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gaining weight in first 3 weeks of bulimia recovery

by Marie

Hi Shaye :)

I came across your site a little while ago and have been reading everything - which has definitely been a great help in my recovery from bulimia.

I've been (mostly) b/p free for three weeks today, with 4 or 5 'mini' b/p episodes in that time. I've been sticking with structured eating pretty well, eating every few hrs about 5 - 6 times a day, not bingeing, as well as exercising a few times a week.

However, I've gained about 7kg in those three weeks (about 15 pounds). This seems to be a lot, even for other people in the same situation. How long did it take for your weight to level out to your 'natural weight'?

Prior to beginning eating disordered behavior I was quite overweight, about 10kg over the healthy weight limit for my height, so I am very concerned that I'm just going to keep gaining, or that my natural weight is actually overweight, or 7kg above my pre-recovery weight.

I'm currently a healthy weight for my height, but with this new weight gain I'm very close to sliding across to overweight.

I know that 7kg can't possibly be all water weight/ poor digestion.. right?! It's hard not to feel like I'm doing something wrong/ like I'm the recovery exception - that I'll just stack on weight despite other people not gaining much at all.

Thanks again for making this site, it's such a relief to know that other people are feeling the same way I am, that other people can recover.

Shaye Says

Hi Marie!

I was just talking to a girl recently who gained 6 kg's in one week!!! And, she didn't look much bigger at all. The weight she gained had to be mostly re-hydration - as it's basically impossible to gain 6kg's of fat in one week!

Think about it... The human hydrated body is about 72% water... Thats when every cell is feeling nice and juicy :) When you're are dehydrated, your bodily water levels drop to around let's say 65%

for example...

A 60 kg girl with a low body hydration of 65% will have 39 kg's of water in her body

if her body hydration levels rise to the normal 72% she will have 43.2 kg's of water in her body...

Already there's 4.2 kg's of body weight...

Plus, there is now food sitting in your tummy... Which has weight too... Probably around 1-2 kgs...

Then, there's edema (swelling)... That's water retention above the normal amount... Which is experienced in many people recovering from eating disorders. This can add another few kilos onto your weight... (don't worry this goes away)

And then of course, there is muscle gain because your body now has enough calories to build muscle... Muscle is around 3 times heavier than fat and does make a big difference on the scales.

And, lastly, yes, naturally there will be some fat gain. Not always - but often. But, I promise you, this would be the smaller % of the total amount of weight gained.

Often when we first begin our recoveries, our bodies try to store some extra fat - as they are not completely convinced that the 'famine' is over. They still think... I might have to throw this up, or food might be denied again soon... So, as a survival thing, your body makes the calories consumed go the extra mile! ...

The way around this though, isn't to reduce calories - as this will just make the cycle continue... The answer is to keep feeding your body normal amounts - and allow your weight to settle at it's natural point. Often, once your body realises that the 'famine' is over, some of the weight gain you experienced in recovery drops away.

You may only reach your natural weight after eating and exercising normally for around 1 year. You may gain some weight - which will then drop off. It's impossible to tell... but, keep reminding yourself that your natural weight is where your body functions best. It's the weight where your skin will glow and your hair will shine. It's the weight where you'll be most fertile and have the greatest longevity.

Try not to trouble your mind with what your weight might be... Rather, congratulate yourself on doing so freaking well in your recovery so far! Because, you really are making such amazing progress!

I am so excited for you... Such awesome things lie ahead :)

Stay in touch!

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Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community

The Bulimia Recovery Program