To recover from anorexia a person will need to confront their fear of food and eating; their fear of getting fat and losing control. It’s a huge challenge because the semi-starvation diet of an anorectic CREATES the food obsessions and inflexible, polarised thinking that make seeking recovery so difficult.
Fear drives anorexia; and the anorectic (semi-starvation) diet drives fear.
It’s a vicious cycle that can only be broken by feeding the body and conquering the fear.
When health risk becomes critical (as medically determined), inpatient care becomes essential.
Anorexia, basically self-starvation, carries with it serious health consequences and risks. Recovering from an emaciated weight (or from extreme malnutrition)* requires medical oversight. There are risks involved with refeeding. For the severely malnourished this is likely to occur within an inpatient setting.
*It’s important to understand that ALL eating disorders carry risk and that risk cannot be determined by simply looking at a person and observing their weight. A large person may be starving and at risk. For this reason, ANY person who has, or thinks they may be developing an eating disorder, should seek medical help and get a professional assessment and diagnosis.
Eating Disorder First Aid Guidelines is a wonderful Australian publication providing clear and essential information on eating disorders for sufferers and carers. I highly recommend this publication to everyBODY. It could save a life, and that life could be your own.
Gaining weight from a low weight may be possible in an outpatient setting if a person is not critically unwell. If a person can make progress with the support of a doctor, dietician and therapist in an outpatient setting, fantastic. If not it simply means more intensive support is required.
Some helpful thoughts about gaining weight from a low weight
Accurate information is better than uninformed fear
Get information from your team as to what to expect as your body is rehydrated and renourished from a malnourished state. Much will depend on the severity of your ED. Fluid retention, bloating, wind, cramps etc can all be expected as the body readjusts. WHAT YOU NEED TO KEEP IN MIND is that ALL these changes are temporary and will settle as you continue along the path to recovery.
The sooner you seek help the better.
EARLY INTERVENTION is the best anti-dote to extreme malnutrition and the psychological disturbance (FEAR) that goes with it in an eating disorder.
Remind yourself why you began recovery in the first place.
- Think about what your ED taken from you (health, hope, energy, relationships, work/ study opportunities, money) – make a list of these things and keep it handy when you need to remember why you’re sticking with your recovery plan.
- What you are looking forward to by healing?
- Make a gratitude list of all the things you love or have loved about life (get really specific eg., playing with your dog, creating art, chatting with your sister, dancing with your friends, the scrunch of autumn leaves under your feet, the smell of freshly cut grass, watching the ocean waves, snuggling up by a fire, road-trips to the country, etcetera. Think of as many things as you can. Aim for 100.
- Create a collage of pictures that represent these things (&/or the kind of life you’re looking forward to)
- Put this somewhere you can see it everyday.
Keep choosing recovery (one day at a time).
Recovery really begins with a decision from you. Even if you feel like you are in hospital against your choice, the truth is to sustain recovery YOU will need to choose to turn your back on fear and hunger and turn your face towards life and nurture. You will need to do this every day.
You will need skills to do this.
You deserve to live, to feel the wind at your back, the sun on your face, to smile at the future, to love and embrace. You.
I can help you with this. It would be my pleasure to do so.
Feedback and questions welcome.