8 Ways to Cope With Weight Gain in Recovery.

It’s important to remember that recovery is a process full of ups and downs. Like anything else, it takes practice before we can begin to make it our own!

Weight gain in recovery from anorexia is terrifying! It’s hard for those on the outside to comprehend, but imagine climbing the side of a building with no harness and struggling to keep your grip. It’s next-level terrifying, But it’s necessary to avoid the inevitable.

The truth is your body and outward appearance can recover in one to three months depending on your circumstances. Uneducated folks will assume that once you regain the weight you’re healed and ready to head off into the sunset again. The problem with this is that although you’re back to a stable and healthy weight, your brain is still catching up.

It can take at least a year to recover emotionally and mentally from the havoc of an eating disorder, and this recovery requires ongoing support and maintenance.

Your body and mind are like a house that you’re renovating; You can’t just fix it up in a few weeks, slap some paint on the interior walls and expect never to have to nurture it again. It doesn’t work that way.

I’ll always struggle with the weight gain portion of the recovery. I’m struggling not to buy another set of scales, not to body check, not to run crying from the doctor’s office and not to feel elated when the number goes down. It’s extremely hard, and if you’re in the same place as me you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Image from Pavel Danilyuk

Why’s it so hard to accept weight gain?

Weight gain is so hard because, for the longest time, we’ve been programmed to believe that weight gain is negative.

If you gain weight it must mean that you’re lazy, you’ve let yourself go and you’re not trying hard enough.

Or so they say.

Watch any TV show or movie from the nineties or early two-thousands and you’ll pick up on little messages about body weight and size.

Monica from Friend’s sticks out in my mind! She was the ‘fat‘ one while Rachel was the ‘thin‘ one. Iit was only after she lost weight that men began to notice her for the wonderful woman that she was all along. If Monica was loved and appreciated more after she lost weight then surely the same will happen for us? Right?

Not to mention that we’re often worried about the opinions of others. What will they say if I’ve gained weight?!

We need to overcome our own beliefs about weight gain.

Chances are you’re like me and still have that little voice in your head telling you that “thin is good and fat is bad”. I’m learning to challenge that and understand that a bigger body is not a negative, it’s a sign of health, and stability.


How do I challenge the negative feelings of weight gain?

Rini at ”Own it babe’ gives us the perfect tool for this. She has one question for us.

Aside from the weight I’ve gained, what are some other things I’m gaining back in my recovery?

During recovery, I’m always asking myself questions like this. I may not want to gain weight but what else will I get back when I do? It’s like an exchange policy.

Asking yourself this on a daily basis helps fain perspective on this whole entire thing. You’ve got nothing to lose by entering into and sticking with recovery, but everything to lose if you don’t.


8 ways to cope with weight gain in recovery.

Affirmations & mantras.

Without focusing on our physical selves, we can focus on the other things we like about ourselves. Even if we don’t believe them at first, it’s important to repeat affirmations and mantras to ourselves throughout the day, so that we can give ourselves the opportunity to come to believe them.

  • I deserve help, love, and respect.
  • I am enough.
  • I am brave for being here, and for asking for help.
  • I have the right to be alive, to be happy and to be filled with acceptance for myself.
  • I want to be healthy and happy.
  • I am okay, and I will continue to be okay.
  • I am strong.
  • I am a warrior!

You can write them down in a journal, repeat them to yourself as you drive to work, or you can simply say them internally. Repeating things such as positive mantras and affirmations helps us to challenge and even reverse our negative self-talk, appreciate inner strength,and creates self-awareness. Start each day by repeating just one, and as grow to believe them, you can add a few more in. Soon you’ll have a whole list to choose from!

Image from Tara Winstead

Be clear on your reasons for recovery, and remind yourself of them.

Why are you recovering?

What keeps you motivated during recovery?

Make sure you know why you are doing this, and make sure you and your future are one of the reasons! I started off doing this for my family, my job, my partner and nowhere in that equation did my name come up. Now I’m doing this for all of those things PLUS me. I’m doing this for me and my future because I deserve to live.

Too often we find ourselves stuck in the rut of doing things for other people, and putting others before ourselves. We were guilty of it in life and now we are most likely still guilty of it in recovery. Why? Maybe it’s easier telling ourselves that we’re doing this for someone else than admitting that we want it to. That we deserve it just as much as anyone else.

