How Long Does It Take to Gain Weight After Anorexia?

Anorexia nervosa is a truly debilitating condition. Without treatment, people with anorexia nervosa – an eating disorder characterized by an extreme fear of gaining weight and denial of weight loss – typically experience intense pressure to lose weight, even if they are already sitting at a dangerously low body weight.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common ways people gain weight while recovering from anorexia and break down exactly why former anorexics can find weight gain so difficult.

Tips For Gaining Weight After Anorexia

Start small: Amateur runners don’t start with a marathon (or at least they shouldn't). If you’re trying to gain weight after anorexia, it’s important to start small when it comes to increasing the amount of food you’re eating.

Confront the voice in your head: When you’re trying to gain weight after anorexia, you’ll probably encounter a voice in your head telling you that you need to lose weight and that any excess calories will make you fat. If you hear this voice, try confronting it with the following mantra: “Eating this food and gaining this weight will make me a healthier person.”

What Makes Weight Gain So Difficult?

Long-term food deprivation makes the process of gaining weight extremely taxing on your body and mind. In addition to the immense psychological difficulties associated with eating to gain weight, a person recovering from anorexia will also find it physically exhausting to chew, swallow, and digest normal amounts of food.

What is Refeeding Syndrome?

In serious cases of food deprivation and malnutrition, people recovering from anorexia may be at risk of refeeding syndrome, a condition caused by the abrupt reintroduction of nutrients to malnourished or emaciated individuals.

Put simply, refeeding syndrome occurs when there is a sudden influx of nutrients in the body. The body’s standard response to a rapid change in nutrient levels is to increase the cellular production of glycogen, protein, and fat. However, the subsequent synthesis of these molecules can lead to a life-threatening drop in the concentration of key electrolytes – namely, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus – in the bloodstream.

To minimize the chance of experiencing refeeding syndrome, people gaining weight after an eating disorder should employ the following precautions during refeeding:

If an individual is severely malnourished, refeeding must be conducted and monitored in the safety of a hospital. The reintroduction of nutrients and electrolytes should begin with a light broth or salted soup. And, the reintroduction of solid foods should be accompanied by thiamine, multivitamin, and vitamin B complex supplementation.

Sources: Eating Disorder Hope, Mirror Mirror, Healthline

Photo: Pexels

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