Does your metabolism ever recover from having an eating disorder?

As someone who’s recovered from an eating disorder this topic has plagued me for a long time. You hear horror stories of yo-yo dieters that are unable to lose weight because years of starvation lead to a metabolism that basically doesn’t work anymore. I’ve often said things myself such as, “I probably screwed up my metabolism for life!” or “These years of dieting have really done me in.” I decided to get rid of these thoughts and instead search through my great old buddy, PubMed. PubMed is a giant database of scientifically published articles about anything and everything science related. So I took an entire afternoon researching how metabolism fairs long-term and short term in recovering anorexics.

My first study looked at the differences between resting energy expenditure (REE, you may be used to calling this your BMR) and respiratory quotient (RQ) between recovered anorexics who’ve been recovered for 2 years and women who were never anorexic. The conclusion? No difference. Recovered anorexics had a higher rate of fat oxidation (the body’s ability to break down big fat molecules and use them for energy), but even then the differences in body composition were basically null. Anorexics two years out of recovery had about the same BMR as those who were never anorexic.

I didn’t stop there.

This study on adolescents followed anorexics during starvation and during refeeding. This study is slightly older (1997) but has been a source for a lot of research since then. They compared the theoretical BMR/REE of starving anorexics using the Harris-Benedict equation and found that anorexics had an even LOWER BMR/REE than they thought. When you’re starving, your BMR/REE is lower than hypothesized. As the study went on they re-did this measurements. They found that their BMR increased significantly within the first two weeks of refeeding (anywhere between 72-85% of what was predicted based on the previous equation mentioned). In conclusion, anorexics who are fasting/starving have a lower BMR to adapt to decreased food intake. As they were refed, their BMR increased within predicted parameters. It’s important to note, too, that it had no affect on energy intake or thyroid function.

What about in those of us who are within the first weeks of recovery and are slowly gaining weight? How much of that is fat?

This study didn’t directly test that, but gave some important evidence to suggest an outcome. The main purpose of this study was to find a good way to track weight gain. Should skin fold tests or underwater weighing be used? Any of us who’ve used an online calculator or BMR know that those things can tell us 8 different numbers on any given day. This study was similar. They found that 55.5% of weight gained back was fat. Ouch. But don’t fret – look at the previous studies. It levels out. Reading into the conclusion they hypothesized that this was mostly due to the fact that anorexics often have EXTREMELY low body fat percentages. To gain weight and only half of it be fat isn’t really as bad as it seems. Plus, this study found that anorexics had a high use of carbohydrates during overnight fasting. Basically, anorexics metabolized carbohydrates at a higher rate than normal. It makes sense that refeeding would lead to a higher gain in fat.

And finally, the Holy Grail in these studies was one done in 1991.

This study looked at calorie requirements for weight maintenance of anorexics and bulimics. They took anorexics who were 4 weeks into recovery and at 95%-100% of normal body weight vs. bulimics who were 1-4 weeks into recovery and at a normal body weight and compared their caloric intake and weight gain. The results?

After weight restoration, restricting anorexic patients required significantly more calories per day to maintain weight than did bulimic anorexic patients, as measured with corrections for weight, body surface area, and fat-free mass. Previously anorexic normal-weight bulimic patients required significantly more calories per day to maintain weight than never-anorexic normal-weight bulimic patients, as measured with correction for weight but not with the other factors used to correct caloric intake

Now, this study came with some caveats in the conclusion.

Differences in caloric needs between normal-weight bulimic patients with and without histories of anorexiamay depend on the methods used to correct caloric requirements. Body surface area may be the most precise correction factor across different subgroups of eating disorder patients. Elevated caloric requirements, when coupled with reduced food intake, may particularly contribute to relapse in anorexic patients.

Did you guys read that last part? Remember that every time you feel a relapse. There are medical reasons behind these feelings, they are normal.

In conclusion – I was wrong. My metabolism is not permanently screwed up. Neither is yours. Initially we gain back weight that was important for our survival, as shown by how low our metabolism got when we were at our sickest. After that? Our metabolism and body requirements mirror those of people who NEVER suffered through an eating disorder. Who else can benefit from these studies? Yo-yo dieters, chronic dieters, people trying to slowly go into Intuitive Eating…these studies cross a wide range of potential eating issues.

Recovery is possible. It’s a long term uphill battle and never an overnight thing. Give your body time to adjust, your mind time to adjust, and find lots of support and love amongst those around you. You have time to turn your life around, it’s never too late.

