I just found the most wonderful resource for eating disorder recovery. Her name is Tabitha Farrar and she has a fantastic website www.tabithafarrar.com with very informative blogs and a downloadable plan for eating disorder recovery.
As I have mentioned before I received minimal help from the NHS with my anorexia. They sent me away with a book. I have received help from counsellors and nutritionists (although the nutritionists never really did me much good because they weren’t eating disorder specialists). As a result I have had to inform myself on recovery procedures, with mixed results.
My weight has yo-yoed since achieving my minimum ‘healthy weight’ for various reasons. I gained my ‘healthy weight’ with the help of a nutritionist who put me on a restrictive IBS diet and made me eat sugar for weight gain as she let me continue to avoid fatty foods. I gained weight when I was in a relationship (2014-2016) and on the contraceptive pill. During this time I got more confident at eating a wider range of foods but would still feel guilty about the ‘naughty foods’. I had a lot of other health problems at that time so it was easy for Ana to then blame them on the ‘naughty foods’. Another nutritionist made me eat full-fat beef mince to help with my M.E. which would make me feel sick. My relationship ended and I went off the pill. I also stopped eating sugar, caffeine, dairy, meat and gluten at that time. The weight dropped off me within weeks. Ana rejoiced. I entered another relationship but I felt anxious a lot of the time so the strict diet continued with another nutritionist advising I avoid yeast to help my M.E. I drank alcohol to fit in and get over my anxiety. I had late nights and wrecked the improvements in my M.E. that I had achieved.
Two months ago I started an internship, living away from home. As my activity levels began to increase so did my appetite. Seeing the other young women I live with happily eating whatever they liked also encouraged me. However the effects of this change in lifestyle are starting to show on my body. My leg muscles have increased and I’ve gained fat on my stomach. My clothes seem smaller, but I must be bigger. I can’t seem to stop eating. My new friends are active and play rounders after work. I try to join in but the running hurts. Ana is creeping back in as I feel less and less in control as I try to fit in by eating biscuits in the office. She wants me to eat less, to cut out sugar, to cut out fat, to exercise more.
I had read before about how in anorexia recovery you gain weight on your stomach first before it redistributes and how you also have to aim to overshoot your pre-eating disorder weight so your body can use the fat to heal. Much like how a baby grows: they get chubby then grow a few inches, then get chubby again every time they need energy for growth. Feeling at a loss this morning I searched ‘dealing with weight gain in anorexia recovery’ and came across Tabitha’s website. It was so helpful I nearly cried. I read her articles on the importance of overshooting your pre-eating disorder weight and that restricting or exercising at this point would be going backwards in recovery. I read about how important it is to let yourself eat whatever you like because when the body comes out of starvation mode it naturally wants to binge. I read about how restricting any food types, unless you are allergic, is still letting Ana win. The confusion that has come from the differing advice from nutritionists over the years makes me want to cry. The bombardment of unhealthy images and dietary advice in the media also makes me reel.
I have to ignore Ana. I have to rest. I have to eat whatever I want. I have to keep challenging my irrational thoughts about food. I have to keep doing things that scare me (scare Ana). I have to tell myself I’m not unattractive just because I have to be bigger. I have to buy some bigger clothes!
I am proud of how far much I’ve managed to recover with minimal support, especially as it has been complicated by my diagnosis of M.E. I’m so grateful to Tabitha for collating all this fantastic information and advice. Most of all I’m proud of the insanely thick curly hair I’ve regained since recovering! It truly is a mane!