In my previous post, I touched on the fear many of us recovering from eating disorders have about never regaining a normal metabolism. So I thought I would continue chatting about fears this week and attempt to discuss overshooting. Overshooting happens when an individual goes over their goal or set point weight during weight restoration. Obviously most of us fear gaining any weight at all, so the thought of gaining too much weight if oftentimes unimaginable.
Discussing this here is a bit of a slippery slope, however. The last thing I want is for everyone reading this to suddenly think their set point weight is higher than it needs to be; this overshooting thing doesn't happen in all cases.
Sometimes one of the most difficult parts of recovery is accepting the weight our bodies and treatment team would like us to be. And sometimes, due to each individual's body type, two people of the same height might have different goal weights, making this process even more complex. It would be so much easier if everyone had the same exact body type and metabolism; and there were specific numbers that were considered ideal weights based on height, but it doesn't work that way (and no, I do not think BMI is a useful measurement of anything).
To say attempting to figure out the body's healthiest weight after years of nutritional denial is a complex process is an understatement. The treatment center I went to used our pediatric charts, looked at our weight trends as adolescents, and then used those numbers to predict our goal weight, so I was lucky. But oftentimes I question how professionals go about deciding on a goal weight. Is it a shot-in-the-dark-and-hope-for-the-best type process? Maybe, and that's a scary thought.
My treatment team also taught us that each time the body endures a yo-yo, restrictive diet pattern, not only does the body regain the weight (and then some), it also increases the set point. Meaning the body will naturally settle at a higher weight each time.
I think the idea of having my set point weight go up even higher if I ever did fall back into disorder eating patterns has been one of my biggest motivators for maintaining my current weight. Not only would it be miserable to gain the weight again, but to have an even higher goal weight?! There's no way I could handle that. So although it is difficult to accept a new, higher weight, I always knew the alternative was way worse.
In the book Unbearable Lightness written by Porcia de Rossi, she confesses she overshot her set point weight by about 35 pounds before finding a healthy balance. However, I don't think overshooting is always that extreme. Typically I hear people overshoot their weight by about ten percent or less. I have even heard of some treatment centers that discharge their patients five pounds higher than they need to be as a precautionary measure.
As my mindset has gotten healthier, I have started to believe overshooting is actually better than undershooting. Eventually the body does even itself out at the weight it needs to be. If the body never reaches its healthiest weight, however, there is a much better chance of relapsing. I know a few people who have fought against their body's set point weight (which is easy to do, don't get me wrong!), only to find themselves binging or creating other unhealthy eating habits.
I wish I could give you all a solution and a way to get over the fear of overshooting set point weight, but I don't think there is one. What it truly comes down to is letting go of every ounce of control the eating disorder has and allowing the body to repair itself. I have been at my set point weight for a full year and still fear gaining anymore weight, but maybe that's normal?
Yes, overshooting my set point weight has always been a fear of mine. Relapsing due to undershooting set point, however, is an even bigger fear.
And I hope many of you can start to look at it that way, too.