Avoid triggers at all costs.

Although our triggers can all be very different, there are a few that cause universal distress.

  • Get rid of the scale. Throw it out, smash it, donate it, get your partner to remove it. Just get rid of it.
  • Remove yourself from unhelpful social media accounts that promote the ‘pro-ana‘ body.
  • After a difficult meal, make sure you are with company. If not, and if you are well enough, take yourself to your yoga mat or out for a light walk. Sitting with an uncomfortably full stomach will only make you feel worse about yourself.
  • If your clothes don’t fit, get rid of them. If they are getting too tight don’t put them back in the closet hoping you’ll one day fit back into them, donate them, cut them up or simply throw them away.
  • Remove unhelpful books, movies, TV shows from your list. I love Black Swan as much as the next person, but I can’t watch it because it makes me feel so triggered that even the thought of food makes me feel like a fat cow.

This is not a definitive list, only you know what else you can add to this.

It’s hard to drive ourselves to give up all the little things we find comforting like the scale, our size whatever jeans and movies where the main character just gets you, but it’s needed if we want to move away from that disordered thinking.

Positivity from all angles. 

Fill your life with positivity as much as possible. It’s the best way to counteract negative thinking and helps in boosting mood, which is very much key to taking ourselves away from the anorexic mindset.

Being positive isn’t just done through what we say, but it’s also achieved through what we do for ourselves and others. It even resonates in the people we choose to spend time with. If you spend time with negative people you’ll only end up being dragged down yourself, so why do it?

  • Spend time with the people that love and support you in your recovery.
  • Treat yourself, and don’t be afraid to do so. Remember, you are deserving.
  • Read a good book.
  • Volunteer with your local animal shelter.
  • Freshen up your space.
  • Watch a light-hearted movie.
  • Send a nice text, call your grandparents for a chat or even write a letter to someone you love.
  • Funny memes. I don’t really need to say any more on that subject.

Accept that weight gain is part of recovery. 

Unfortunately for us if we really want to recover we can’t just fix our emotional and mental issues and be done with it. We also have to gain weight.

It’s unavoidable and actually a rather crucial part of recovery. Yes, we talk about how it’s not all about weight gain but the problem is a big part of it still is, and that’s scary as hell.

We, and by that I also include myself, need to accept that this has to happen and that there’s no way around it.

Eliminate body checking.

Bodychecking in any way will only pull us back towards the bony fingers of anorexia and serves no purpose other than to trick us.

Don’t be fooled,ย I am working on this one! I struggle to get away from the little things that I do to check myself, but I am aware of it and I am trying. It’s one of the hardest ones for me because I do it automatically without thinking. I have started to pick up on about 40% of the body-checking behaviour and I am gently calling myself out on it.

Image from Pavel Danilyuk

Things will begin to shift as recovery moves on.

The more we eat, and the closer we get to a healthy weight, the more our brains will repair themselves. With it, the fear of weight gain will reduce. At first, I was terrified that I would gain ten kilos in one week from all the food I was eating, but I didn’t. Although I am still afraid of weight gain I am more able to rationalise the fact that weight doesn’t actually go on that easily at all.

Anorexia manipulates you into forgetting all your prior knowledge of nutrition. I studied nutrition in college, and I’ve even covered it to a degree in university, yet anorexia has been convinced that it’s right, and my rational brain is wrong.

It’s the nature of the beast, but with proper nourishment and time, my mindset should shift to allow room for my more rational brain.

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Not only does weight re-appear at a much slower rate than initially thought, but it also distributes itself differently. What I mean by this is that once our bodies come out of re-feeding mode the weight won’t just remain in one area (which tends to be our stomach at first). It’ll spread itself across the body to where it’s supposed to be.

FOOD IS MEDICINE.

A therapist told me to repeat this to myself every time things got tough, and remind myself that food is medicine. It’s not evil, it’s not poison; It’s what I need to get better and, above all else, stay alive.

There are no medications that can treat anorexia like there for mental illnesses, there are only medications that can alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety that co-exist with it. The only medicine we have at our disposal is food.

What do you do when you’re scared of the only thing that can cure you?

You surrender to it.

By that I mean you give yourself over to the food, let it guide you, and allow it to heal you like it desperately needs to.


Have you any other tips for coping with weight gain in recovery?

