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Avatar universal

Metabolism Devastated Post-Anorexia

was anorexic, about 2-3 years ago. I'm 5'3", and at my lowest I got down to about 95 lbs. I got into treatment, and starting eating to gain back the weight, but I couldn't make the gaining stop. Eventually, it got to the point where I was eating 1800 calories a day, swimming 3 hours a day (with a team) and still gaining ~2 pounds a week. I couldn't understand it. We went to every doctor we could think of, testing thyroid levels, taking blood tests, but everyone just insisted that everything was normal, that I just had to wait until my metabolism moderated itself.

It's not moderating itself, and it's been 2 years. I gained up to a high of 170 lbs, at which point I started taking an appetite suppressant and using a very low carb diet, 1000 calories a day, and was able to lose ~30 pounds. Then, I tried to readopt a more normal diet...and gained back 10 pounds and counting. Now I'm back to 150, and eating 1000 calories, approx 75 grams carbohydrates per day, and I continue to steadily gain a pound a week; relatively sure it's not muscle.

Additionally, I've sometimes wondered about potential blood sugar abnormalities. Sometimes, if I eat a "normal" amount of sugar (for instance, if I eat a cookie, and am not able to immediately combine it with protein) I get piercing headache that lasts for hours. Do you think blood sugar could cause the inexplicable confusion mentioned below?

I'm honestly getting close to depression right now. I have breakdowns on a weekly basis, it seems, because everyone's giving me advice like "Oh, just eat a normal diet of 1800 calories and lots of fruits and veggies and everything will even itself out" and "Exercise and weight lift!". Check, check, check, check. This isn't normal, please trust me; it's not that I don't know how to eat or that I don't exercise. According to predictions, my metabolism is about half of what it should be, and I have no idea how to get it back to normal. I feel so alone, and sometimes just get so angry at my body that I just want to hurt myself, because I feel like I'm never going to live a normal life where thinking about what I can and can't eat consumes every second of my day.

Please. If anyone has any ideas, I need them. As a result of this incomprehensible disorder, I have developed severe depressive and obsessive behaviors in relation to food, because I have to maintain constant control over what I eat in order to not balloon out of control (Example? I ate 1500 calories for ONE DAY instead of my normal 1000, still exercising 45-60 minutes daily, and I discovered that I had gained 2 pounds in the week that took place during my next weigh-in). I have lost my ability to feel emotions other than self-disgust and frustration, because whenever I try to relate to other people, I run up against my brick wall of envy, that they don't have this secret demon they have to battle every single day. I've never been in a relationship as a result, and I'm terrified that I'll never be comfortable enough with the mystery that I have become for that to be a possibility. So I appeal to anyone who might have any inkling, or know where I could go as I try afresh to find some solution to this...right now, all I can see looking into the future is cycle after cycle of self-hatred and frustration, with myself never finding happiness or contentment, and that future terrifies me...you have no idea how much of a godsend it would be to know once and for all why I have the metabolism (literally) of someone in a permanently catatonic state.

Thank you for your considering my dilemma
20 Responses
Avatar universal
Well first off, thanks so much for giving us as much info as possible. The more the better!
I will say it sounds strange that your metabolism didn't regulate itself after 2 years of eating healthily, especially when you suffered anorexia for a relatively short period of time. I can imagine how heartbreaking it must be to see little improvement when you are doing all the right things.
If you are not on any medications and are positive that there are no other underlying medical issues, then my only guess is that it is related to the food you are eating and the exercise you do. I don't doubt that you put on weight quickly during recovery, and my guess is you continued to eat the "appropriate" amount in hopes that your metabolism will eventually regulate. But because it can take up to a year for the body to believe it won't be starved again, it continued storing while you passed the ideal weight range for your height and body type. I found my weight to be most controllable when I added calories a little at a time. I  kept my workouts pretty intense and made sure to nourish my body with the most important nutrients, in very small, but frequent meals. If I went from complete deprivation to a "normal" diet, my weight would've skyrocketed quicker than I'd be able to burn it off.
You definitely have the right goals in mind, so please don't resort back to your old ways. I'm assuming it all switched too quickly for your body to understand, and now you're just having a tough time losing it. I want to suggest cutting back on calories but as long as you can trust yourself that it won't get out of hand. Your weight will drop again like it did before. When you reach a weight you're happy with, don't add calories right away. Just continue to keep things regular so your body can adjust. Give it lots of time.
If by then you continue to drop, add 100 calories or so, keeping your exercising up. By then your body should have a better idea of what's going on and you'll be less likely to store the calories.
Avatar universal
No offense, but your suggestion that I simply drop calories until I reach a normal weight is a little bit laughable, because
A) I've been trying to do so for months/years
B) I was told to never drop my daily consumption below 1000 calories...I currently consume between 1000 and 1350 calories per day, and exercise 400 calories a day (about 40 minutes) almost religiously. And I still gain weight. So dropping any further doesn't really seem like a possibility, and, in any case, won't solve the underlying issue
My metabolism is, from what I can tell, about two steps above my being in a coma. My resting heart rate floats around 50 bpm, and my basal metabolic rate must be at least half what it should be according to my age, height, weight, etc.