Comments (55)

  1. mila

    I can’t believe nobody has ever commented here before! Thank you so much for this insight. I am 13 months into recovery, not exercising, and eating fairly voraciously (and have been perusing youreatopia.com religiously the whole time) after 15 years w/ ED and I’ve recently got so down on myself because this gain has been painfully slow, and so often I am still exhausted and tired and hungry. I realize it takes a long time, but it’s wonderful to hear from different sources. Thank you!!

    Reply
    1. Deon

      How to u manage to eat without binging and purge? From the day start what u eat? Can u help mi with diet plan? Im afraid to get refeeding or sudden swollen);

      Reply
      1. Pip

        Begin to avoid large periods of restrictions. It’s handy to have a snack in between meals to decrease those urges. Best of luck! You can do this!

        Reply
  2. Von Gillette

    Awesome review! I am hopeful this will encourage individuals with a history of eating disorders to do their best with good nutritional habits and physical activity. Make no mistake, metabolisms truly do slow down, but not when we’re eating normally. When a person doesn’t really know how much their getting in, websites can calculate how much you are getting in and chances are, it’s a lot more than people think.

    Reply
  3. Kat

    Very informative! I have been in recovery for almost a year from my third relapse and have been very paranoid about my metabolism. Though I am curious as to whether there is a certain caloric intake needed to recover metabolism or if it may recover fully but just take longer if you’re not at that optimum number (if it exists.) To support the BMR in recovering anorexics, usually it is believed that a women’s BMR is around 1200, however I had an assessment done in a BOD POD and my BMR was only 1129. Despite this, I still have days where I’m hungry no matter what I eat. It’s very comforting to know that I have not ruined my body completely!

    Reply
    1. Dasha

      I’m two years in recovery….
      And right at this moment I feel so gross, and sooo ft. I am almost on the brink of starting up another. HIT with out daily session and go back to several hours of gym again.. what is wrong with me… my legs are huge. I feel gross. Obese…… idk what todo and how to know that is is all part of the process…. I am trying to find food freedom. I am trying to be okay with eating and not purging… but some days I just want to…. any insight…

      Reply
  4. tilly

    Thank you so much for this, I am about to begin recovery for the second time and have been terrified that my metabolism will be ruined for life so this is such a relief to read, thank you thank you thank you!

    Reply
    1. Deon

      How to u manage to eat without binging and purge? From the day start what u eat? Can u help mi with diet plan? Im afraid to get refeeding or sudden swollen);

      Reply
  5. Kitkat

    Thank you so much. This is great research and I’m so glad I found it 🙂 You have made my night!

    Reply
  6. eva

    Thank you. I have been warning ppl not to dissuade recovery.

    Reply
  7. eva

    If “they” keep saying weight cycling causes weight gain, good luck getting the ED’ed to recover and dieters to stop, right?

    Reply
  8. jimena

    Hello, I would love some advice from anyone on here that has gone through recovery or tht has some knowledge on ed because I am a way in university and have had a hard time getting help.
    I’m a 19 y/o girl, 5’5.5 and around 116lbs. I lost about 40lbs with a year of undereating and over exersice but I gained up to my current weight eating 2500+cals. For the past 8 months I have been maintaing this weight. However 3 months ago I started weightlifting 3times a week and my calories have dropped to around 2000.
    My question is am I still supressing my metabolism or have I hit my setpoint? After reading this it made me think that I should be maintainn more…however for the past few days I tried eating 3000cals to see if I could rev up my metabolism again but I’ve had to force the food which makes me think that maybe I shouldn’t do this? I thought reactive eating would hit again but it didn’t.
    Thanks!

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    1. Rach

      I really wish i could believe this, but i recovered on around 1600 calls and then dropped to 1200-300 as i got back to a more normal weight. I have never eaten above 1600 in my recovery but just keep on gaining. I feel like i am living on a diet and am still getting fatter and fatter. I am seriously giving up, im terrified of food, living on a restricitve diet and getting fatter by the day, i just want to totally give up 🙁 its not fair is there something wrong with my metabolism ? ?

      Reply
      1. Barb

        Rach, I’m in exactly the same boat as you. My fear that I won’t be able to get back to anything close to “normal” again is getting bigger all the time. The articles noted above help, but I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone!

