I didn’t expect snapping out of an eating disorder to be this easy. It has been 14 days since I started giving myself permission to eat more and intentionally increase my level of body fat. I am doing it to recover from amenorrhea.
What I have lost so far:
- guilt, stress, self judgement
- appetite / obsession with food
- muscle mass (a bit)
- capacity for 10m squats
What I didn’t lose (yet?)
- mental bandwidth
- capacity for 30m cardio on stairs
- capacity for 5m squats
What I gained:
- calm and peace of mind
- slight extra layers of fat
- weight (3 kg)
What I haven’t gained:
- my period (planning to do this for 3 months, evaluate, then make any adjustments)
I’ve been eating average of 1500 calories / day and so far have gained 3 kg, from 38 kg to 41 kg.
I feel better. I have more energy, I feel rested.
All these times I thought I felt stiff or tired at the start or during workout because I either don’t train enough or rest enough but it never crossed my mind that it’s because I don’t eat enough. I just thought it is normal to take a while to boot up and get into the session.
Sure I heard all about “pre workout” meals to “fuel workouts” but my goal was to lose fat instead of “beast-mode at the gym”. So I followed the “fasted workouts for higher rate of fat loss” trope. I stuck to the rules and routine I have set for myself based on my research, and dealt with the occasional hunger and the resulting “beast-mode when eating”, aka binging.
I think about food less because I feel comfortably full more often than not. I don’t get bloated for overeating because I was subconsciously depleted and starving. I have been allowing myself to eat whenever I felt a bit hungry now while practicing eating smaller portions just to honor the hunger instead of going berserk. You know, like a normal person.
I haven’t been a snacker anyway and always prefer full meals even during my eating disorder, but I am willing to try this new style of eating for the time being. Experiment and see what works in the long run. I expect I’ll get back to being a full meal eater eventually.
Yes I still binged 1-2x in this period. I didn’t beat myself up for “failing” there. I expect it will take a couple of iterations to undo bad habits. Just move on. Practice makes perfect.
I have also been cutting down the amount of exercise I do. Even though every piece of information I have consulted so far advised a “complete rest”, e.g. trading High Intensity Training for Yoga and long walks, I am aware that being paraplegic, I move a lot less than most people already. So the amount that my body will tolerate and classify as “intense” will be different. A “complete rest” for most people could mean “alternate day cardio x body weight” for me.
I will trust my body to figure out what feels right and what works for me. Perhaps in the short term a complete rest would be beneficial but in the long run I don’t think staying sedentary is really “healthy (studies say” sitting too long it’s the biggest killer or something). I’ll play around and I’ll get there.
This could well be me half-assing this recovery, but let’s see.
What is surprising is that I feel so much at peace with the decision and changes.
It’s amazing how such a small shift in mindset and priority affect the way I feel in my own skin. I immediately felt calmer, more relaxed, and had less self judgement. The shift doesn’t come easy but when it clicks it changes everything.
Before I started, I expected gaining weight to be difficult to handle emotionally but it hasn’t been that bad.
Well perhaps because I am still very early in this journey. It’s not even been a month. I am also technically still below my normal weight range of 45 kg that I kept the past decade before I started the “fitness journey”. I still haven’t lost my muscle mass, definition, or even strength. I even feel more performant with the extra energy. In other words: I still feel hot.
Let’s see how I feel after 2 months and 6 kg more, haha.
Do I need to overshoot to that range though? Isn’t it sufficient to get back to the 45-46 kg range? Well I don’t know and it does scare me a little to entertain that possibility.
To put things in perspective, the lightest I have managed to hit was 38kg, after keeping average of 1100 calories / day for 1-2 weeks.
But I hit the ideal body composition at around 40 kg. That was the sweet spot I was attached to.
To be fair at that time I was not exactly doing what’s the healthiest for my body:
- crusing along with intermittent fasting of 4-6 hours window with casual OMAD when I want it
- crushing daily bodyweight or cardio and a once a week strength training.
All of which I suspect triggered the amenorrhea.
But I felt great, stable mental and physical energy, good sleep quality, all round fit. Except for the fact that my period has stopped. An obvious sginal that I am not actually “healthy” even though I feel “fit”.
But now I see I can still do #2 while weighing 45kg. And intermittent fasting is not a game where I need to score as high as possible to win. It’s a method to give my digestion a rest and trigger cell reparation, not a weight loss tool.
So right now I’ll just try and focus at the process: get better at listening to my body, allow it to have what it needs, and make it feel safe.
If later it stabilises at 43kg and it feels right, I’ll stay there. I’ll stay wherever it feels right.
This means I am not going to force myself to eat more if I am not hungry just to gain weight. That’s not the real goal. The goal is to get to a place where I get back in tune with my body, stop outsmarting it, and letting it self regulate. I’ll take my time to awaken my body, let it get out of whack, and get better at catching the subtle signals again.
Gaining weight for the sake of gaining weight would be me tricking my body again to think it is “safe” — the same with what I was doing before: controlling it through a bunch of “health best practices”.
I have been eating with my head, not my body. I forgot how to eat like a normal person, like I used to do for 30 years.
I’ll eat when I am hungry, and learn to recognise then stop eating when I am full. I will accept that I’ll need to eat more on some days and less in others, but I’ll get back to doing it intuitively instead of controlling, micromanaging, and outsmarting it through rules reasons. I can let go and trust that my body tell me what it needs (instead of what it “wants” — being conscious of the neurochemistry of being hooked on sugar and simple carbs).
And so far so good. I just stop eating when I want to. I think I can eventually even eat less with less effort and less feelings involved. Two of recent days I ended up hitting 1200 cals in 8 hours eating window and felt fully satisfied, not hungry.
OK this is probably also me half-assing the recovery process (the idea of “I need to gain weight”) but hey, I did not feel hungry. Anyway, I’ll just keep tuning into my body and let it wake up.
One Reply to “14 Days into Recovering from Amenorrhea: Dealing With Fat (and Weight) Gain”