In which I vent a little bit

I first learned about hypermetabolism in my second treatment stint (first residential stay). Up until then, I didn't know that when you start eating again after a long period of starvation, your metabolism typically goes a little bonkers. This is some pretty useful information.

What I also didn't know was that your metabolism stays elevated long after weight restoration, making this time period even more fraught with difficulties and possibly contributing to the high levels of relapse. I think this is useful, necessary stuff that so many treatment providers don't mention because an eating disorder isn't about the food, or so they say. Except it does become about the food if you can't maintain your weight, or you start bingeing and purging, so I think it should be out there, in the open.

Which brings me to my point: my metabolism has once again skyrocketed. And I fundamentally don't like it.

Some of the discomfort is related to the eating disorder: feelings of guilt and shame at having to eat so much more than others, wondering whether I'm going to gain weight from this, thinking that it would be an awfully convenient way to drop a few pounds. Some of the discomfort isn't: I'm tired of the near-constant cooking and meal prep, of the obnoxious grocery bills, of constantly having to be thinking of food and eating.

How I have to approach food and eating right now is pretty much the polar opposite of how people in the US are "supposed" to think about food. Low fat is not a smart option for me, and when you need over 3000 calories to maintain your weight, "healthy" isn't so healthy anymore. I don't get to "eat whatever I want" because of my freaky metabolism- if I ate what I wanted, I can guarantee you it wouldn't be this much. Instead, I have to be careful and mindful and responsible and eat what my body needs.

I'm simply frustrated and exhausted. I second guess all of my food choices, all the time. Have I had enough protein? Too much fat? Too many calories? Am I eating too much in the morning, too much at night? Would a bigger breakfast help? Should I include more fruits and veggies? And when I go to buy food- what about the costs? Can I find item X cheaper? Should I spend money on supplements like Carnation Instant Breakfast? What about premium ice cream like Ben and Jerry's? What about everything I was told about how wasteful it was to buy Ben and Jerry's because it was so expensive? Should I ignore that?

I kind of want to bury my head in the sand for a while, and just let this pass.

Reading back over what I've written, it seems like a long "oh poor me!' whine. I don't know- maybe it is. I only wish eating were simpler, less fraught with the moral perils I've internalized. And I keep getting discouraged that there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

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Sarah said...

"I'm simply frustrated and exhausted."

I was there. It will get easier, although you may always second guess yourself and feel guilty about eating "more" than what you "should."

Just wanted to let you know you're not alone.

alice said...

i'm trying to eat more to, and in general the population isn't. so part of me feels guilty and wrong doing this. i'm glad you pointed that out.
my sister is alot bigger than me and she goes on diets. whereas i'm trying to gain and it doesn't feel right. although it is right.

Libby said...

There is never a reason not to buy Ben and Jerry's. I give you that permission. Always. Consider me the B&J fairy.

I think it's especially hard right now because we're still in "diet season"... which seems to end after people throw their big Superbowl parties.

Hang in there. You are worth it.

Just Eat It! said...

I know the feeling. Hang in there! My psychologist always says that she thinks it's a cruel joke to take a bunch of people who are scared of food and have to make them eat more than your average human in order to maintain their weight. I couldn't agree with her more.

I often wish someone had told me about hyper-metabolism the first time I got out of treatment. At the treatment center, we ate a "maintenance" meal of the standard 2000 calories then supplements added. Well, when I got home, I ate the same amount that I had gotten in solid food at the treatment center. The rest is history.

I grapple with the issue of having to eat more than my friends and people in general. It still baffles me that I can be eating so much and not be gaining exponentially. My mom uses the firewood analogy: in order to get a dying fire going and then sustain it, you have to put a lot of wood in it.

Carrie Arnold said...

Oooh- love the firewood analogy. My therapist used one involving fuel effiency. Her metabolism was like a Toyota Prius (hybrid car)- she could get a lot of miles to the gallon. I was a standard Toyota- I just needed more fuel to do the same amount of work.

I still don't understand why so many clinicians shy away from food/weight talk in the practical sense that we need. I want to talk about my messed up metabolism. I need to! It's much more effective than rehashing how I was teased on the playground (though that is also true and important).

