Since I currently am on the clock at work with nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs (who came up with that phrase? The word twiddle is awful.) I decided to start taking a crack at all of the questions you guys asked me!
(It’s literally Monday at 10:58 and I’m already counting down until Friday.)
The purpose of this post is to address many frequently asked questions that I get from blog readers and others, so that I don’t find myself repeating myself all of the time and trying to remember how I answered the question the previous time!
Thank you so much for all of your lovely questions. Let’s hop right into this FAQ!
Q: Did you ever consider in-patient treatment, and if so which places did you consider? If you were to relapse would you consider it in the future?
A: To answer a long question shortly–no. (But I can’t answer anything with a short answer so here were go.)
I was told by my doctor and one therapist that I would 99% need to be hospitalized and then put into a residential treatment center if I wanted to recover. Not only was I so severely malnourished and essentially dying with a resting heart rate of 30, but I was told that I was already past the mental point of being able to choose recovery for myself. I had “passed my window of opportunity.” I never considered inpatient no matter how many times I was persuaded to go immediately. As you guys know, I’m very dedicated to school (graduating early) and work (50 hours a week) and I was not about to put my life on hold to leave for treatment. My older sister went to a treatment center here in Reno about 6 years ago–Center for Hope of the Sierras–so if I WERE to go, it would probably be that one since it’s close. However, I did not want to go. I had no desire to recover. Once I had a very spiritual and near death experience, I was able to begin to recover on my OWN and regain enough weight to get death off my shoulders.
In the future, if I WERE to relapse, (I’M TOTALLY NOT GOING TO BUT LET’S JUST PRETEND FOR THE SAKE OF THE QUESTION) I would maybe consider doing a day-patient program. I would not ever consider residential because I don’t like the comparison and drama that goes on in those places. I think that does more mental harm than good. Also, I like to poop with the door shut.
Q: Do you think your recovery process would have been possible without doctor/therapy visits?
A: Absolutely. While I love my doctor dearly, the only benefit of me going there was to physically get checked up and occasionally be prescribed medications. I saw 4 different therapists, none of them more than twice, and those absolutely did more harm than good. For most people I HIGHLY recommend a treatment team. Like, highly, highly, HIGHLY. For me personally, I know I have the stubborn yet strong-willed attitude to do this on my own. I rarely see my doctor anymore and I never see my nutritionist or a therapist. I’m still going strong. 🙂
Q: Do you see friends/family/coping strategies as good enough recovery tools?
A: I think it’s different for everyone. For me, I’m not around my family much so as great and supportive as they are I don’t utilize them as a “recovery tool.” I also don’t involve friends in my recovery, mostly because every time I have done so it has backfired because no one knows how to properly be a supportive friend for someone with an eating disorder, and nearly all of my friends are avid dieters, fitness gurus, etc. SO, I just steer clear of that path. As far as coping strategies, I would say those have been most important for me. But honestly the biggest thing has been just being my own motivator and referring back to my list of “why I want to recover” as well as just sucking it up and eating a lot.
Q: Was there a time when you knew you needed to gain but you liked/were comfortable with your appearance, therefore you attempted the weight gain but not to the extent that would make a significant difference?
A: Wow, that’s an interesting one. The thing is I still have a lot of weight to gain so I don’t know that I can honestly answer this one yet. I will say that a huge part of recovery is letting go of vain ideals and just letting your body do its thing. I don’t want to try and shape my body into something that I see as beautiful, so I haven’t really been hyperfocused on that. I still need to gain, but I’m not necessarily in love with my appearance as it is, so I’m just doing it anyway. I don’t think I will ever honestly “love” the way my body looks, but that’s not important, anyway.
Q: When you first started recovery, how fast did you start seeing gains and up to what point (ie: first 10 lbs come on quick) and how soon and often did you have to raise your intake?
(TW: numbers will be mentioned in my response.)
A: I started gaining weight immediately. When I began eating 3,000 calories a day it was after a period of me restricting to a third of that much and running about 8 miles a week (not much I know, but my body is very responsive to any diet and exercise tweaks.) I immediately stopped exercising and began eating 3,000 calories. I did not gradually increase my intake. (Maybe I should have, but I didn’t and I didn’t die haha.) Anyway, I was about 70ish pounds at that point. Within a week I had gained about 8 pounds (water retention) and by two weeks I remember weighing 84 pounds. 14 pounds in two weeks! However, after that things leveled off and by a month I weighed 90 pounds. I stayed there for a long time. My body was no longer gaining on 3,000 calories and so I had to increase. Now, this story is not finished yet because that is the weight that I am around today. HOWEVER, I currently eat at least 5,500 every day (thanks ensures) and my body has FINALLY began to adapt to this amount of calories. I haven’t weighed myself in probably 3 weeks, but I know I’m above 90 pounds now. Even on days when I eat 9,000 calories because of extreme hunger (usually happens 1-2 nights a week) my body burns it all off because my metabolism is on fire from that initial increase of 3,000. That’s why I absolutely recommend jumping right into the increase and not slowly doing it.
Q: Did you ever experience extreme thirst during refeeding?
A: OH MY GOSH, YES! My doctor pounded it into my head to make sure I was only drinking calorically dense beverages, so I did that. I only drank shakes, ensures, etc. I soon realized that those do not quench thirst. I was literally scared to drink water, though, because I didn’t want to fill up my stomach any more than it already was! After a couple weeks I couldn’t take it anymore and just started drinking water again. I may have been fuller but at least I wasn’t like Spongebob in that episode where he visits Sandy’s treedome.