        Reply
        1. Amanda Lue

          Hey Rach and Barb I’m going through the same thing. I’m in recovery from anorexia and I find it hard to eat 1500 calories. I’m only 5′ ft and all the calorie calculators online say i need 1300-1600 to maintain my weight but if I eat this amount I’m starving. I feel like I’m eating way too much. I look at what a normal person eats and I’m like If I ate that I would be so hungry. But I don’t want to keep gaining weight. I’m actually trying to lose but I’m not trying to go back to what I was before. It’s very frustrating. Even my mom thinks I’m eating too much. Whereas before she would beg me to eat more (when I was secretly starving myself). Now she tells me that it’s not normal for me to eat that much. It’s so stressful! she makes me feel like a greedy person!

          Reply
      2. Lauren

        In recovery you need to come to a place where you literally accept your body as is. How are you even supposed to know what your body is intended to look like at it’s healthiest when you have done everything you can to alter and abuse it to an ideal you have in mind? It has taken me about a year of constant bloating, tears, frustration, anger, resentment at my body, but keep following the acts of recovery and stay fully commited. After over a year I feel myself not giving a second thought about what I am putitng in my mouth, or how much, and I feel comfortable in my skin. I have found other things to occupy my thoughts and other outlets to take out my emotions. Recovery is possible.
        You need to stop expecting anything from your body, like a faster metabolism or any weight expectations. you have abused it in the past, let it breathe, expand, and settle back into it’s set point. I noticed myself more on the edge of relapses when I started over thinking or getting over involved in how my body was recovering. Your body knows what it needs to do to get better and heal. And it took well over a year for my body to heal. Give it time, freedom, and release control.
        And I can say after a year of not counting or calclating or caring, I am at a very healthy weight, and I eat any where from 2,000-5,000 calories in a day. It ranges so much I couldn’t even pin point an average. But I let my body heal, expand, gain the weight, and over time it settled into its set point, and now regulates my intake with out any trouble.
        It’s hard, but recovery is releasing control, giving up on your expectations for your body, and trusting that your body is smarter than you and knows what it needs to heal it’self. Your body is amazing, give it the time and freedom to do it’s job.

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        1. Jennifer

          That’s so beautiful, Lauren. Thank you for sharing. I hope you’re continuing to do well and enjoying life! <3

          Reply
      3. amy

        hi, I have been in recovery from anorexia since 1991. most of those years I act normally (for the most part), exercised some, and still had body image distortion. still do. I had a hysterectomy in 2009. I have gained over 60 lbs. in the last year and a half. endo says no problems with thyroid or hormones. no ultrasounds show anything either. I do not overeat. I am still working and active. I don’t understand why I am still gaining. I am planning on a gastric sleeve this December.

        Reply
      4. Amber

        Oh my gosh FINALLY I found someone with the same issues as me! I am literally in the exact same boat as you and feel the exact same way. I eat so clean and workout and I am as healthy as one can be and I literally am gaining weight SO FAST and so much:/ I hate it! I literally feel like i am helpless.

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        1. Sami

          SAME OMG. I work out so much but I’ve been gaining weight SO fast. I eat really healthy and clean and I just don’t understand. In not under eating either. In so confused as to why in gaining so much I feel like a constantly bloated fat balloon.

          Reply
      5. Anonymous

        A woman should be eating 2000-2500 calories a day. 1600, 1200, 1300 is still restriction, causing slow metabolism and weight gain. when I ate 1300 calories a day I weighed about ten pounds more than I currently do weigh, while also currently eating 2000-2500. Sometimes more. I’m slim but healthy. I walk and do light yoga. That’s it. It took time for my body to even out (about 7 months)and so will yours. No reason to starve restrict binge purge or any of that. YouTube search “this girl audra”

        Reply
        1. Charlotte

          Hi anon! Just wondering what your height is? I used to over exercise and now I’m in recovery, I only walk and do yoga too, although I’m 5ft 3 so I’m worried that I’ll have to do more exercise in order to maintain without restricting massively…
          I would like to start exercising again but unfortunately I have just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and have been told I have to take it even easier now. Just gotta keep rowing the boat I guess. Any reply would be appreciated 🙂 hope you’re still recovering well and happy! Xx

