Ask Alfonso: Has My Anorexia Ruined My Metabolism?
I’m an athlete who’s also struggled with anorexia/bulimia nervosa for years. I have been recovering over the past two years, and really trying to get my nutrition back on track. My question is, have I done irreversible damage?
I have actually put on more weight than I am comfortable having, I’m sure mainly due to malnutrition over the years. But now I really want to maintain a healthy weight and am afraid I have screwed up my metabolism for LIFE!
What can I do?
First of all I want to say congratulations for taking the road to recovery and most importantly for addressing the issue of taking care of your health. I studied eating disorders for a while and what I know is that it’s a psychological and emotional issue that disrupts a healthy relationship with food amongst other things. I don’t need to tell you how dangerous eating disorders can be. They literally disrupt every process within your body, from ruining stomach enzymes, rotting your teeth, causing heart problems, and ruining the functionality and harmony of vital organs. Of course ultimately if untreated it can lead to death.
I’m not pretending to be a therapist or overstep my bounds, but the very fact that you’re asking and aware of your issues tells me you most likely have sought therapy or are part of a program. To that I applaud you and say keep it up! I speak with a therapist at least once per week, as it keeps me sane!
Now to the issue of your metabolism, I recommend that you seek a qualified doctor and or nutritionist to help you if you haven’t already, but I’ll tell you my thoughts. When you take in considerably less calories than your body needs, you lose weight and a lot of it. But this is generally not the type of weight loss you’d be looking for. Your body will eat up muscle tissue and strip it down for fuel when it’s starved. Less muscle equals a slower metabolism, after all muscle is essentially your body’s furnace.
I know you’re uncomfortable with your current weight and I’m sure it’s a daily struggle. But you didn’t say what kind of weight you’ve gained; is it fat weight, or do you have a healthy body fat (18-26%) and are just unhappy with what the scale tells you? My first recommendation is to toss the scale out the window if you do have one because they’re useless in that they can’t tell you what your body composition is. Even the fancy electronic body fat testing varieties are inconsistent with their results. And second, having a scale breeds obsessive behavior, which is not something I recommend to anyone watching his or her weight.
If you’ve gained too much fat weight it is most likely a sign that you ate too many calories too soon when recovering from your disorder. It takes your body time to acclimate to new calorie amounts and I usually recommend a increase or decrease of no more than 100 – 150 calories per day for two weeks at a time for this adjustment period. Keep in mind this is just a suggestion, not a rule, but I’ve found it gives people a great baseline to monitor their metabolism without seeming overwhelming mentally.
You also didn’t tell me your age, medical history and other pertinent information that may contribute to issues with your weight gain. Now it’s entirely possible that malnutrition has caused damage to your thyroid and pituitary gland as well as eschewing normal body processes. In some cases of recovering bulimics and anorexics, everything can return to normal, while in others, depending on the severity and how long a person suffered for, it may be an ongoing issue. Again, I’ll suggest you see a professional as this something that a competent doctor can help you with. They can monitor your thyroid and other related glands that affect metabolism and tell you your standing. Unless you know these crucial stats, you’re throwing darts in the dark. I can’t tell you if any damage that may have been done is peramanent.
What I will say is that regardless of what you’re told, you’re doing the right thing and on your way to a healthier self. Don’t allow your weight to define who you are, that’s exactly the mindset I don’t want you to have. I’ve learned you can’t say ‘should have’, or ‘I wish’, as it does you no good. All you can do is start each day with the intention of being better than yesterday, and making better choices to improve your health. Yes, you can influence your weight by how much and what you eat, but truthfully I want to see you focus on your health and not how you look. An intelligent workout program that includes various forms of exercise combined with a healthy eating plan can only bring positive benefits to your life.
So keep up the good work and stay focused on the goal. I’m sure with time and a commitment to yourself, you’ll find just the right balance that makes you happy.
Let me know how it goes and if any of you out there would like to book a more in-depth consultation with me – just drop me a line via the How To Book button in the sidebar.
And if you have a question – please just click here. I’d love to help you!
All information contained within this site, Angry Trainer Fitness.com, is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any health problem – nor is it intended to replace the advice of a physician. No action should be taken solely on the contents of this website. Always consult your physician or qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health or on any opinions expressed within this website. Please see your physician before changing your diet, starting an exercise program, or taking any supplements of any kind.
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