Back while I was still in treatment and in the middle of the weight restoration process, as much as I hate to admit it, there were several occasions where I would sneak out after hours and go for 30-40 minute walks. At the time, I was on extremely high calorie counts and honestly didn't think these walks would have any affect on my weight. Burning an extra one hundred calories or skipping a few calories here and there could not possible show up on the scale the next morning - right?! Wrong.
Here's the thing - during the weight restoration process, and then there after for an extended period of time during maintenance, the metabolism is extremely fragile. For a "normal metabolism" that has not been under the distress associated with restricting and other erratic eating habits, missing a few calories will not necessarily have an immediate effect on weight, the way it does for those of us in recovery.
There were numerous times during my morning weigh in when the treatment team knew I had symptoms, even if it was just a short walk, before I even told them. The scale never lied. Although I'm not exactly sure why the metabolism is so fragile during the early stages of recovery, I do know with time and consistent eating it does seem to regulate itself. It's almost like after years of confusing our bodies, it needs time to relearn these basic functions again.
The fragile metabolism is one of the reasons the early stages of recovery are so difficult for many of us. After I hit my goal weight, I remember thinking I could get away with skimping on calories every once in awhile, but all it did was confuse my body more. It was also nearly impossible for me to wrap my brain around the idea that I needed THAT MANY calories in order maintain my weight. The body needs more calories to repair itself and function properly than most of us with eating disorders like to accept.
This study is proof that anorexics who were underweight require an abnormal amount of calories just to maintain their weight during the initial stages of recovery. And as far as metabolism goes, this study compares the metabolic rates of eating disorder patients two years after weight restoration with healthy metabolisms. I was excited to find the metabolic rates between the two were very similiar and there were no significant differences in body mass or overall body fat percentage.
So there is good news and bad news here. The bad news is the metabolism is incredibly fragile during the early stages of recovery and the slightest decrease in calories can be an issue. However, with time and consistent eating, the good news is, the metabolism will eventually return to normal. The damage done to the metabolism may be severe, but it is definitely reversible.
As for me, after about a year of maintaining my weight, it's exciting to think I no longer count calories or eat the exact same amount everyday, but my weight remains the same.
I think my fragile metabolism is officially a thing of the past.