I need to figure what is CAUSING it to be impossible for me to lose weight, not just try to cover up the cause by addressing only a symptom.

Thanks for your contribution, but I think you might be missing the problem slightly .
Avatar universal
i feel your pain i can only eat about 500calories and exercise 3 hours a day to be skinny. ive been anorexic on and off all my life. I recently ate normal 1200 calories daily and exercised  for 4 months and gained 30 pounds. im depressed now i feel disgusting and am to emberresed to go out and socialize becuase i feel too fat :( everyone says im healthy this is the weight my body wants me to be, but im 5.3" and weigh 138 pounds which looks like alot for my height. ive tried to lose weight by eating healthier but it doesnt work the only thing that works for me is my 500 calorie diet. i also suffer from chew and spit episodes trying to stay within the 500 calories. My metabolism  *****, and im tired of seeing people eat all the time and not exercise and still be skinny. My ex was like that and i couldnt stand it. just wanted to let you know your not alone. i know you said your eating 1000 calories a day but what kind of calories are you consuming for me when i eat more protein and vegies and cut carbs is when i notice a difference. but it takes alot of discipline and sometimes its to hard for me to control so i cut it out completly out of sight out of mind, right. you know how some people say it only takes 1 bite to satisfy your chocolate craving (for me 1 bite can lead to too many bites)  kinda rambling on sorry.
Avatar universal
I can completely empathize with your present mindset and physical reality.  I feel the exact same pain, frustration as yourself.  After seven years of anorexia and severe restricting...my body seems to have become quite skeptical of "normal" caloric intake...I too have GAINED weight while exercising daily (1-2 hours) and eating around 1000 kcals per day..I should be eating more, according to my "team"of professionals...but eating what I was "supposed to" resulted in my gaining too much weight too fast (I left an inpatient program for anorexia in February)..I have been battling edema, my muscles and joints hurt, I have problems digesting food (spontaneous reflux)....it's as if my body has forgetten how to respond to food properly, refuses to believe I am finally feeding it over 500 kcals/day, and chooses to store all "fuel" received into water and fat reserves.  I too wonder if there are insulin..or digestion of carbohydrate issues and will be seeing a specialist soon to address these issues (on the recommendation of my eating disorders team...as they too are somewhat perplexed)...At my lowest, and sickest point I weighed 32 kilos (5'1") last December...and I now weigh 59 kilos! (130 pounds?)  This is far too much for my height or "comfort zone"...I dreaded being told the numbers at weigh-ins...but I knew I was inexpliquably gaining based on my "normal" clothes no longer fitting...
I know this is of little solace or help to your current situation...which we unfortunately share..but if I find out any possible answers for you after my exams...I promise to share them with you...Courage to us both..
1550134 tn?1294022255
oh my gosh. i literally am about to cry reading this. the same thing is happening to me. i don't even know how to begin. i was 240 lbs (2005), lost a ton of weight (120lbs by spring 2008), became anorexic, discovered chewing+spitting (DONT TRY IT, IT WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE I BEG OF YOU...PLEASE!!) and was down to 101 lbs (spring 2009) at my lowest. lingered between 105-108 for about a year. i'm 5'7 ...i slowly put 10 lbs on over 2 months (nov/dec), then about 5 more in 2 more months(feb/march). suddenly i was +10lbs in a month and a half more (may) and by august, 130lbs. gradual, annoying. 137lbs by end of sept. by christmas i'm now 155. SERIOUSLY? i eat about 1000-1200 cals and exercise an hour every day, weights 3x a week. thyroid is low but still "normal"... i am devastated. i want to be 125-130. its my "happy" self. not about numbers, i felt best there. i can't stop gaining weight. lost my period for three years just NOW started getting it back in november. i eat completely healthy. no pasta, bread, nothing. no meat, only seafood, egg whites, tofu, etc. 60-65% of my diet is veg/greens. only starchy thing i eat his oatmeal and fiberone cereal (the little sticks, haha weirdly i enjoy them). no dairy except fat free cottage cheese and yogurt. i drink almond milk or propel/water/coffee. i do use a lot of sweeteners. but otherwise what the hell gives!!!  please help. im so depressed and its ruining my life. should i get a BMR? how/where?
Avatar universal
I'm not a very active forum member, but I have been through this. I hear your pain and I want to help. Please e-mail me at ***@**** if I can offer some support. Much love.
Avatar universal
nitwhit846 at aol *******
Avatar universal
I really sympathies with everything you e been saying. I've been recovering from an eating disorder. When I went in my weight was really low so when I ate and gained it was normal and eventually sped my metabolsim right up and I was a normal weight. When I got out I ruined it and wanted a lower weight and in the process slowed my metabolsim. Now its like I can barley eat anything without gaining 2 pounds. And it keeps me from eating because I know my healthy weight and my metabolism just won't restore itself without going above that and who knows if It would kick in. I seriously consider just dropping the weight again and stating all over. Because I really do want to get better it's just not working and it's devestating
Avatar universal
I would recommend reading "the adrenal reset diet" by dr. Alan christianson. He talks about how our bodies when put through a lot of stress (i.e. losing weight, under eating, over exercising) become extremely resistant to losing weight and can gain weight due to hormonal imbalances. As is clear from everyone else's comments you are not alone. As is clear from this book (and my own experience. I gained about 30 lbs eating 1000 cals a day...) there is a light at the end of the tunnel. He also has a great blog.