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113 comments

  1. Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. I wish you all the best in your healthy weight loss. I understand that sometimes people do need to manage their weight for health reasons, which I am all for. But when it comes to controlling weight to make it easier for society to look at our bodies, then I draw a line.

  2. It’s so difficult and sometimes even the therapists don’t get it (mine does, fortunately). But gaining confidence in recovery is hard if you don’t have the same external response to recovery as you do in treatment.

  3. It is so scary gaining weight and we often take drastic measures against it. After reading your article I feel so happy like it is so good to know that it is okay to gain weight while recovering. Thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. This is really encouraging. It really feel scary gaining weight, everytime i do i end up controlling my food. ????

  5. So many fail to realize that anorexia is more of a mental issue, with the lack of food consumption being a secondary issue. I had a difficult time struggling on my own to break free of it when nobody would take me seriously when I said I needed help.

  6. I think it’s so great that you are talking about this topic, I wish more people would do it.

  7. These are great tips for those recovering from an eating disorder. It’s not an easy journey at all.

  8. I’m trying to think about food as medicine, but it’s easier said than done. It’s obviously something I need to work on a bit more within myself.

  9. Thank you so much for stopping in and reading. It’s so awful. I love food too, or at least I did. Now I’m just trying to convince myself that I need it to live.

  10. I had no idea about this. Thank you so much for sharing your story! and your 8 ways to cope with recovery can also be used for recovery in other ways.

  11. These are some really helpful tips. I used to have some extra weight which made me feel bad, but for a few years I’m slim with no bigger effort. Let’s stay healthy! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. This is such a profound subject, and one Iโ€™d no idea about. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  13. Thank you for sharing this. Weight gain can happen in so many different kinds of recovery. Whether is be addiction or mental health! I know I am dealing with this right now.

  14. I am so happy that I found your blog. Super helpful article. Love your mantras good for any situation. Thank you so much.

  15. This is really great and yes i can’t agree more, a lot of this comes down to self acceptance. It is really the first step, a very important one.

  16. Thank you so much for this really encouraging post – I really needed to read this today. Accepting weight gain and moving on is so difficult – it’s great more people are talking about this xxx

  17. I didnโ€™t have the bloated belly when I got back to eating normal again. It was hard but thinking about the importance of nutrition and why I need to eat and the people who want me to be healthy is what helped me get comfortable with eating again.

  18. I can’t even imagine being in recovery and having to do the very thing that you fear the most on a daily basis. Prayers for your journey and those whose lives you touch!

  19. I have gain quite a bit after both children… and sometimes I feel defeated as i looked at my old photos…but I am healthy and that’s what matters…

  20. This is such an informative post, when recovering from any eating disorder if you gain weight it is seen as failing even the smallest gain and not even in eating disorder recovery. Weight gain is seen as such a negative impact throughout society. Great post

  21. Thank you very much for reading love. I really hope it helps, I know it certainly helps me to re-read this when I feel down about it.

  22. This tips is amazing and very helpful. Its a different style. but its look like so effective. I am always conscious on my weight. Thank you for sharing this!

  23. I used to weigh myself far too often. I’ve now managed to cut that down, thank goodness. But it’s not for a lack of trying. Weight is only weight, and it fluctuates with pretty much anything (Breathe lately? You’re gonna gain weight!). It’s crazy how obsessed we can become by it.

    Anyway, thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  24. I have them on my mirror, or some of them at least. It’s a good way to make myself feel better while I’m feeling crap about myself.

  25. Thank you very much, and thank you so much for stopping in and reading. Weight is such a touchy subject for so many, including myself, but it needs to be talked about.

  26. Indeed, we have problem accepting our weight and the sometimes, its hard to work on ourselves when it becomes worse due to lack of our motivation. This is really great post and I love that you use Twitter to teach good things.

  27. Thank you for bringing me into your world a little bit; this was something brand new to me. Interestingly, I think many of the ideas expressed here can be applied to recovery of anything! Great content, and good luck in your continued journey.

  28. You are right, too many times people have associated weight gain in a negative light. One thing that I have not done over the years is to weigh myself on a scale regularly. I have no idea how much I weigh at all.

  29. Thank you for sharing your journey, its a battle and it isn’t always easy. I can’t imagine how hard this can be. I think you are really putting a fresh and honest perspective for people who are coming to terms with their anorexia and a great resource to people who are in recovery.

