“Water retention. Massivewater retention. Water retention thathurts. Water retention that aches. Water retention that makes youlook pregnant. Water retention that looks like it might be realweight. Water retention that adds 16 lbs. or more on the scale after only 2-3 days of eating recovery guideline amounts of food. Water retention that scares you. Water retention that sends you scurrying back into full-blown relapse.” Source.
Yeah. Water retention and bloating is the current bane of my existence. However, I’m trying to remind myself that stopping what I’m doing will only make it worse, and that the only way out is through. I have to keep eating this amount to get my body’s trust back and allow it to stop holding on to everything I put into it. Seriously, the water retention is real.
It’s scary because I have myself its real weight gain. I know that logically it’s impossible to gain 10 lbs in 10 days unless I ate upwards of 50,000 calories, which I haven’t. It’s all water weight, with probably 1-2 lbs of actual flesh & bone weight gain.
“But I can tell you, when you invariably do step on the scales or weigh yourself, that it is not physically possible to gain ____ (fill in your amount here) amount of weight in ____ (fill in time span here) and that you need to get rid of the scales altogether.
I can also tell you that you do not need to weigh yourself at all in recovery. You have nothing to monitor because your weight will stop increasing as soon as you reach your body’s optimal weight set point. Yep. No exceptions.
I can also assure you that when you tell me ____ (fill in the weight gain here) seems too much, too fast, unique, unusual, never seen before—it is indeed water retention.
And finally, I am so phenomenally omniscient that I can predict that none of the past six paragraphs will mean a thing to you and you will have to post in the Is This Normal? forum on this site to ask whether: 1) Am I almost done in my recovery process (because I am almost at a normal weight)? or 2) So scared—is this weight gain going to slow down? or 3) This can’t all be real weight, right?
However, I may just send you back here at that point for the answers: 1) No 2) Yes 3) Right.”
Haha, so true. IS THIS NORMAL?! Yes, it literally happens to everyone in recovery and everyone can relate to it. In fact, if you don’t experience water retention I think you are the weird one.
“The water retention in recovery is fluid being retained in areas where a whole mess of damage is being cleaned up and removed by all those fabulous cells dedicated to the task. The fluid actually speeds up the process because things travel faster in and out that way.
And the sore is the body’s way of trying to keep you immobile—it’s a bit harder for the gondolas to do their job if you either flush all the water away with diuretics or you decide to ignore the pain and slosh everything all over the place instead.
Sore is the signal to rest.
That swelling is a badge of healing honor.
You do not want to try to make the water retention go away because with it will go the healing process as well.”
Ahh, peace of mind. Despite how disgusting I feel I know that oddly enough, this water retention is a blessing. Imagine that.
(Phase one) “The body seems to gain 7-16 lbs. in the first couple of months. An anorexic that has not been prepared for this will panic and restrict before she gets too far along. The “weight” almost exclusively water hoarding. The body needs the water for cellular repair. The water retention dissipates past the second month, but only if the anorexic is reliably eating 2500 calories every day throughout that time.”
OKAY, that’s enough motivation for me to keep eating this amount if it will go away in a couple of months. Sheesh, that seems so far away right now. *sigh*
(Phase 2) “…the body preferentially lays down fat around the mid-section to insulate those vital organs. Again, an anorexic that is not prepared for this will freak. You can feel huge (a combination of fat around the middle and the residual bloating and gas of a digestive system struggling to get up to speed again). Unfortunately, many relapse here.
The redistribution of all that fat around the mid-section to the rest of the body only occurs if the anorexic persists right to the final phase.”
I’m not excited for phase 2 because that’s when real weight will cover my midsection. Blehhhh.
Andd finally, phase three:
“Assuming you have been purposefully eating your 2500 calories (minimum) right up to this phase, then you start to get rewarded for all your hard work to help your body repair itself…
This occurs about 4-6 months along the recovery path (depending on the starting point) and will be around BMI 18.5-20.
A few anorexics will resume their menstrual cycles at this point, although they are the minority.
Unfortunately this is often when an almost-fully recovered anorexic makes a series of mistakes (often also due to misguided advice even from her own medical and professional team). She assumes she can now maintain her weight and that she is recovered.
Instead, she relapses again [no matter to what extent] within the year. Why?
Final Critical Phase: Leptin or relapse.
It is rare that an ED patient will attain pre-ED leptin [‘hunger hormone’] levels at BMI 18.5-20. Usually, due to the physiological implications of having an ED, leptin levels are lower in recovered ED patients than in normal controls who are exactly the same weight/height/age as the ED patient.
Furthermore, [only a very small percentage of the population] is naturally at BMI 18.5-20—i.e. naturally thin.
To get an optimal leptin level as a recovered ED patient, you need to shoot for BMI 21-25. We know that the higher a recovered ED patient ends up on the BMI scale, the less likely she is to relapse.
From there, you can now maintain your weight—but even then there is a catch. You maintain by eating the amount you ate to regain all the weight in the first place. So in fact you don’t maintain your weight, your body does.
You would think that doing that would mean you will actually just keep gaining and gaining.
Instead, once your body reaches its own optimal weight set point (and only your body decides what that is) then it just stops gaining weight and starts maintaining the optimal set point it has reached. It does this seamlessly because the metabolic rate moves back into the optimal range at that same time and biological functions that were on hold are now back on line.
You gain weight through all those phases of recovery because the metabolism is suppressed—that energy went to weight gain and repair. But now you are recovered, the energy now goes to day-to-day functions (all the neuroendocrine systems that had been on hold up to that point).
You gain on 2500 and then you maintain on right about the same amount. And once you stop gaining weight then you can also depend on your hunger cues to keep you eating what your body needs to maintain your health and weight for the rest of your life.”
Hmmm. Well, pre ED I wasn’t even at a BMI of 18.5, so I am confident that I am part of that 1-2% of the population that is “naturally thin”. Plus, my entire family is the same way. This reassures me a little.
Anyway, there’s some help for those of you struggling with the same thing I’m going through right now. Water retention, bloating, everything going ONLY to your tummy–that will only go away if you KEEP EATING THE MINIMUMS OR MORE because if you stop it will only continue. Keep on keepin’ on.