Calorie increase in eating disorder recovery... Now I can't stop eating :(

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10/01/2012 at 21:20
Hey there,

I've been recovering from an eating disorder and have managed to increase my daily calorie intake from about 800 to 1800. This has done wonders for my energy levels and running, but after eating this new amount for about two months I've suddenly developed a ridiculous urge to eat and eat and eat! Today I got through a good 2500 calories!!!! (I'm only 5'3" and weigh 7 stone 10 right now). I haven't increased my running but I'm thinking I had better do so now that this has happened. I currently run 15-20 miles per week which I don't feel is worthy of this huge appetite.

Does anybody else have this problem where they can't control what they're eating all of a sudden?! What do you do???! I'm stressing out and can't wait for tomorrow morning so I can run these extra calories away...
kittenkat    pirate
10/01/2012 at 21:30
Are you getting medical support/counselling to help with your recovery?
10/01/2012 at 21:58
I am, yeah. But haven't had an appointment since this overeating started. Am due one next week.
10/01/2012 at 22:14
2500 cals isn't so bad.

It might be that your body is suddenly crying out for missed nutrients over the years.

A good thing to remember is that the body also has very good homeostatic mechanisms to govern appetite, through the interaction of insulin, glucagon, leptin and a whole host of other hormones some of which we have yet to discover, if you eat decent grub you will not accidently overshoot and up overweight and eating too much. I promise. One of the nicest things you will experience is the feeling of letting go and then finding out everything turns out alright.
10/01/2012 at 22:45
Well certainly nothing scary will happen between now and next week. In fact most people in Britain have a week where they eat 500 or more calories more than usual - the familiar name for this is "Christmas"!

Assuming you are a woman, it is normal for appetite to fluctuate with hormone levels, that is, for a few days a month a lot of women want to eat more. That's balanced out by having a few super-energetic days elsewhere in the month and is nothing to worry about.

If you can, and of course it may be pretty hard, but it's still worth trying, concentrate on sleeping well, eating three proper meals (if it is hard to get perspective, think about what you would serve to a much loved friend or relative, and then take that for your own meal), and when your brain takes a bit of a swerve and gives you grief, sit it down and tell it, brain, you have no malice in you but you are mistaken, there is nothing to worry about here!

Good luck, it must be a very distressing time and I do hope things improve for you. People who are not sympathetic perhaps do not think that the brain is also a physical organ and can develop unhelpful symptoms just the same as a heart, liver or kidney can.

Edited: 10/01/2012 at 22:46
11/01/2012 at 08:06

Sounds to me like your body is normalising after its period of deprivation.

You are still pretty slight for your height so this is probably just your its way of telling you it needs a bit more. 

11/01/2012 at 08:30

Since I started running in June last year I have started to eat at least twice as much as I did. I try to make sure that if I am snacking then I eat something healthy such as a piece of fruit, nuts or an oat bar. I also make sure that I am eating lots of veggies and protein. Having said that I have lost 2 stone but I have now plateaued and my hunger seems to have done the same (even with more mileage). I would say in my experience that your hunger should level out so don't increase your mileage just yet, but wait till you see a doctor.

 PS I am doing 30 miles + per week at the moment

11/01/2012 at 09:26
It probably is my body telling me it needs more but it's scary still when I feel I can't control it. I just need to watch myself today...
11/01/2012 at 10:38

summerrain - congratulations on how far you've come in overcoming your ED. Firstly, please don't worry about the 'extra' calories, as others have said it may just be your body's way of normalising. I am a bit reluctant to try to give advice on EDs over a forum as everyone is so different, but I really strongly suggest that you don't try to change anything about your diet until you have seen your doctor/counsellor and discussed with them.

