Recovery from anorexia nervosa isn’t just about gaining weight. Recovery is learning how to take care of yourself and how to cope with strong, painful emotions. It means coming to grips with hurtful events in your past and learning to live in a body that feels different.
Recovery is all of the above. But the most crucial part in the beginning stages of recovery is gaining weight. Too often recovery hinges on gaining weight; after all, life itself depends on the body getting what it needs.
The first step toward recovery is deciding to take the first step. An anorexic body is severely malnourished. It’s imperative that the body gets the nutrients it needs to survive. The greater the malnutrition, however, the greater the hurdles on the road to recovery.
Reintroducing nutrients to an extremely starved body can cause metabolic and biochemical disturbances. It is important to ensure that the reintroduction of feeding is gradual, which will minimize complications. In many cases, hospitalization – at least for a short time – is probably the safest course of action.
It Won’t Be Fun
Being anorexic was difficult. It was a daily struggle to survive. Recovery will also be difficult, with daily struggles a common occurrence.
Some common physical symptoms to expect in the early months of treatment:
- Bloating. As you begin taking in more fluids, you’ll probably experience bloating and swelling, especially in your ankles during the day and around your eyes at night. This feeling can be uncomfortable, but a gradual reintroduction of food may mitigate it.
- Cramping. Don’t be surprised to find your abdomen protruding and feeling firm. Your digestive processes and the muscles that drive it are compromised. As your body adapts to your consumption of food, you may experience stomach cramps, abdominal discomfort, nausea, and constipation.
- Rapid weight gain at first. You may retain fluid, which causes a weight gain in the first days or weeks. This is temporary, so don’t torture yourself during your fragile first few days by weighing yourself every day. Your weight will fluctuate; this is a normal reaction.
- Uneven fat distribution. After about a month of refeeding you’ll develop a thin layer of fat all over your body, but it will be an uneven distribution. Don’t worry; it will even out over time.
It’s a Journey
Eating disorder recovery is a journey that takes time. There will be ups and downs, good days and bad. But it is a journey worth taking.