Weight Loss in Recovery

Cover photo from Celebrate Creativity: See it here.

Is it possible to lose weight healthily during eating disorder recovery? Sometimes all I want to do is be able to lose a pound or two “normally.” To count calories regularly and moderate my portions without going overboard, counting obsessively all day and measuring every bite I take.

Weight loss during recovery (assuming you are at a healthy, sustainable weight and/or overweight) seems impossible. So much of what happens during recovery is acting out extremes. You can’t just lose one pound, it has to be ten. You can’t just exercise once a day, it has to be four times. Eating disorder behaviors are usually the extremes of normal behaviors, and anyone who’s struggled with them is probably familiar with the relentless pull to continue those behaviors.

That’s why I ask if “healthy” weight loss is even a possibility for a recovering/recovered ED person. Trying to lose weight is triggering for most recoverers most of the time and often spirals into relapse-type situations.

If it IS possible, then how? And, frighteningly, if it’s not possible to lose weight as someone with an eating disorder without it spiraling out of control, what do you do if weight loss would greatly improve your physical health?

Obviously, these questions are in and of themselves problematic. Recovering/recovered ED folks probably shouldn’t think about weight loss, but the reality is different, and it is twofold. One, the desire to be thinner is difficult to suppress, and the desire presents itself often. Two, there are times in life when we are told (by doctors, for example) that we need to lose weight to improve our health. What do we do then?

This is especially true for bingers. Part of recovering from BED (binge eating disorder), from bulimia, binge-purge anorexia, or EDNOS is understanding that weight doesn’t matter, and that attempting to lose weight exacerbates behaviors. But for lots of bingers, weight gain can be a problem in particular, to the point where it can lead to health issues (i.e. high blood pressure, joint inflammation, etc.)

That is why it’s necessary to ask this question. I won’t lie– part of me in this moment is only asking for ed-fueled and self-absorbed reasons, since I’m uncomfortable with the way my body looks. But primarily I’m asking because weight loss can sometimes be necessary. So if you’re a recoverer, are you stuck? Am I stuck? Will a pursuit of weight loss always, inevitably lead to relapse?


Photo from the Odyssey online, Nov. 2016. Check out the article here.

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