          Reply
  9. Donna

    Amanda, Rach & Barb….Deep nods of empathy…finding myself in the precise place you are all in….Amanda’s commenting on the intense frustration one feels with trying to “eat the food” for repair is simply spot on. My daughter had said to me, whilst in the midst of recovery, that perhaps I should just “eat less”…but I was hungry, and this comment made me feel greedy and quite “piggy”…but I truly wanted to eat what I felt I needed…but once the truly skeletal/emaciated aspect of my anorexia “wore off”…the entourage falsely “assumed” that everything was “hokey-dokey”…or at least getting better. It is deeply frustrating, in recovery, to let go of “the reins” and do what one’s “lizard brain” would have them do to truly reach a true point of recovery (namely eating to satisfaction) when one is also dealing with developing an identity outside of anorexia and, importantly, not constantly comparing one’s own plate to anthers. I personally find this excruciating. My husband’s appetite is actually less than my own. He is 6’1″…I am 5″2..go figure. He is not “aware” of my hunger nor of my ever-present “battle” in suppressing it…all things to work through with my new ED team. Please all of you beautiful souls…listen to your “lizard brains” and really, really TRY to ignore all thoughts of “this is too much…or my metabolism is broken for life”-type thoughts…because if you DO heed them…you will find yourselves…alas…in the same regression/relapse I provided for myself. Inner power, love and courage to you all.

    Reply
    1. Emily

      I was exactly the same way when I was recovering from anorexia. I was absolutely starving all the time, sometimes eating up to 3000 calories a day. It freaked me out but my body’s cries for food and nutrients were stronger than my anorexic thoughts. The extreme hunger settled down as I neared a healthy weight, but even now, recovered, I find myself eating a lot more than other people. I don’t let it bother me though, as I now focus on eating for myself and my body, and not comparing myself to other people.

      Reply
  10. Archie

    Hallo everyone, it’s a relief to have come across this discussion 🙂 I have been in full-blown recovery from a 9 year spell with anorexia for about 8 months now, following 10 months in hospital AND, I am loving every moment 🙂 I am genuinely past calorie-counting, having my life ruled by food or body image, the constant fear and anxiety and daily grinding commitment that this dreadful illness inflicts. Having said this, I have been having a bit of trouble getting my weight to stabilise, and I don’t mean because it’s dropping. Since I left hospital at a healthy BMI right in the middle of the range, I have been on a pretty normal (perhaps quite light, my dietician says) ‘meal plan’, although I can happily eat outside of it, it’s just there for a bit of structure as I work well like that but, the weight has continued to simply go on creeping up. I have to be extremely careful with activity levels as compulsive exercise was half my problem but I do walk the dog every day and have now reached a stage where I can do that pretty strenuously without it triggering me back into obsessive territory. I do eat more sometimes – if we go out, or the odd takeaway – but generally my dietician agrees that with what I eat on a normal day, and with the hour worth of dog walking, there is no way I should be able to continue to gain sometimes up to 3kg a month (thyroid etc has been checked and no I’m not pregnant 🙂 ) I am a bit confused reading about the metabolism returning to normal, because it seems as though you are talking about a metabolism that KEEPS on burning too high, when I have always understood a post-anorexic messed up metabolism to be one that doesn’t burn enough (because it will go on hanging on to everything it is given for a long long time, until it can really trust that it’s not going to be starved anymore). Please could someone clarify to me whether it can be the case that if you are not eating enough (which may be the case with me), the metabolism actually won’t fire on all cylinders and weight gain may continue? I had read previously that this was the case, but I can’t untangle whether that’s what’s being said here! Which is just me being dim 🙂

    I am not stressing about this particularly (think my dietician is stressing more than I am), as I would RATHER WEIGHT A COUPLE OF STONE MORE THAN NECESSARY AND NOT HAVE AN EATING DISORDER than have to live in the torture of before, I mean that genuinely 🙂 But no-one wants to see their weight going up continually when there technically should be no reason, and as this is now the 8th month this has been happening I just feel as though it would be nice to have a little bit of a break from it 🙂 Any answers appreciated 🙂
    And to all of you who are struggling with the ridiculously difficult mountain that is the way to recovery, keep going – you’re all being incredibly brave. There will be a point for every single (real) mountain climber where they’re exhausted from the climb but can’t yet see the top and just think to themselves “why the hell am I doing this – there’s no way I can carry on”. But do, DO carry on. I cannot promise you enough how wonderful is the view from the top 🙂 xxx

    (p.s. thank you for reading my silly-long post) x

    Reply
  11. Archie

    And one last thing – I am still hungry, like – ALL the time. As in, each time I eat just want to carry on eating forever. This has become a bit better over the past couple of months….but still! I am not even in the weight-restoration stage (believe me, I am not in that stage!), so it’s not as if my body can be telling me to keep going! Honestly, the body’s very impressive and all that with how clever it is at knowing what needs to be done and just doing it, but still! 😉 x

