Gaining Weight After Anorexia and Bulimia: How Long Does It Take?

Extreme weight loss is a common symptom of several different eating disorders, especially more severe conditions like bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Because of how taxing eating disorders can be on the body, the process of gaining weight and reintroducing calories is often equal parts frustrating and time-consuming. In this article, we’ll explore how long it typically takes for people recovering from eating disorders to gain weight.

What Type of Eating Disorder Are You Recovering From?

The average amount of time a person with an eating disorder spends regaining weight will vary considerably depending on the type of eating disorder they are recovering from. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common factors affecting weight gain in people with binge eating disorder, pica, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).

Binge eating disorder: When it comes to gaining weight, the main barrier experienced by people with binge eating disorder is breaking their eating habits. In some cases, gaining weight may not even be necessary for treating binge eating disorder. In fact, a high percentage of people recovering from binge eating disorder end up needing to lose rather than gain weight.

Pica: If left untreated, pica, a condition that causes people to eat non-food items, can lead to minor food deprivation and malnourishment. Following physical or psychological treatment and the return of a healthy diet, people with pica will usually gain weight at a normal week-to-week rate.

ARFID: People with ARFID experience disinterest and negative sensory responses to food and scheduled eating, sometimes leading to malnourishment and/or dangerous levels of weight loss. In most cases, the rate of weight gain for people with ARFID will depend on their body’s reaction to specialized dietary planning. Once a person with ARFID customizes their diet to stop triggering ARFID symptoms, weight gain will typically progress at a rate proportional to their caloric intake.

Weight Gain for People with Anorexia or Bulimia Nervosa

Two of the most dangerous types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Both of these conditions can cause extremely serious health problems, including restrictive eating, purging, and over-exercising.

In severe cases, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa can leave people in a state of critical malnourishment and borderline starvation. As a result, the process of weight restoration in anorexics or bulimics may take several months. If people with anorexia or bulimia try to reintroduce food or gain weight too quickly, they could experience refeeding syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by sudden shifts in the body’s metabolic system and electrolyte levels.

Sources: Emily Program, Psychology Today, Mirror Mirror

Photo: Pixabay

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