Q: While you were home, was there anything your parents or loved ones did to try and help you in the beginning-like take away measuring cups or special dishware you would use, hide your “safe” foods, monitor activity, take away privileges, give you ultimatums to put impetus in your recovery?
A: Sorry that this isn’t much of an answer, but I don’t really relate to this particular question. I didn’t develop my eating disorder until freshman year of college, so I have never lived at home since then. I also never measured food, used special dishware, exercised obsessively or really had “safe” foods. I know, I’m kind of like a weird case where I honestly did not do many of the behaviors that people with anorexia often practice. I restricted my food, but I still ate like 5 times a day. I exercised, but only a few days a week and nothing too crazy. I just didn’t have any weight to lose in the beginning and so it hit my body hard. ANYWAY, I do visit home occasionally and when I am home no I am not monitored and no there are no privileges taken from me–I’m an adult and my parents know that. However–there were two points where my dad threatened to pull me out of school (because he pays for my schooling) if I did not gain some weight. That never happened despite the fact I actually LOST weight after those “threats” because they simply didn’t know how to deal with the situation. Sorry for that crappy answer, haha.
Q: When you write about how you can’t sleep, do you just get up early and stay up? Do you eat during those hours or do you have a time schedule of when you eat and snack? Or do you just eat at like 3 am if you’re feelin’ hungry, and what kind of things would you eat then?
A: I usually will just stay up and watch Netflix, haha. Yes, I eat during that time. Normally it’s my hunger that awakens me, so I will eat. I used to have a “schedule” of eating for the first 3-4 months of recovery simply because my hunger cues weren’t there, but now I’m to a point where I get hungry a lot so I trust those signals. If I’m hungry I eat. Funny you mention 3 am, because this morning at 3:07 am I woke up and ate some chicken, a Quest Bar and a Sees Candy bar. Hahaha. So yeah, normally I’ll just eat random snacks mostly because I don’t want to be in the kitchen being Chef Annie while everyone else is sleeping like a normal human. 🙂
Q: Do you think the Ed voice will linger in your head for your entire life and you just need to tame it or do you think you can have it completely disappear?
A: Although I try to be optimistic I definitely believe that I’ll have this forever. I’ve accepted that, and I’ve learned that as long as I’m not listening to the voice that it will be okay. Sure I’d like to completely wipe it away and live “normally” but I think that for me it will never be possible.
Q: Do you think the fact that you’re naturally small and underweight gives you a “recovery advantage” ?
A: Absolutely not. Even though I am naturally under what is considered a “healthy” BMI it doesn’t discount how hard it was for me mentally to gain weight, and to still keep gaining weight. Weight gain of any kind is challenging. Sure, I can look back and see how awful I looked at 70 lbs and be glad that I’m not there anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with my body right now. That doesn’t mean it makes it easier for me to eat 6,000 calories a day while everyone else is eating a fraction of that and always comments on how much I’m eating. So, no, I don’t think I have an “advantage.” My body dysmorphia prevents me from even seeing that I’m underweight, so it wouldn’t matter if I was technically healthy anyway because regardless I still see myself differently than I am. I hope that made sense.
Q: Do you have any other health issues like problems with your thyroid? Adrenals? IBS? Anything like that?
A: All of the above! I have an overactive thyroid actually, which makes it even HARDER to gain weight. My kidneys are pretty screwed up. All my hormones are out of whack and I still haven’t had a period yet. The worst is IBS. It affects me all day every day. I can’t stick to a low FODMAP diet because it’s too restrictive and I like ice cream too much. I have a constant stomachache that never goes away, and at night it’s almost unbearable. I also poop at least 10 times a day. It’s kind of out of control. Hahaha.
Q: Did you eat a lot of easier to digest foods in the beginning or did you stick to “healthy” foods?
A: Definitely easy to digest foods. From January-March I didn’t eat a single fruit or vegetable. I ate 99% processed, dense foods because I just wanted to get in calories and be done! Although, I ate a lot of ice cream at this time (oh wait I still do) so it wasn’t necessarily easy for MY digestion…but, yes. I stuck to processed, and honestly that’s still the majority of my diet. When you’re recovering from restriction it doesn’t matter what the heck you eat. I remember when I used to track and every day my sugar was around 300g. It’s fine. Just get the calories! Also–don’t go overboard on protein. That’ll mess up your digestion and kidneys for sure. High fat foods are great because of their high calorie per gram content, and carbs are quicker digesting, so stick to mainly those. You’ll get enough protein.
Q: Were you aware of your Ed behaviors? How did you break them? Was it hard?
A: Yes. The behaviors changed a lot as I went through different stages of my eating disorder, as well. Some would die, others would intensify, and new ones would come up. I essentially had to just start doing the opposite of what my eating disorder wanted me to. Even in recovery, breaking my “meal plan” times was hard. Now, it’s a breeze. I used to think I couldn’t eat between snacks or past a certain time but now I just say screw it. I used to not want to go over a certain number of carbs and now I don’t even count once I get to 300. You just have to do exactly what you feel like you don’t want to do, because it’s just what your eating disorder is telling you. Actively challenge the voice. If you’re still hungry after you reached your minimum, tell yourself that you’re going to honor that hunger and then DO it. We weren’t meant to eat a certain number every day because every day is different! Bit of a tangent, but just go with it.
There were a few more questions that I chose not to answer because I couldn’t think of a way to answer them without being triggering! If I didn’t answer a question feel free to e-mail me and I can answer it that way.
I hope this post will prove itself to be useful in the future! Any other common questions I receive will be added to this post over time.