    Reply
  12. Coba

    Hey!
    I have been in recovery for almost two months now. I has foot surgery, and decided that I would face ed recovery along with my surgery recovery, knowing id be on medications and need to be not only eating, but keeping it down as well. I have been reading a lot of blogs, and have instead of seeing a therapist reached out to my family and a few friends. Few of the people I have reached out too know the dirty details, while the others just know I have issues with eating and want to start having a normal diet along with thoughts. With the reaching out, along came preparation for weight gain, good days and bad days. I don’t have a scale in my house, nor do I count calories. I took a nutrition class and my brother is a personal trainer. I cook healthy meals and eat when I’m hungry and don’t eat when I’m not. My question is, is there a problem with the eating when hungry and not eating when I’m not? I don’t feel like I’m restricting, except I’m trying to stay away from my old trigger foods for now, only being a month in. Should I be counting my calories and trying to eat when I’m not hungry?

    Reply
  13. Em

    Emily’s comment really reads true for me. After my 4th relapse I have been recovering for 5 months and returned to a normal weight. Essentially I have just stopped weighing myself and now I just eat whatever I want. It is important for me to learn to trust my body because that is what knows how much you really need. Some days I just feel like eating all day and I find that if I stop judging what my body seems to want, then I am less likely to binge eat! That’s a load off. . So trust your body because they are very smart and want to be at a healthy weight range. You may fluctuate up and down (like me with my flow) and thay is normal to gain and lose 5-10 pounds just don’t pay attention to the numbers. You can have your cake and eat it too! 😉

    Reply
  14. Kenzie

    I’ve also always thought that my metabolism was permanently screwed up from my struggles with anorexia. I’ve been gaining some weight lately, and the idea that this permanent scar on my metabolism being the cause has been a pretty bad trigger. Thank you for this post; it really made me feel a lot better.

    Reply
  15. Tiffany

    I’m not an anorexic, but I’m trying to recover from years of dieting/calorie counting, and most recently, a bout with binge eating disorder. I had lost 50 pounds total, from 2010 to 2013. This past spring, I was about 10 pounds heavier than goal weight, when I developed binge eating disorder due to a horrible trauma I experienced. I binged off and on for almost 2 months, during March and April, and I gained 20lbs on my 5’2″ frame. Because of doing OA and working with a therapist, I haven’t binged in almost 90 days, but I have seen NO progress when it comes to losing the weight I put back on. I have a very active job–I’m on my feet for 5-7 hours at a time (I work nights, though–I work 8pm-3am), and I work out 3-4 times a week, and try to eat healthy (though sometimes I overindulge in trigger foods). I am worried that binging destroyed my metabolism/body and I will never be able to lose this weight I gained. I can’t fit in my clothes, and I feel like an utter prisoner in my body. Can anyone help or offer any advice or insight? My therapist tells me I need to wait at least a year for my body to recover, but the thought of waiting a year, and being unable to fit in my clothes and crying every time I see myself, for an entire YEAR, is too much to bear. 🙁

    Reply
  16. Nikki

    I have been suffering with an eating disorder for 30 years. This last recovery period has lasted over 2 years but I barely eat 1200 calories and still gain major amounts of weight. I am heavier now than when I gave birth to my children. I am teetering on a relapse because I can’t bear to gain one more pound. Do you have any suggestions, I really need some guidance

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  17. Rach

    Thank you so much for this. I’m about 6 months into my recovery. I am weight restored, my appetite is starting to settle but my cravings are still there. A lot of the time now I don’t feel absolutely starving all the time like I did at the beginning but I now understand that a lot of my eating is psychological – that it doesn’t matter whether I feel hungry or not I will eat everything of what I put in front of myself. Now I appreciate this I can control things a lot better. When I’m craving stuff I start to worry that I’m going to run out of food and my cupboards can’t look full enough. Which is impossible cuz there is stuff literally everywhere. I can assure everyone that things do settle down eventually – it just takes a long time. Especially if you were at a low body weight to begin with. But keep going, keep reflecting and I promise you will start to gain insight into your eating and start to build a better relationship between yourself and food. Stay strong everybody.

    Rach xx

    Reply
  18. Hannah

    Hello everyone,
    I’m 16 years old and I’ve been suffering with anorexia and binging for around 8 months; although this isn’t as long as a lot of people posting on here I’ve still lost a worrying amount of weight. I need people’s help as I am so desperate to recover and I don’t want this eating disorder to take over my life! My family knows about my disorder and I’m seeing a doctor who is keeping track of my blood pressure and potassium levels but it isn’t helping me put on weight (if anything, the pressure of having to gain weight each week worries me and results in me losing it). However I have family issues going on at home and that’s also one of the reasons this disorder began, I’m sorry this will be rather long but I feel people should know how it started in order to help me treat it.