Have you gotten your basal metabolic rate tested? That could help... I definitely think there is something wrong though. Have you tried meeting with a functional dietician? They try and get at the root cause of what is going on instead of putting on a band-aid. I assume you've been tested for hashimoto's, cushings, insulin resistance?

I wish you the best of luck. Don't give up. Our bodies are delicate and when we treat them poorly they sometimes don't know what to do. (And sometimes we don't realize we are treating them poorly!)
Avatar universal
Ohmygoodness I feel as if you are telling my story! This is what is happening to me too. :( Did you ever find anything out?
Avatar universal
look up adrenal fatigue
Avatar universal
Try ashwagandha root powder, its adaptogenic for your adrenals
Avatar universal
Avatar universal
I don't know how old this is but...I am in this same situ right now. Difference being I learnt to just eat more and exercise less and my weight plateaued. Yes, far too high for my comfort, but I now know that what broke my metabolism isn't going to fix it. I am now pretty sure I have hypothyroidism and got my b12, iron, folate etc tested - important that you do so. They were all low. I began taking supplements and eating lots of fruit and veg, nuts and seeds, just wholefoods basically - and don't count anything. I stopped having cravings for processed food and feel healthier overall, but I'm in a process and I am unsure how long it will take to see results. I like to have some more processed foods of occasion because they make my temperature go up and I like them! But mostly I need the nutrients, so I can get better bloods and then I'll be able to take thyroid meds if necessary and then the weight will drop on its own. I believe you have the same issue. Makes sense as thyroid might have been weak anyway and is affected by starvation extremely. And please do not do NOT go low carb, it will kill you. Carbs do not make you fat. Damaged organs make you fat and eating less will only cause further issues. I have hope of working it all out eventually, I am definitely on the right track now. Go to the healthunlocked thyroiduk forum and have a look round - lots of helpful people. Don't forget, you are more than your body. I know it *****, I hate it too - trust me, nobody knows the horror more than I do - but you are still more than your body. I understand you and I don't judge you. And there are actually many like me. I'm sure you are beautiful :)
Avatar universal
I can relate to this, I sure wish it would stop. I can exercise every day eat the same foods every day and still gain weight.  I suffered for a few years with restrictive eating and in July my body started to return to normal eating, I am addicted to laxatives now and I know I am continuing to damage by body, but seeing the weight on my once tiny frame is disgusting to me and I can't stand the sight.  I wear huge clothes to cover up and pray my metabolism will someday return to normal.  I am 5'10 and wish I was 119 lbs again which is the least I weighed.  I now weigh about 149 and each time it goes to 150 I get so angry.  The foods and exercise don't make a difference, its so frustrating.
Avatar universal
