Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Fragile Metabolism


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.

Progress.

11 comments:

  1. Couldn't have said it better myself:) I"m so glad that you put this out there for everyone! It is a reminder of how quickly relapse can happen even if we don't intend for it too. It is also so uplifiting to hear that almost every side effect of an eating disorer is reversible, and in time the structure and rigidity of meal plans can subside allowing more relaxation and spontaniety with food. Another reason to keep on towards recovery:)!!!

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    1. And I have you and our conversation from the other day to thank for this post! It's so nice to have someone so close who can relate. :)

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  2. This is perfect! I think so many people need to realize that this is normal for recovery, and weight change is normal during the recovery process. But there will be a time when you don't have to count or worry anymore... Proud of you :)

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    1. Thanks, Em! It's always nice to heard rom you. Hope all is well! :)

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    2. Hear from you*... Stupid auto correct haha

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  3. I don't know if I am in an early recovery stage... Am I? I am overwhelmed about how much I am eating in a daily base. That makes me feel very hard to push myself more, even though I have been told that I would need to gain weight. I am recommended to do less exercise first. In my head, I say, "I am 46 years old, and I need to some exercise to maintain muscles in my body." I know that when people are in 20's, they don't have to worry about losing muscles for aging. Their bodies maintain muscles naturally, and it makes sense that young anorexia stop all the exercise until they gain back.... I struggle on this... My calorie intake per day is around 2300 to 2500 calories per day, and my weight has changed very little. For my age, it's hard to build up muscles once we lose it.... struggling on trusting...

    But thank you for your post, because what you say here might explain why I am still struggling for weight gain.... A part of it is that I don't want to gain weight... lots of contradiction (I don't want to use a word, fight...) in my head and heart... <3

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    1. Everyone is so different in recovery, it's hard to put a definite time frame on the "early stages." I think for me I was just referring to my weight gain phase. I think we can always find excuses (or our ed can) about why we should do this or that in order to cling onto that control... But until we give up all symptoms completely it is hard to fully heal. It's not easy! Give yourself a little more credit for how far you have come! <3

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  4. this is such a great topic, I honestly want to post this because I think many females suffer from this fear and only hurt their metabolism more. I give my inpatient place so much credit. They really got me to let go of that fear of gaining and not doing anything and helped heal my metabolism.I am so glad, like so glad, I didn't get back to exercise for a good 4-5 months. I needed to keep eating more and allow my body to heal. It really was a tough balance to get back into it too, I worked super close with a team so that we could watch how my weight was affected and the food needed to keep my metabolism up. I also think a big fear in this time is the 'over shoot' one. I know I had this fear - that I would never not gaining. I won't lie, I did go over my goal weight but looking back I think my body needed to. It eventually settled back down but I needed to find that process of letting it be - not using food to do anything to it but just letting it run its course.

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    1. Yes yes yes to everything you just said. I also think my treatment team did a good job of helping us with the weight gain process and understanding the changes the metabolism goes through. Over shooting is a huge topic and something I have been wanting to write about for awhile, but just don't have any definite facts to back me up, except my own experiences. I'm also glad exercise was not a part if my routine in he beginning - so important!

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    2. Just chiming in to say I'd really like if you did a post on overshooting sometime because it's something that I'm struggling with a lot at the moment (well more the fear of it than it actually happening...yet). I'm pretty much weight-restored but still not quite letting go of my strange patterns of eating/mild restriction because I'm really terrified I'll gain heaps more. It's times like these I wish I had a treatment team (or even just one treatment provider!) to help me navigate...

      In terms of metabolism, I've never experienced the speeding up that most recovering AN patients seem to. I'm scared I've slowed it down forever...But this post reminded me that I need to do my best to stop hanging onto my last few ED behaviors in order to give my metabolism the best chance of recovery. So thank you!

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    3. Hey, thanks for chiming in! Yes, you can expect a post on overshooting in the near future. I will have to do a little research and see if I can find some good, solid info on it. Maybe even just writing about the fear of overshooting would be worth addressing. It's a slippery slope though because I don't want everyone to automatically think their goal weight is too high and then feel the need to lose a few lbs, ya know?

      Best of luck with your metabolism. I do think that consistent eating and doing your best to let go of those ed related behaviors is really important. It's not easy, but so worth it!

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