    I get on on extremely well with my dad but my mum is a different story. She’s an alcoholic and gets drunk every day (from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed). We’ve tried to get her help by sending her to rehab but she’s never recovered. She’s been an alcoholic since I was 2 but when I was 11 she drastically changed her attitude around me and began being psychologically and verbally abusive. She was occasionally violent but it was never too serious, just pulling hair pushing into walls or down stairs etc. Growing up with her was really difficult; every night there was shouting and screaming and I was always scared to return home from school to see her. The fact that she was an alcoholic didn’t bother me too much, but when I was 15 she started telling me that I was extremely fat and overweight. Every time I went to eat something she’d make comments such as “you don’t need anymore food, you’re fat enough as it is’ or ‘stop touching the food you fat bitch” blah blah..I was also sexually assaulted as a child and my mum would tell me “as much as you deserved what you got, I still don’t understand why someone would do anything to somebody as fat and disgusting as you”..anyways, she then started following me around the house everywhere I went, and whenever I ate or made food she would just watch me and continue to make comments. I lost appetite all together and avoided food as much as could, but whenever I ate something I would feel always feel guilty (I never binged at this point though). But she started to get the idea into my head, she would always tell me to go to the toilet and make myself throw up..and then I did. However when I did this (even though she was unaware of it) she would start calling me a psychotic bi**h or tell me I was messed up in the head. I really started to doubt myself and the only thing that made me feel better was losing weight. This carried on for a long time and that’s why I want to stop it now; not only do I want to beat the eating disorder but I want to beat my mum. She still does the same thing all the time and showing her that it doesn’t bother me will destroy her (I don’t mean that in a horrible way..but I kinda do;))

    I used to weigh 8 stone 11 pounds and now I weigh 6 stone 7 pounds (significantly underweight for my height on the BMI chart). I want to put on weight but I don’t want to do it too drastically or obviously, I was wondering if anyone had any diet plans and tips that they could give me to slowly put on, but maintain a healthy weight?

    I’m really sorry for the long comment but any help would be hugely appreciated! Thank you in advance and I hope everyone else who is suffering from this disorder can overcome it:)) x

    Reply
  19. Susanne Linn

    Hi, everyone! I’ve been recovering for 4 months now following the MinnieMaud guidelines to the point. I’m just starting to maintain my weight on the same calorie levels as in recovery and I’m not anywhere close to being overweight (I’m actually quite thin, but normal). The guidelines should be followed if you want to be free from your EDs.

    Please check out http://www.youreatopia.com and letsrecover.tumblr.com for more information supporting the findings in the article above. I promise you that it will be worth it.

    Reply
  20. Nicole

    Thank you for posting this! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one worrying about this.

    Reply
  21. mel

    I wouldn’t say I’m recovering from anorexia, I have recovered. It’s been about three years but I’m really skeptical about the studies because I am a very active person, I eat a very nutrient rich diet, and I beat around 1800 cal a day and I have been gaining more and more weight every year. I’ve learned to accept myself, but I am so frustrated with being one of the healthiest people I know and having a chubby figure. I don’t know what is wrong with my metabolism and I don’t know why I can’t lose fat.

    Reply
    1. James

      Hi,

      I am in exactly the same boat as you. I also am skeptical about these studies. 4 years of anorexia I believe has done permanent damage. I am even considering medical boosts to try and analyse what could be the case i.e. extreme supplements (not the basic ones you find at your local store).

      I must admit, it is extremely frustrating.

      Reply
    2. Autumn

      Me too. I eat around what you eat but since reading article I pretty much have a feeling that I’m consuming more calories than my lifestyle can handle and my metabolism is actually fine. I’ll be dropping it by 200 calories until I see noticeable weekly results in the realm of .5-2lbs a week or some inches off of some flabby bits lol. Maybe you need to adjust your calories a bit. Nothing wrong with shedding 150 per day for a month to see if that changes anything.