I know from experience that it's really tough, and you can get easily stressed about what are perceived as "extra" calories, but I think it's important don't get sucked into the trap of thinking that if you have overindulged one day that you need to exercise more another day to burn off the calories. 8-9 years ago when I was recovering from ED, I ended up exercising to compensate for "extra" calories eaten. It got so that I was using exercise as another form of purging - I wasn't interested in exercising to be healthy, I was exercising purely to burn calories. I'm not saying that this is what you are doing, but just be careful - some of the language you've used, like "watching yourself" and that you can't wait to go for a run to burn the extra calories - rings a bell with me based on my own experience. Just be careful and keep thinking of how well you are doing in overcoming the ED

11/01/2012 at 10:47
I sat down and thought about things this morning and am going to follow my meal plan the way I should; just carry on as though nothing happened yesterday. I once heard someone say 'use your meal plan as a weapon against your eating disorder', which makes sense. I'll run my normal miles later today and try to forget. It's so hard because I'm still feeling hungry to eat more but I'll wait 'til I see my dietitian next week. Thanks for the kind support and advice everyone. x
11/01/2012 at 13:13

I am around the same weight as you and am back to eating around 2500 kcals a day ( during a recent long injury I started restricting a bit to around 1800 kcals) and have not gained weight but feel a lot better and running is so much more enjoyable. I am aiming to eat a bit more as still need to gain around a stone to get into healthy BMI range and this will be difficult in terms of not thinking I am being greedy but worth it I now believe. This time of year is particularly hard as so many people are on diets and make comments like 'I wish I could eat as much as you and stay so skinny!'

Just react to your body and of course follow the medical and dietary advice of professionals.

11/01/2012 at 13:31
AFF - how many miles are you doing each week on that calorie intake?
11/01/2012 at 13:45
I am back up to around 20-25 miles a week and I do cycle 11 miles every working day to/from work plus a couple of swims/strength sessions each week. Am aiming to get back up to pre-injury mileage of 35 miles a week over next month.
11/01/2012 at 14:07
Heck, that's a lot of biking! Good on you I wish I had the time to train more, but running after my two kids all day takes priority!
12/01/2012 at 04:12

I had/have an ED and although my weight is now OK (healthy and normal) it wasn't easy having it climb up again.

You got to remember when you run or exercise or are weight gaining you need not just the normal amount but more then the normal amount- in hospital we had to eat between 3000-4000kcals (most of it came from refined carbs and full fat milk!) I got my weight up the last time alone and as I was still too afraid to eat carbs-let alone refined carbs I found that once I did start eating it was hard to stop. I didn't count the calories because it was just so much that I didn't want to think, I just didn't want to relapse and tried to keep myself in some sort of a pattern, even if I wasn't 100% happy with it.

What did help me was having regular appointments with a dietition and therapist. (Two different people), one to plan what I was going to eat and to go back to when I found it didn't work and the other to talk about how I felt about the whole thing in a little more detail. It wasn't easy, it did take a long time and I did feel very out of control. But it isn't the end of the world even if your weight does skyrocket- mine did, it was possible to reel it back in (again with the help of the dietiton) and I think I learnt alot about myself and my body.

We as human beings seem to have a primal instinct to eat for a famine. It is afterall a big part of why we have survived for so long- because we can eat store and know to try to premept famines and times when food sources are low. Most people can bypass this day to day and moderate their weight but think about how different that could be if for months or years at a time our bodies are constantly reminded that there is a famine: when food appears again in a slightly larger form then we are used to, its probably going to some how trigger that primal instinct which says "right, now food is there, get what you can and store it" So as much as it will feel difficult and complex and uncomfortable (and believe me at times it was harder to gain weight in moderation then it was to starve my way down to a stupid weight) its really important to try keep to a regular intake of food, eventually your body realises there is no famine and it can calm down the massive urges. BUT it wont do this until your weight is normalised and until your bodyfat has redistruibuted- your body relies on your hormones to regulate itself and know when it is healthy. Your hormones rely on your body fat to work properly. Its not just about getting your weight up, its about maintaining a healthy body too.

12/01/2012 at 18:52
I'm just so afraid of the weight gain. I've balanced out my overeat from the other day by eating 1400 kcals and running 4 miles each day. It scares me silly, then I get a reality check and want to be healthy. My BMI is healthy at 18 so surely my body shouldn't want more. So hard
14/01/2012 at 04:16

Be so very careful: your setting yourself up for an uncontrollable binge Summerrain- your body now "knows" food is available its not as 'easy' as it was before to just starve, you starve and you risk making it all so much harder and perhaps even making things worse. Added to that when in 'starvation mode' your body turns to storing rather then using calories and this it does by converting much of it to glycogen. Its then easily converted to body fat ready for the next time you starve. If you do this frequently you'll increase hormones which result in it sitting around your waist...(cortisol).