I actually think I might be able to help you. I have been recovering from Anorexia since November 2015. Right now I am 105 pounds (my aim is 115 or so ). I eat around 2,500 calories a day and I exercise for about 1 hour, as well as walking and weekly boxing classes. Recently I learnt about metabolic disruption (damage) and I realised that I may be suffering from that. I don't have to go back to a normal diet until I reach a normal weight but I have just realised that my body my continue gaining weight even when eating normally at 1800 calories. I've done some research do that I am prepared for the future and this is what I found.
1. Limit the amount of stress you are under. It can cause weight gain (especially in the abdominal region)
2. Get enough sleep! Yes sleep! It reduces stress and hormones which
hold on to fat!
3. Eat a 'normal diet'. Think about it, at 70 do you still want to be popping diet pills?
It seems that your lifestyle is
unbelievably unhealthy. Trying to stick to 1000 calories is so so dangerous when we are meant to be able to eat double that amount! If you are doing exercise on top of that, I honestly don't know how you are still functioning. Think about it, if anyone else was eating what little you are eating now, what would they look like? You suffer from serious metabolic damage due to your unhealthy past eating habits. Your body is clinging to whatever food it can get, and when you start feeding your body
normally it will continue to do the same. This is the body's natural way to respond when it has been starved for a long period of time. What you need to do is show your body some love and care for it so it can care for you.
Here is my recommendation.
Eat a balanced diet of 1,800 calories.
Do not count calories (causes stress and anxiety)
STOP EXERCISING. Cut out all strenuous exercise for two months. Think about it, you are gaining weight while doing enormous amounts of exercise anyway, if you give your body the break from exercise it may be able to start to heal itself. To help you focus your mind take up yoga, do it online (yoga with Adrienne, try the 30 days of yoga!) And take yoga classes (you will meet new people!) Also meditate. Switch anything that is high intensity, whether that be lifting, hit, crossfit, swimming, etc for something that burns very little amounts of calories.
Change your food habits. This is what I would recommend you eat.
Drink:1 pint hot water and lemon
Porrdge : .5 cup porridge oats and 1 cup alternative milk (almond/rice etc) . Use honey or cinnamon to flavor it. Top with some fruit or seeds
Drink: green tea
Snack: banana/ whole food bar (ET nakd bar, I recommend gingerbread or pecanpie)
Sandwhich/rice/pasta etc. Make sure to include at least one portion of fruit / veg here aswell
Afternoon snack.
2 rice cakes/ryvita with 100% peanut butter
1 serving of any wholegrain carb...brown rice/ spelt pasta/wholegrain noodles/sweet potatoes etc
2. 1 portion of chicken, red meat, quorn/ tofu, nut burgers, fish
3. 1 serving of vegetables. Carrot, broccoli, any vegetable
4. Get some healthy fat! If you aren't getting fat from the protein (salmon is good for amazing fats) than add avocado or homemade hummus.
Add an extra portion/.5 portion of your choice carb/protein/veg/fat depending on how your body is feeling. Don't listen to your head , try listening to your body.
Bedtime snack:
Toast with peanut butter/ avocado
Yogurt with berries and granola (I used skimmed greek style no added sugar yogurt)

Personally I feel that once you get used to a diet like this you may need more food! Add nuts and seeds, more vegetables whenever you can!

