by Brianna Mullins
Recovering from anorexia is a funny thing. It is not like recovering from alcoholism or a drug addiction. When you recover from the latter two, your goal is to avoid those substances for the rest of your life. When you are recovering from anorexia, or another eating disorder, you have to face food head on. You might have to not only face the potential of gaining weight, but also be required to achieve weight restoration. In fact, just gaining weight is not enough to reach full remission.
Weight restoration has arguably played the largest role in my recovery. In the beginning stages of recovery, I thought I could bargain with my treatment team. They stated the weight I needed to reach, and I countered their offer with a lower number. No matter how hard I fought back, they never backed down. I didn’t understand at the time what they were doing. Why did I have to gain so much weight? What is “weight restoration?” Can’t they just get me to be medically stable and I will just keep seeing a therapist?
Three years later, I could not be more thankful for the constant push by my team to reach a restored weight. It was definitely not easy, and it did not happen fast, but it happened and my life is permanently changed because of it.
While I believe that it was imperative for my own recovery, there are some things to keep in mind when talking about weight restoration with your treatment team. For one, weight restoration may not be required for all patients with eating disorders. Although all eating disorders are treated similarly, weight restoration is typically important for patients suffering from anorexia. If weight restoration is imperative to your recovery it is important to remember this – EVERYONE’S IDEAL BODY WEIGHT IS UNIQUE TO THAT PERSON. The weight that one patient may need to reach to be considered “weight restored” may be higher or lower than another patient. Every body is different and thus have different needs.
So, why is weight restoration so important? Well, it turns out that it is about SO much more than just gaining back weight; it improves all aspects of your life. I believe that weight restoration is an important part of recovery for many individuals with restrictive eating disorders. Here are just a few reasons why:
- Food Is Fuel!
For obvious reasons, weight restoration is important for your physical health. It is a slow process for your safety; re-feeding too quickly can lead to re-feeding syndrome. When your body is in starvation mode, it begins to feed off of your organs, leaving them damaged and weak. Your body is very literally wasting away. Your organs begin to shut down, your muscles wither to nothing, and your heart beats so slow that your circulation becomes too weak to keep your body warm. So, in the beginning of restoration, your body uses all of the nutrients you are feeding it to rebuild your muscles and major organs.
- Your Brain Will Thank You!
You know that chronically exhausted feeling you have every minute of the day in the midst of your eating disorder? That goes away, too. Weight restoration gives you this entirely new energy and drive that I guarantee you do not remember having before. This is the biggest reason why I believe restoring weight is important.
- Therapy is fun?!
I am sure you have heard from your therapist or doctors before that feeding your body is feeding your mind; they aren’t lying to you. Therapy can only progress you so far when you are not restoring your weight. Once you are fully weight restored, therapy becomes a whole new experience. When you are being consumed by your eating disorder, you are physically and emotionally exhausted, you do not have an attention span, and without energy or the ability to stay present, therapy is pretty much rendered useless – BUT – with weight restoration comes enlightenment.
When you are malnourished and focused on the rules of your eating disorder, you cannot logically grasp the idea of what “healthy” is or means. When you reach your body’s restored weight, as discussed above, your physical and emotional being completely changes. You not only gain weight, but you gain the bravery to question your eating disorder. You gain a mental strength that once seemed impossible; a strength that you can use to fight against ED. You gain a new view of the world and a new appreciation for your body. Although weight restoration may not be necessary for every eating disorder case, it is definitely something to consider when working towards recovery.