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Raising Metabolism and Water Retention

Blog Forums Eating Disorders Raising Metabolism and Water Retention

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    Hello everyone!

    I’ve been reading this blog and others like it over the past 3 months, and have been working on getting out of the vicious cycle of overexercise, undereating, and occasional purging. Overall, for the past 3 months, I have been successful at eating a lot of food and moving past this phase in my life, and I am so grateful to have found this blog and youreautopia to help me do so.

    With that being said, over the past three months, while I have felt much better in terms of not being afraid of food anymore, I have been dealing with the less pleasant side effects of “refeeding”. During my time of restricting and overexercising, I was at a normal weight to start and I never became underweight, but was deathly afraid of eating “too many” calories as I felt that whenever I “went over” I felt terrible and I always seemed to gain back the few pounds I had worked so hard to lose.

    My question is, when does the horrible water retention end? When I entered recovery at the beginning of September, I had been having episodes of restrictive and reactive eating, which had led me to regain the lbs I had lost through restriction, and I was basically weight restored already. However, I still did not have a period, and had other symptoms of undernourishment. Now, I have had my period for the last two months, and am seeing signs of my metabolism revving up and have much less painful bloating than I did the first two months. In the morning, my oral temperatures are around 98.3.

    However, my weight is a good 25ish pounds over my “normal weight”, and I can tell it has a lot to do with water retention. Some days, I have severe edema in my ankles, and I can tell I have still have lots of water retention especially in my thighs, stomach, and upper arms.

    I guess my question is, now that I have basically been weight stable for the past couple of weeks above what I believe should be my set point, how should I go forward? I have been eating around 2200-3000 a day, and don’t seem to be gaining weight, but my lovehandles and thighs “hurt” and change shape throughout the day. I have also always been an hourglass shape, but right now my waist is not very defined and I have a weird layer of “fat” over my ribs. At the beginning of recovery, I was starving and ate everything in sight, but now I am somewhat bored with food and am having to force myself to eat some days. Does this mean I am in the phase that Matt talks about of starting to eat a little less naturally? I never ever want to go back to restricting like I did before, but I don’t know if my decreased appetite is telling me that I should just follow that and the water retention will go away, or if I just need to keep eating and then the water retention will go away? I have also always been an athlete and plan on resuming those activities when my body is ready, but am not sure when I can go back to exercise.

    I know this is a long post, so hopefully someone will have the patience to read and help me with any advice. I’ve began posts many times before but been too scared to submit, but now I would really like some help and advice. Also, I am a 23 year old female.


    I think that it is so fantastic that you are doing this now, at 23. I am 10 years older than you and I have wasted so much time starving and overexercising, to the point that I kind of missed out on all the good things life was trying to throw at me.

    I am a member here and at Youreatopia and have been on various other forums related to ED recovery. In the ‘real world’ I have also met a lot of people in various attempts at recovery-I mean, literally over a hundred women (I’ve met men too on the internet-more than I would have ever expected-but the relationships I’ve formed in various treatment programs have strictly been with women because they have all been women-only programs). I can tell you based on what I’ve seen physically in the ‘real world’ women is that those who were purgers had the hardest time with the swelling and huge weight swings, followed by the over-exercisers. It sounds like you get to be in both clubs.

    I have a very close friend who I’ve known since the beginning of my own struggle. She had a 25-year battle with bulimia and had been a marathon runner throughout that time (I don’t know how she survived; the body is amazingly resilient despite our best efforts to destroy it). She finally got to a place where she ate freely and rested, beginning about 5 years ago. She was just fed up and decided on her own to take an approach that turned out to be very similar to what Matt is suggesting here (along with lots and lots of therapy!). I would say that in the last year and a half or so she has been stable. So the first 3-4 years she was kind of all over the place. Now, don’t let that discourage you-she will 100% tell you it was well worth it to stick it out. Also, she had lived for a quarter century with these behaviors so her healing time should be considered in light of the duration of her illness. She just allowed herself to maintain a vast wardrobe that spanned multiple closets, so she could adjust as needed. Now, she is larger than I ever knew her to be before, but it appears to be her healthy weight. Her ED self would have been horrified, but people who know her (including husband) think she looks fantastic. She is probably at the top end of the “healthy” BMI range but BMI is horseshit anyway.

    I knew another girl who was closer to my age, and who I no longer talk much to but frequently see in town. She had been sick just for a few years before being forced into treatment. She is very proactive in the recovery community here so her progress is pretty visible. She ran marathons also and was very good at it even whilst she was extremely sick in her behaviors. She was running very, very high mileage when I was in treatment with her. They had her cease exercise completely and she swelled up immediately, and even before she increased her caloric intake to the recommended amount. As I said I see her in town and do talk to her from time to time. I know she took a solid 2 years off of running and is back to it now but much less rigid about it all, and she looks great and tells me she is eating freely and loving her life and no longer obsessing about food.

    Personally I’ve gone through hard core restriction, hard core exercise abuse, both at the same time, and every other iteration, and right now i am really trying to embrace this whole approach, take it easy, and eat what I want. And I haven’t had much edema or water retention but I do get insanely bloated. I’m only maybe a couple months in though. I do want to go back to running but I doubt I’ll be anywhere near healthy enough until I’ve been in this for a good solid while. I have no idea what a good solid while is. But I suspect I’ll know I’m ready when I (1) have periods regularly and consistently, (2) am at a weight where I look at least somewhat like the other women in my family-those that don’t have raging eating disorders anyway (I don’t weigh myself anymore-highly recommend ditching the scale), (3) am eating freely according to what I crave and not some arbitrary rules, and (4) have been experiencing 1-3 without much fluctuations, water retention exhaustion, et cetera. I think this is a very individualized process but I would suggest not worrying too much about the when. Just know that you’ll get there if you are eating enough that you aren’t thinking much about food and aren’t denying yourself what you want. I also think you need to NOT know what your weight is so that you don’t try to use the number as a way of gauging whether you’re “doing it right.” External control is the enemy. I need to let my body call the shots, just like it does in letting me know it’s time to breathe, or to pee. I don’t tell my body to inhale twice per every 5 minutes, or to pee exactly 16 ounces every 4 hours and 15 minutes, so why in the hell would I tell my body that it should run on 1,700 calories per day? Ain’t my job. It’s up to biology. I do not dictate biology.


    Thanks tennosea, that was helpful.

    I forgot to mention that this thankfully only lasted about a year, with the heavy restriction and overexercise happening mainly over 2-3 months. I guess my hope is that because my restriction was short, my recovery will be short as well. This whole thing started just because I wanted to get more in shape, and then I wanted to get in shape “faster”, and thus upped my restriction and exercise simultaneously. I know I’m on the right track to getting back to normal, and I’m glad for communities like this where we can see what others have done and get encouragement.


    Well even more excellent that you caught it early!

    My 10 years of anorexia certainly didn’t start out as an attempt to develop an eating disorder. It started because I was injured and warned by my well-intentioned mother to watch my intake while I was forced to be sedentary for 2 months during the healing process. She “helped” me by showing me some recipes for low calorie substitutes for the foods I was used to eating. I lost a few pounds. I liked it. I continued. Down the rabbit hole I went. For at least the first 1-2 years everyone thought I was just enviably healthy and that I loved to work out. But by that time the trap was set-after a year of heavy restriction, for me, I was quite hooked.


    hi I know this is nearly a year old now but my situation is nearly identical to yours and i wander if you can tell me how long the water retention took to go?

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