  30. While this isn’t something I have personally dealt with, I can imagine it being terrifying and difficult. I think you give some really great advice here for anyone struggling.

  31. What a great post! This is exactly the type of material I might want to share with a friend who I think could need it.

  32. I’m trying to avoid fitspo on Instagram like a bad cold. But it keeps appearing in sponsored posts etc. Fitness and weight lifting and yoga is great and all, but not when it is heavily influenced by weight loss.

  33. I’m required to put on weight in order to be healthy, however anorexia nervosa makes it difficult. The world around us makes it so we are trained NOT to put on weight because weight is considered to be bad. Yes, too much of it can be, but a healthy body is better than a sick, thin one.

  34. Thank you. It’s a lot harder when you’re coming to terms with weight gain that is needed in order to have a healthy BMI, and not one which anorexia nervosa deems is healthy.

  35. Weight gain isn’t always a bad thing, you’re right. But trying to come to terms with it in recovery from anorexia nervosa is horrible and daunting.

  36. Weight gain isn’t always a bad thing especially when recovering from something that has caused weight loss. I think that having a good support network with friends and family can make a big difference.

  37. You’ve written this one so beautifully. I agree that weight gain isn’t bad as we think. Actually our mind is programmed in a way that we make it worse that it actually is.

    Amazing one
    ????????

  38. In the last 4 years I have made an excellent recovery losing weight and getting fit, but now for reasons of greater strength I have put on weight again and it seems that I do not have the same strength to do the same route again.

  39. This is such a helpful post for people who are recovering from anorexia. Seeking for support and having friends supporting you in this journey is very important.

  40. I had to unfollow all the fitness influencers on Instagram, they can be just as bad as the pro-ana accounts. Monica from friends is the perfect example, it send out such a bad message that people only valued her because she lost weight. The way I see it now is that the people who were nicer to me or attracted to me when I was sick, are people who don’t deserve a space in my life in the first place!

    Ash | thisdreamsalive.com

  41. This is such a great reminder. Weight gain does happen at times and it’s truly not the end of the world. I always read a good book to help cheer me up.

  42. hard to accept weight gain since I don’t want to buy new clothes.

  43. It’s so hard to throw out ‘safe’ clothes. I still have some lying around the house and find it so hard to part with them. I put on some trousers earlier and they were almost too tight. I freaked out but didn’t throw them away. Why? Because there was a little voice in my head telling me I’d get back into them someday.

    Not likely as they belong in the kid’s section at Tesco!

    Thank you for stopping by and reading pet x

  44. I needed to read this today (how did you know?!) I desperately need to throw out some clothes and I’ve been putting off the task because I’m unsure how I’ll manage the emotions of going through them to find which ones don’t fit and need to go.

    Thanks for writing this lovey and I adore the new pins to go with the post!

  45. What a beautiful, authentic article. Thank you for sharing this, pinning for later because I think people need to understand this better.

  46. Thank you for reading and commenting. Society will always find something to pick on us about; Hairstyles, body type, skin colour, etc. It’s about trying to ignore their voices, and most of all, protecting the voice inside you.

  47. Great article! Currently going back and forth with myself about my own weight gain and how I feel the world wants to to look. Working on ignoring the negative comments and working on being healthy at my own pace.

  48. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment Britt!

    It is so, so hard to break free from this thinking. I’m stil trying to rid myself of the chains of it all, but it’s a process and not an over night job. I keep having to tell myself that every day.

    – Nyxie

  49. You have some great advice here! It can be SO hard to break free from that way of thinking, believing that your worth and your happiness are somehow tied to your weight, and therefore weight gain is a sign of failure.

  50. Wow darlin, thank you for such a deep and meaningful read. I love how honest you are and I believe you’ve come a longggg way. I can definitely relate and understand this post so again, thank you x

  51. I’m the same. All I know is I need to eat 6 times a day to get my weight up but then I don’t even know what they want my weight to be? I’m so scared I won’t be able to stop eating or that I’ll put on so much weight that I go from underweight to over weight. It’s so scary but I trust the process and I trust my therapist. Like you said; take it day by day.

  52. I needed this! It is a daily struggle and people donโ€™t understand so I just donโ€™t talk about it. Itโ€™s like Iโ€™ve gone from not eating to binge eating. I have no idea what Iโ€™m doing but Iโ€™m trying to take it day by day.

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