      Reply
  22. Christy

    I am a 29 year old mother of 2. I have suffered with both bulimia and anorexia for almost 10 years now. I too had the same thought about my metabolism never being the same again. I have heard horror stories over the years. I recently decided I’ve had enough of living this way and not eating to stay skinny or control a bloated stomach. Anyhow, I started eating very small, fresh, Clean meals only and often. I started out very small because I wasn’t sure how my body was going to process it. I also started hitting the gym 6 days a week to keep my food intake balanced. I was shocked that my metabolism was functioning normally! I even cheated somewhat often. I maintained my healthy weight and even gained a couple lbs of muscle, which I don’t mind at all. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. Many years I chose to not go through with recovery because of this aspect. Hopefully this will help many people who are in the same boat!

    Reply
  23. Ann

    I am 14 and for about a month now I have been eating 400 – 700 calories a day. I wasn’t overweight but I thought I was starting to look a little chubby, and relatives told me that I looked like I had put on a little weight, but that I looked good. I have lost some weight for sure and I am pretty happy with how I look now. I don’t feel like I need to eat more than I do, although sometimes during the day I feel weak and tired. I don’t want to put on any weight and I would be happy to keep living this way and eat more when I feel weak . I don’t want to stunt my growth either or lose muscle and become skinny fat, so I think my only solution is to add in more calories slowly and be more active. Pretty soon, though, I will be going back to see those relatives and I don’t want to add in extra calories until after the meeting.

    Reply
    1. Autumn

      Please stop while you can. You remind me of myself at that age. You do not want this, no one’s opinion is worth your health and your sanity. Even family. Please follow a healthy lifestyle. Just because this post says you won’t wreck your metabolism for life does not mean it doesn’t cause other damage. What you described is exactly how they start. From someone that suffered for 10 years. Please do not go down this road.

      Reply
  24. Autumn

    I’m 24 years old and suffered an eating disorder since I was 14. I’ve been in a constant cycle of gaining and losing massive amounts of weight. I have recently given up smoking and taking adderall for ADD and I packed on 80lbs in 2 years. I am now at an unhealthy weight; 212 at 5’5”. I can’t believe I found this website. I just KNEW in my heart I screwed up and my metabolism was shot for life. It’s very good to hear that I can actually lose weight and be healthy at the same time despite everything I have put myself through. Thank you so much for your research!

    Reply
  25. jackie

    People need to get away from calories and think about nutrition
    Do you honestly think you can get all the vitamins and minerals you need on 1200 calories….or even 1500? So after restricting,our bodies are in a deficit….we need protein and fats and carbs to rebuild muscle and bone,to reactivate our thyroid and blood sugar regulation,to repair our digestive tract.Weight is gained because our bodies are starving,hunger is our bodies cry for help.To the young girl,your body is still growing,you are doing irreparable damage,especially to your heart.Yes,I am trying to scare you….because unless you stop restricting,there is no way to go but down…I hate that our society and media have made people obsess about how they look and what they weigh….it is how you treat yourself and others that matters…

    Reply
  26. Anna

    Hi
    I have been struggling with anorexia for about 18 months. I have finally decided to recover. However i do not have a professional doctor helping me as i can’t afford it. I am 5″2 and i Weigh 103 pounds- i am a healthy weight. I eat about 1900 calories a day and i am sooooo scared im going to gain weight rapidly and then never get rid of it. I look very disproportionate with thick thighs and stomach but a slender top. I also have extreme hunger were im hungry all the time, i crave food all the time. Do i still need to have a large calorie intake of 2000+ because im not underweight- im a healthy weight. Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    1. Libby

      Hey Anna~ I went through anorexia and restrictive eating for 3-4 years where I would eat as few as 0-10 calories for long stretches of time and I had the same fears. I’m not a doctor or an expert, so I can really only speak from my experience, and you have to do whatever works for you. But what worked for me was stopping the habit of restricting myself at all. Slowly introducing meals in an unrestricted way so that I released myself from the constant fear of putting on weight and the goal of losing it in the short term and looked at it as a process that would take time. And never counting calories. Never stepping on the scale. Never feeling horrible for eating a dessert or what have you. The most toxic part of that time period was the cravings because of all the restrictions I was putting myself through. Now I don’t have cravings, I never binge or feel the need to, and I have a healthier relationship with food in general. Now I’m in a much better place where my weight isn’t yoyo-ing and I’m not constantly obsessed with what I’m eating and I’m losing/maintaining weight in a much more sustainable way.

