Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Liquid Restriction

This is a topic that is not discussed very often in eating disorder recovery, or maybe it is and I just haven't taken the time to notice because I didn't think liquid restriction was a problem for me.

In the depths of an eating disorder, it is not uncommon to begin restricting liquids out of fear of feeling bloated. Not only are liquid calories cut out of the diet, but eventually water is cut out as well. After a period of dehydration, once water does enter the body, it is retained because the body does not know when it will get water again. The body holds onto that water, which causes that bloated or fat feeling. 

Restricting liquids can have just as many, if not more, medical complications as restricting food does. As you may already know, the majority of the human body is made up of water, making it extremely difficult to function properly without it.

For the past few months, I have had a headache every single morning and I blamed it on allergies; until now. My morning routine consisted of one or two cups of coffee and no other liquids until lunch. After not having any liquids all night and drinking coffee, a diuretic, in the morning, I was left feeling faint and head-achy, thanks to dehydration.

There was a time when it would take me an entire day, or longer, to finish a bottle of water. I remember watching 'normal' people chug entire bottles of water and be perfectly fine with it, while I was left wondering why they didn't feel painfully full as a result.

Often, during the first few days of re-feeding, a patient can gain a significant amount of water weight, but that does eventually even out or regulate once the body becomes hydrated again. Getting through that initial discomfort, due to water retention, however, often feels impossible.

As hard as it is to believe, it has been about ten months since I experienced those initial days of re-feeding; so I just assumed that my body should be well hydrated by now. After the past couple weeks, however, I have been proven wrong yet again. 

For the past few weeks, I have been making a conscious choice to drink more water. As part of my meal plan, I typically have two 12oz. glasses of juice per day and up until now, I thought those were the only liquids my body needed. I honestly believed that even though water is calorie free, it would make me feel more bloated than I already did. To my surprise, the opposite happened.

The list of benefits that come along with drinking water and staying hydrated is pretty huge:

Healthier looking skin
Improved alertness and concentration
Helps digestion and constipation (a big problem while the metabolism is learning to work again)
Fights off sickness
Boosts mood
Flushes toxins from the body
Helps build and repair muscle
Relieves bloating (!!!)
Prevents headaches
Regulates body temperature

So, after years of having an irrational fear of bloat due to drinking water, I finally understand the reasons behind it. This might seem like common sense to people who have never struggled with an eating disorder, but keep in mind how distorted my thinking has become over the years. The human body is truly amazing; we just need to listen to it and give it a little TLC once in awhile.

It's exciting to think that my thought processes will continue to become even more clear, thanks to my new best friend, water.



  1. I love this! For me, it isn't so much about feeling bloated, but more about feeling like I have gained weight. There is the old trick of drinking water before getting weighed and I associated drinking any kind of liquid with that. Also, by drinking, I lose that "empty" feeling. It doesn't make any sense logically, but this is a much more serious issue than we realize.
    Thank you for writing this!!!

    1. Yes, that is a really good point, too. That all makes perfect sense to me, don't worry. :) It makes me feel better to know I am not alone in this. Thank you for commenting!

  2. I used to cut the amount of water to drink, because I was afraid of seeing the higher number on a scale. I knew that it was a water weight, but I just didn't want the number to go up. I was even happy when I got diarrhea... That was long time ago. When we are affected by this disease, our mind is totally distorted. Now, I drink lots of water! xoxo

    1. Totally distorted, I couldn't agree more. Thanks for sharing!! Looking back, it's hard for me to imagine how awful I felt, physically. So thankful for my health these days. <3

  3. Oh my gosh. Sometimes it amazes me that we happen to be dealing with such very similiar things even while we deal with very unsimiliar things at the same time. I've become re-commited to drinking more water this week too. I know I keep saying this but we should totally get together one of these days, I'm sure there's a million other things overlapping in our lives we could talk about too.

    1. Good for you, Kelli! Drinking water is such a simple thing, but it forgotten all the time. I'm glad to hear from an non ED person who understands this!w
      And YES! Let's get together asap! <3