just get them to give you a thumbs up for progress, or thumbs down for no progress. That’s all that needs to be said.

No exercise. Yep, you heard me, no exercise. Not until you are healthy. Healthy also does not mean that you are at a minimally “healthy” BMI. It means that you are eating the minimums and remaining sedentary and have maintained your weight for over three months. It also means that you are mentally recovered. Yes, completely. You need to be in a stable remission before you can think about exercise again. You can read more about that here, here, and here, and you can watch my video about exercise here, here, and here.

It is also highly recommended that you work with a therapist to help you manage the mental and emotional side of recovery. However, do make sure this is a therapist that understands your goals and will work towards these with you. When treating those with eating disorders, the practitioners cannot be afraid of what the eating disorder is afraid of.” – Rebeckah Peebles (pediatrician) . If you cannot afford a therapist, check out this link for other options.

It is absolutely essential that if you have been eating under 1,000 calories, very frequently purging, or excessively exercising, that you increase your calorie intake by 200-300 every few days until you reach 2,000, or get the go head from a doctor to increase at a faster rate. From 2,000 calories you can jump straight to the calorie guidelines below. This is so that if signs of re-feeding syndrome start to appear, you will have enough time to get yourself to the hospital. Re-feeding syndrome – although rare – is potentially fatal. If you are at risk of re-feeding syndrome, please be monitored by a doctor during the initial stage of re-feeding. You can find out more about refeeding syndrome here.

These are the intake guidelines taken from Your Eatopia:

You need 2500 calories applies as a minimum daily intake for recovery if:

  1. You are a 25+ year old female between 5’0” and 5’8” (152.4 to 173 cm) and,
  2. The regular menstrual cycle has stopped and/or,
  3. You have other symptoms of starvation: feeling the cold, fatigued, foggy headed, hair loss, brittle nails, dull skin and/or,
  4. Even if you were only underweight/dieted for a very short space of time (a few months) these guidelines apply. And remember “underweight” is relative to your body’s optimal weight and is not a clinical measurement.

You need 3000 calories applies as a minimum daily intake for recovery if:

  1. You are an under 25 year old female between 5’0” and 5’8” (152.4 to 173 cm) or an over 25 year old male between 5’4” and 6’0” (162.5 and 183 cm) and,
  2. The regular menstrual cycle has stopped and/or,
  3. You have other symptoms of starvation: feeling the cold, fatigued, foggy headed, hair loss, brittle nails, dull skin and/or,
  4. Even if you were only underweight/dieted for a very short space of time (a few months) these guidelines apply. And remember “underweight” is relative to your body’s optimal weight and is not a clinical measurement.

You need 3500 calories applies as a minimum daily intake for recovery if:

  1. You are an under 25 year old male between 5’4” and 6’0” (162.5 and 183 cm) or female with young children or an equivalent and unavoidable level of activity.
  2. The regular menstrual cycle has stopped and/or,
  3. You have other symptoms of starvation: feeling the cold, fatigued, foggy headed, hair loss, brittle nails, dull skin and/or,
  4. Even if you were only underweight/dieted for a very short space of time (a few months) these guidelines apply. And remember “underweight” is relative to your body’s optimal weight and is not a clinical measurement.

If you are taller than the guidelines listed above, add 200 calories to the guidelines that match your age and sex. If you are shorter than the guidelines listed above, you may eat 200 calories less than what is suggested for your age and sex. Please remember that these are all minimum guidelines and that those in recovery from restrictive eating disorders are expected and encouraged to eat well above them for during the recovery process.

For information on weight set point theory, phases of the recovery process, “binging”, the genetic link to eating disorders, and lots, lots more, check out the “links” page. There is a wealth of information there.

Remember: “Recovery isn’t a buffet. You can’t pick and choose what parts you want to do and what parts you don’t want to do. The only way out is through.”

If you have a question, check out the FAQ, as chances are, your question has been asked before. If not, use the Contact page to get in touch with me.

20 thoughts on “Recovery Guidelines

  1. Pingback: Counting Calories and Recovery | Everything ED Recovery

  2. Pingback: Is Intuitive Eating a Good Idea in Eating Disorder or Dieting Recovery? | Everything ED Recovery

  3. sophd1390

    Will I gain weight on 2500 calories a day if that’s my minimum and I am not at my set point? I don’t really understand how it works because even when I have been really underweight I have maintained weight on over 3000 a day

    Like

    Reply
      1. Sarah Frances Young Post author

        As I said, I will answer when I can. I do my best to answer questions as quickly as possible, but I work full time and have my own life commitments too. Answering questions is done in my spare time for free, so please be patient. I never don’t answer a question – you just might have to wait a little for an answer.

        Like

  4. Pingback: Extreme Hunger – What Is It, Why Is It Happening, and How Do I Handle It? | Everything ED Recovery

  5. Andrew

    Hey 🙂 I’m a 6ft 20 year old male and I’ve struggled with anorexia for nearly 2 years now but I got worse in the last 5 months eating around 200 calories a day and dropping to my lowest weight of 8 stone 12

    I wanted my life back so I started to recover on my own 9 days ago and I have been managing 3000+ a day but I was wondering am I eating too much? Will it cause me to get fat? And how long will I carry on having to eat 3000? Am I recovering right? I know I have to gain weight but I’m worried that I’m either eating too much or I’m going to get fat

    I’m already experiencing all the symptoms of recovery so I think the healing is underway (bloating, water retention, sore stomach, extreme hunger, sweating really badly) my mind just keeps telling me that I’m the exception and that I shouldn’t need to eat those amounts on recovery but Surly I do?

    Just wanted some advice really as I’m not sure if I’m eating too much or if I’m going to get fat

    Thanks 🙂

    Like

    Reply
  6. Aisha

    What if extreme hunger hits and for weeks, or even months, I eat thousands of calories over my minimum? Will it make me develop a binge eating disorder?

    Like

    Reply
      1. Tasha elphick

        Hi can you give me some advice on calorie intake please. I have had anorexia for over 3 years last year 2016 I started to increase my calories and restore weight and started to finally get my life back. I managed to get up to 7 stone 10. However since February this year 2017. I have relapsed I have lost weight and now down to 6 stone 2 I have developed bradycardia and have been taken to hospital 3 time in a week due to my heart rate dropping to 30 Bpm. I have managed to increase my calories from 1300 to around 1600/1700. I am under strict guidelines for house rest so that means no exercise at all which I’m finding very difficult as prior hospital I was excessively exercising around 30000 steps a day. I need to increase my calories in order to recover and to mend my heart and health but I’m really struggling this time I’m scared I will gain far to quickly not being able to exercise can you help and offer some reasurence I know I need to beat this horrible illness one and for all. while I have to accept anorexia may always be apart of me I want to control it not control me. May help would be so grateful as I’m just not getting the support from health proffesionals

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s