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Weight gain, food intolerance, recovery food in bulimia recovery

by Marie

Hi Shaye,

I wrote to you just a little while ago about gaining weight in the first few weeks of recovery here

I've pretty much been at +7kg of my pre-recovery weight for the past two weeks, so I guess the good thing is that it's not going up and up... though it seems a bit unfair to have to put on so much weight when you're trying so hard to do everything right.

However, as I was saying in my last post, prior to 'starting' bulimia, I was very overweight, and no one could figure out why - I ate normally, exercised, no one in my family was overweight. Consequently, my parents were very concerned and I was dragged around to different doctors to get my thyroid checked, ovaries checked, everything... which ironically lead me to develop disordered eating and lose a lot of weight, taking the focus off any possible medical causes.
Now that I'm in recovery, I want to try and identify if there are any. My dietitian and I suspect that I may have food intolerances as I have lots of weird physical symptoms, some of which can be attributed to recovery, some not. She says that often symptoms are just put down to bulimia, but that that may not always be the case.
So, just wondering a few things - firstly, did you (or anyone out there!) experience any other strange symptoms aside from bloating, cramping and lazy bowels? I get headaches, extremely frequent urination and frequent diarrhea, a puffy face around my cheeks and eyes, and a weird rashy bumps on my upper arms.

Secondly, just wondering if you could shed some light on what you ate on a day to day basis during the first few months of recovery - like a meal plan? My dietitian seems to push me in the direction of having three reasonably big meals and two or three small snacks, but I find for me it works much better to have 3 small meals and three big-ish snacks... maybe that's too much!

Again, thanks so much for this website. It's such a comfort to know that other people out there are going through exactly the same thing, and that you've gone through it and actually beaten this horrible thing!

Marie x

Shaye Says

Hi Marie!

I agree, it does seem unfair to gain weight when you're trying your hardest to do everything right... But, for many people, it is an essential part of recovery... And, in time, if you continue to eat and exercise normally, I would expect some of that weight to fall away... As hard as it is right now, try your very best to focus on recovery - and try to let your focus shift away from your weight...

During my recovery I also experienced frequent urination... I had bloating, major cramping, water retention - and all the other common recovery side effects. Thankfully - they are all temporary - and did go away... I never experienced rashes and I can't remember getting headaches...

It does sound to me like you may have some food intolerances... I know quite a bit about this subject as my partner Tom developed arthritis after damaging his stomach lining (from strong anti-biotics) and developing sensitivities to a wide range of foods - wheat, milk, eggs, corn and a few more... Once he figured out his sensitive foods, he took them out of his diet - and his arthritis went away. Along with the rashes he had been getting for a long time...

I am not sure if bulimia can damage your stomach in the same way - but I would think it is possible. As far as I know there has been no medical research into this.

But, if you had sensitivities before you developed bulimia - there is a good chance that they are still there. Keeping a food diary to track trends in when you develop your symptoms could help unveil some clues as to which foods agree with you - and which don't ...

On another note - if you feel that 3 big meals and 3 big snacks is too much for you right now - then I would see no harm in changing to to be 3 smaller meals and 3 big snacks... Try to base your meals and snacks on what somebody you know who is a 'normal eater' would have. Try to listen to your body and figure out what it wants... I know I didn't eat massive meals in the first month of my recovery because I felt like my tummy couldn't handle them. - But, be aware not to restrict with the mindset of wanting to lose weight... All your decisions should be based on what would be best for your recovery :)

Keep up your great work!


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

The Bulimia Recovery Program