      So I know it’s hard to hear- but restrictive eating does not work. It can never be maintained. As soon as you even remotely eat normally even at a slow pace even easing yourself into it- you will gain back all the weight you lost maybe more. Most of it is water but that’s also most of what you lost. BUT your metabolism will come back as this article explains. You will be able to come back from it in a way that can be sustained. You just need to trust that things take time. And the most important thing to work on is your mental health. Get your mind right and the body will follow. If I could turn back time this is everything I wish I could have told myself. I also would have told myself that the longer I kept the restricting up the harder it would be to achieve my goal. Again I’m not a medical expert and am only speaking from experience! I would suggest seeking out pro help even if it’s a free support group.

      Good luck I know it’s tough. Take care 🙂

      Reply
  27. Libby

    Thank you so much. I have been searching for this information for so long. I’ve been in recovery for about three years which has been difficult, and I think part of the reason was the thought that my metabolism was permanently screwed up, so I’ll never be able to move passed the initial recovery phase into healthy and sustainable weight loss. I so often heard about what starvation does to the body and the effect it can have but never …what happens next?? What do I do to fix that and get back on track in a healthy way? Is it even possible? This was wonderfully encouraging. I hope they do more studies about this and extend this research. Let us know if they do! 🙂

    Thanks again I really mean it.

    Reply
  28. regretful

    I’ll be five years into recovery in February, and I’m very obese, from a weight of 88lbs at 5’8″ to 240lbs.
    I gained all the weight in the first three years and it’s stopped fluctuating, though I eat fewer calories than most people. I have oedema still.
    I don’t go out of my way to exercise really, beyond walking to everything.
    I’m trying to see this thing through with the advice given on youreatopia but it’s very hard. I wish my body had bounced back like so many others.

    Reply
  29. Danielaa

    Hey! I’m 14 struggling with anorexia, anxiety and depression. I recently started recovering from my eating disorder (adding 200 calories every week); I was underweight before but I wasn’t at my worst at my lowest weight tho, I was eating way more at my lowest than when I started recovering (when I started recovering I was almost at a healthy weight I think) so why did I gained weight if I was eating very very little?

    Reply
  30. Danielaa

    Also I was wondering if I am now at a healthy weight and still undereating but increasing slowly in order not to gain much weight will I ever be able to get my metabolism back? And also my family is very tall but I started depriving my body from the nutrients it needed when I was about to turn 13 and I haven’t grown like much at all (MY 9 YEAR OLD BROTHERS ARE ALMOST AS TALL AS I AM) and recently I have been experiencing a bit of growth but I’m still very short.. Will I ever grow again after I get to eat enough?

    Reply
  31. Nala

    So does that mean that because I have a history of anorexia, for the rest of my life I will need more calories each day to maintain a healthy weight than someone without ahistory of anorexia?

    Reply
  32. Nobody

    I’m sorry but i call BS. I had anorexia and bulimia from age 12 to 25. Got pregnant, had 4 kids and quit those behaviors cold turkey. Im now 36. Ive been busting my butt in the gym 6 or 7 days a week for an hour a day and cant for the life of me drop any weight. Im considered obese now. The struggle makes me wanna give up.

    Reply
  33. Maddie

    I’m doing a health project on how eating disorders effect your metabolism and this was extremely informative and helpful!!

    Reply
  34. Lynda

    I’m hoping this post helps some of you in your frustration with what appears to be a slow metabolism. It’s not your metabolism, it’s your leptin sensitivity, insulin processing, etc. We’ve messed up our body signals and they need to heal. I found either a low carb, high fat (LCHF) or paleo/ketogenic style of eating is both healing, hormone balancing and allows you to visually eat more without eating more calories as fat and protein are highly nutrient dense, satiate you and help to heal the damage we’ve caused. I am long time ‘recovered’ and have shifted my obsessive behaviors to discovering why my body is working the way it’s working, how I can work to fix it even a little bit at a time, and just continue to get better and healthier. For those of you feeling frustrated with climbing numbers on the scale despite ‘healthy’ eating and exercise, please do your research on these ways of eating (they are NOT a diet). The research will astound you. I work at a research intensive University and our researchers are are using ketogenics to literally cure brain cancer, treat Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsy and completely reverse Type 2 diabetes and the list goes on and on.

    Reply
  35. LouLou

    Thanks for this post. I was anorexic from my mid-teens for several years and I had long wondered if I had done any lasting damage to my metabolism as a result. I’m now in my 40s, mother of three kids in their teens and twenties, basically follow a healthy vegeatarian diet but enjoy desserts now and then, and moderate exercise 5 to 6 times a week. My weight is stable, BMI is fine, and I am in a good place. All the best to those stlll working on recovery.

    Reply
  36. Geraldine

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