Reagan said...

Don't be too hard on yourself! It IS a big deal- eating is a huge part of life!

I feel ya, though- it seems like a second job at times. Just hang in there, it will get better, and you'll be eating intuitively in no time.

MelissaS said...

it's good to vent. go right ahead. you have every right. it's good for me to read your venting -- another reminder i'm not alone.

i have to eat very, very little to maintain a regular weight. the minute i eat a bit more, i gain a lot of weight very quickly. i have my own metabolism issues. i try to tell myself it is what is, but -- it's exhausting and frustrating.

Kim said...

I totally understand your frustrations. Like you, I don't get to eat "whatever I want"; I have to eat MUCH more than that. I feel very childishly angry at my almost-husband who literally eats only a granola bar all day, until dinner, while I've already eaten 2 meals and 2 snacks (of pretty substantial size) by the time dinner comes around, and then I have to have dessert. He makes it seem like this is some kind of blessing, but it sucks. Like you said, I have to be hyper vigilant about eating enough. I can't just be blase about it. I didn't know some of the science about the hypermetabolism. That's good to know. Is there any way to test to see if this is happening? Or does it just happen? My blood work, etc is always normal, but I still have to eat a freaking lot. Oh well... It's ok to vent. I'm glad you did. It was helpful to me!

Hope said...

So sorry that things are so difficult and frustrating for you right now. I applaud your courage and strength.

Keep venting and talking. You WILL make it.

Sending support and warm hugs!!

Carrie Arnold said...

Okay, so maybe I'll do a post later today on the biology and science of hypermetabolism, and metabolism during ED recovery in general. It sounds like so many of us need to know more about it!

Anonymous said...

I would appreciate it if you did a post explaining more about hypermetabolism. My nutritionist said that it what happens first as the body is trying to repair all of the damange that it does. What I didn't realize what that it stays elevated...does it ever compltely drop? For example, if you're inpatient and having to eat 3500 calories per day for adequate weight gain, what happens when you start decreasing the caloric intake? Are you hungry all the time? Thanks so much for your blog and the helpful info.

sarah-j said...

I am also very glad that you vented this post Carrie.

I was just thinking about this today and chastising myself for thinking that I hate having to eat this much. I was like, what am I talking about, this is an actual dream come true, when I had an ED I would have given Anything to be able to eat loads and feel good (some of the time and ok most of the time)about my body. so what the heck am I complaining about??!

But it can be difficult, especially when it seems like everyone else in society is valuing dieting. (But hey, they're wrong about that, so we're fighting for a just cause as well as recovering from an ED!)

I hope that writing the post made you feel better too Carrie.

Enjoy Life said...

Great work on keeping up your nutrition, as hard as it is.
You're a warrior.
Take care, Joy

mary said...

I think it's great that you know what you are up against, not that it makes it much easier.
Giving up or cutting back on coffee might help ...not trying to get slapped here...but it's true. Scientific even!
Spend whatever you can spare and treat yourself to the Ben and Jerry's if you like it. I'm not picky but my brother lives for B&J's!

Carrie Arnold said...


Thank you so much for commenting- it really does mean a lot to me.


We can double date. Who gets Ben and who gets Jerry? And more importantly: what flavor shall we have? :)

mary said...

You might not believe me but I've never had Ben and Jerry's ice cream. I'm too much of a half gallon girl but for this date I will splurge and get their little tub.
What flavor do you think? Chocolate river? Strawberry dream? I know..."Coffee and Fudge Forever" Maybe we should start Carrie and Mary's and give Benny boy and Jerry babe a run for their money.
You can have Ben and Jerry! ; )

Tiger said...

Do not question Ben or Jerry.
They are lovely men (no kidding--they really are!)
and the ice cream they make is delicious. I'd suggest Phish Food, Cherry Garcia, Dublin Mudslide, Creme Brulee, New York Super Fudge Chunk, Imagine Whirled Peace, and anything with Fudge shapes in it--cows are particularly yummy!

and, yes, I grew up in VT.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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