What your aiming for (or what would be good to aim for) is a body which works well and lets you exercise and get on with your day without feeling fatigue, irritable, tierd or not able to move as fast as you could normally do. You wont get that if your starving, your body is very wise and it knows how to make cut backs which you may not even be fully aware its doing but basicly its like working on half-power for the duration and even some of the time after.

Can you speak to a dietiton about whats going on? I really think it could help a lot, its natural to be scared- thats normal so don't berate yourself for that but trying to resolve the fears by reducing your food intake isn't going to resolve the fears its just setting you up for it feeling just as scary-if not more scary next time.

14/01/2012 at 09:17
I've been seeing a dietitian and together we worked out I need 1800 calories a day to maintain my running regime / lifestyle as it is now. But these urges to eat so much are stressing me out because giving in to them takes me well over that 1800 I don't believe I need any more calories because I'm not a very big person. Psychologically I can't handle knowing I'm 'overeating' when active people of my weight don't need masses of food like that. It makes me wonder if I'm genuinely hungry or not. I have a sports nutrition book that tells me I need around 1750 kcals doing 18 miles running per week.
15/01/2012 at 05:44
 Calories are a rough guide to someone who is completely healthy and has no need to gain weight or because they have a body in some sort of trauma.

Fact is, running takes alot out on your body, its a high impact sport, and added to the weather being colder your likely going to have some forms of micro tears on your muscles as well as requiring more energy because the weather is colder and you need to keep warmer. You don't always see your body shivering as it can do so on a very miniscule level but this is how it keeps warm, you need energy to do that.

You also need to bare in mind the problems your body may have faced in the past when you were unwell but simply were not dealt with because your weight was too low and your body shut down to an absolute essential level: ever wondered why at a lower weight you didn't suffer a cold or similar? It wasn't because you didn't get ill, its because your body simply didn't have the energy it required to develop the symptoms and fight off the virus:these still need to be fought off, one of the strange things you can see when in hospital with others trying to recover from chronic/sevear anorexia is the amounts of colds and flu symptoms going on: its not the food making them unhealthy, its the viruses which sat in their systems uncured because their bodies had shut down and were only working on the essential: keeping the heart beating. Your probably saying "but I don't have a cold" but a cold is just one illness, quite often we pick up viruses and so on and our bodies just deal with it and we never see a thing. Well your body is in a better place to do that now and if it is doing that it would require extra calories to do this.

You may well have good and bad days- its not going to damage you long term. You think about how many calories extra you ate, then total that over the month and divide it up again to see the average per day: its really not that much at all, enough to maybe cover a few days of having ketchup with your evening meal.

I'd really not worry about the odd day at all as your body will adjust. If anything at a very basic level its more likely to (if in surplus) use these calories for heat and being able to move around more or rebuilding once damaged muscles (damaged by years of them being used as fuel: heart and legs included!) If you then go starving yourself (a cut by more then about 25% is going to send a message to your brain that its starving and needs to go back to conserving energy, something it knows well how to do) all your doing is confirming the message you really don't need to confirm: that using energy for anything other then storage is wrong as there could be another famine. The best thing you can do is keep your eating on the 1800 you agreed with your dietition and not to try to fix things by reducing in big jumps- your not going to make it any easier for yourself and its already a very hard thing to do.

I know its a really difficult thing to do (not act on the massive urge to reduce to compensate) because I've been there. But what I can say is doing that is what makes things harder and can so easily trip you up as it can bring on the just as strong urge to binge, and that just makes you feel miserable. Its such an easy mistake to make but can cost you a lot. It may be fine once in a while but its so easy to get into a binge-starve pattern and what your describing seems exactly what you are falling in to.

Remember what it is here your fighting: your trying to battle with the very same voices you appear to be listening to.

15/01/2012 at 14:13
I totally needed that, Jenn - thanks How do you handle running and eating? Do you count calories or just go by what your body tells you? I can't imagine being able to trust my body, but I guess one day I'll figure it out!
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