How to fix your metabolism after an eating disorder

How to fix your metabolism after an eating disorder

So many clients I work with want to know how to fix their metabolism after an eating disorder. If that is you, I want to stop you right here and let you know that you are not broken! As you go through the process of recovery your metabolism will recover with you. Take a read on for my advice on how you can work on this. I promise there are some small changes you can make to help increase your metabolism.

What is Metabolism?

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of energy your body needs for normal daily function and your daily activites. It is made up of:

RMR = Resting metabolic rate. This is the energy needed for normal daily activites such as heart rate, blood sugar regulation, temperature, breathing and sleeping. This can be 50-65% of your daily needs. (NB this can be over 1200kcals alone, hence why a 1200kcal diet makes no sense).

Thermogenesis = the amount of energy to digest your food. Around 10% of your daily needs.

Physical activity = anything else you do on top of this.

So we can see that your metabolism is not just one component but there are several elements that play a role. It can help to realise how much energy your body needs on a day to day basis for it’s basics functions. Then we add on the energy for digestion and activity. You can see why you diets are not going to help here.

Signs of a slow metabolism

Lets think about the signs of a slow metabolism. When you are undereating or overexercising (or both) this can impact your metabolism. Signs of a sluggish metabolism include:

  • Slower heart rate
  • Lower body temperature (feeling cold)
  • Slower digestion (bloated, feeling fuller)
  • Loss of menstrual cycle

All of these signs can be experienced with a low body weight or a normal body weight. Maybe you can notice some of them in your own body now. I want you to remember that weight is not always a determinant. Whilst being a lower body weight can play a role. weight is not always a good guide.

During an eating disorder your metabolism is likely to be affected, let’s move on to think about that next.

How does your metabolism change in the course of an eating disorder?

Your body wants you to survive and thrive. Which is a good thing! Thank goondess if has a survival mechanism built in. So, if you are undernourishing yourself, your bosy will want to adapt to protect you and try to use less energy. Essentially, It goes into power saving mode. As a reuslt, your metabolism can decreased up to 50-70%. This can happen in anorexia and also in the restrict stage of a binge eating disorder. So what happens as you start to work on recovery?

As you start to renourish, eat regularly and rest more the body starts to feel safer. Your metabolism will increase as your body systems work more effectively. Maybe you feel wamer, have more energy, have a period, all fabulous signs. It’s good to know that this healing process can take more energy than you would expect. Your metabolic rate can actually double during recovery as the body has to heal and is restoring so many processes. So do not be suprised if you need to eat more than someone else. In fact you may feel extreme hunger, this can also be part of the process.

When your body reaches its set point or healthy weight it will level out. Your metabolic rate moves to its optimal range and your body works better! So you see, these metabolic changes are fully reversible, you are not broken. Let’s think about how to fix your metabolism.

In order to fix your metabolism you need the 4 R’s:

Restoring metabolism is not something that happens overnight. It takes time and work for your body to feel safe enough to restore function. So it is important to try and stick with the process. That is where having someone to guide and support you can make such a difference.

Try the 4 R’s:

Here are 4 areas you can work on to help your metabolism come back on line:

  • Regular meals and snacks
  • Renourishment
  • Restore weight
  • Rest

Here’s an example of how to fix a damaged metabolism after dieting…

How to fix your metabolism after dieting:

Let’s start with a trip back in histort. In the 1940’s, in Minnesota some starvation studies took place. During this research, 36 men were placed into semi-stavation. Their calories were halved and they were walking hours a day. It is probably of no suprise to hear their BMR (basal metabolic rate) decreased by 40%. When these men were renourished and refed, their bodies needed more energy than was expected. By the end of the study, they had all regained body weight and metabolism. The study found that metabolism took longer to heal the longer the restriction went on for. There was also a degree of overshoot that went on for weight gain but this normalised after a few months. I talk about this more later in this blog.

So this study shows us that it very much is possible to recover and you are not broken. Top take homes are that the quicker you work on metabolic repair the better. You can do this by eating enough, eating regularly and resting enough too.

Tips to restore your metabolism:

Below are some top tips on how to restore your metabolism. Try to work on these consistently for a few months and you will start to feel the effects. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, these are all products I love).

  • Eat enough (that’s 3 meals and 3 snacks a day). You can download my free meal planner guide here for more help with this.
  • Eat regularly (going no longer than 3-4 hours between eating occasions). This can seem a lot but we need the body to feel safe and nourished.
  • Eat carbohydrates at each meal (bread, rice, pasta, grains, oats, potatoes, crackers)
  • Reduce your exercise (stick to short walks only, it’s just for now)
  • Sleep and rest plenty.
  • Stay warm (Think cosy blankets, these useful wrist warmers and layers of clothes. I also love these small heated blankets)
  • Focus on calming activities to help the nervous system (meditation, mindfulness, journalling, crafts, being out in nature)

Will I overshoot my weight?

This is such a common concern and I understand why! So many of my clients are worried that they will end up in a larger body than they are able to tolerate. I always like to remind them that the aim of recovery is to get to a healthy place for your body.

As I mentioned above there was a degree of overshoot in the starvation studies BUT IT NORMALISED. This means after a few months the body settled down, felt safer and brought weight back to the set point. So whilst it can feel super challenging if your weight does overshoot, it doesn’t mean that is where it will stay. Sometimes your body is still healing and it need that extra energy.

If you want to hear more about this then I’d encourage you to tune into the podcast below.

Podcast art for recoveyr to flourish podcast episode "Healing your metabolism after an eating disorder"

Recover to Flourish Podcast

Healing your metabolism

I’m delighted to share this podcast episode with you where you can hear me talking to Ciandra Birnbaum. We cover how metabolism is affected during an eating disorder and how you can help to heal it.

Don’t forget you can book in for support with me here.

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