I recommend that for 1 month you completely cutout gluten and dairy from your diet (I am mainly dairy free, apart from yogurt and my body loves me for it). Try gluten free bread, shortgrakm brown rice and sweet potatoes as your saviours!
If you gain weight on an 1800 - 2000 calorie diet ( am guessing you will ) accept the weight gain and treat it as it is, your body is recovering from starvation, it needs to feel protected. Continue eating healthily. Weigh yourself for a max of once every fortnight. When your weight begins to
balance think about this. Is this weight you are at your natural body weight, is this where your body is comfortable and will fight to stay at. If you have followed my advice and layed off the exercise than I would say that the weight you are in the future is your natural weight.
When you are weight balanced continue a balanced diet adding in gluten and dairy if your body can process it, if not, just leave it out while slowly beginning to exercise again. I would recommend three times a week for 40 minutes for the first three weeks...
Feel free to contact me via
Hope this helps!

Avatar universal
In my case I am 5'6" and my lowest was 85 and now 205 a year later.  I am a vegetarian who eats properly.  Mostly veggies, some egg whites and tofu and yogurt.  I work out but not excessively like when I wasn't eating at all.  My metabolize is somehow normal as is my thyroid. I am a licensed professional who will not work because I refuse to wear anything except sweat cloths. l just want my life back and am at the end of my rope.  Do you know of ANYONE who I can turn to for answers.  I am 26 years old and have no life. I can not do this anymore.
Stay strong and keep pushing through. Be gentle with yourself and remember that you deserve happiness!
I had no idea how common this was.  I stumbled on this blog looking for something else.  And everyone here seems to have the same issue. I am not sure if you are doing better and I hope you are!! I just left this message on someone else's response.  I went through the same thing after battling an eating disorder.  I did not leave my PCP alone for a second though, I knew something was wrong.  I am 34 now, it was about 6/7 years ago when I went through this.  They kept testing my TSH and it was fine every time, but gaining 5-6lbs a months for no reason was not and feeling tired achy etc.  Anyways I researched like crazy, never left my doctors alone.  They thought I was crazy, but I was not giving up, did not come this far to live that life.  I begged them to test my T3 (a thyroid hormone), long behold is was close to nothing! then they did further thyroid tests on their own, again down to nothing.  From their they did a GTT, and Growth hormone.  Now I take some thyroid meds, and metformin,  Solved the problems.  I believe the ED, had majors effects on my pituitary which controls all these functions and just never restored itself.  I am wondering now, if this is something that happens as most people on here are complaining of the same thing, years later.  But do yourself a favor, demand these tests! I feel for you, I remember those days, I would not wish it on my worse enemy.  I hope this information helps if it is something you still need.  Best
Avatar universal
I recovered from anorexia three years ago and I’m going through the exact same thing, so I’m looking for answers too. Your not alone I just wanted to let you know that.
Avatar universal
I know that this is old now but how are you now? Im going through the same thing and it’s been 3 years now, I’ve gained to 182lbs and am the same height as you.
Have your Thyroid hormones tested if you have not... have your T3 level specifically tested.  Just tell them to do it! this happened to me as well years ago  now,  I had to do my own research and even though my TSH looked fine, it was my Ft4 and more importantly my T3 that was shot to the ground.  It was probably from the years of abuse.  But trust me.  also have them do a GTT (glucose tolerance test)... I saw the best doctors in Boston after not giving up for a year and being extremely consistent with my PCP.  I knew something was wrong and i had not fought so hard to recover from ED to be stuck with whatever was going on.  Believe they all thought I was crazy for a while, until these tests starting showing that  I was not
Avatar universal
I just wanted to say I have the same issue. My lowest bmi was 11.6 and I recovered to a bmi of over 20. But, it’s been over a year now and I’m still gaining weight on only 1600 calories despite being only 20 years old and living an active lifestyle. I also do not have periods and have osteoporosis. I’ve been to many different doctors but none will help me. My T3 and T4 aren’t are right at the bottom of the normal range so nobody will treat me with thyroid hormone. I am suicidal and cannot cope.
I meant to say my T3 and T4 are right at the bottom of the normal range
Why will they not help you?  That is ridiculous.  What has happened since this post?
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