8 Ways to Cope with Weight Change in Eating Disorder Recovery

It can be a shock to the system to experience your body changing, especially if you’ve been controlling your body and weight for a long time. If there’s ever a time that your fear of body change will show up, it’s in disordered eating recovery.

Weight restoration and renourishment are vital parts of eating disorder recovery. These are similar things in theory, but quite different in practice. Weight restoration is when your weight returns to your weight (or higher) at the onset of your eating disorder. In contrast, renourishment is a more general term for re-fuelling your body in disordered eating recovery.

Usually, weight restoration is seen in anorexia or bulimia recovery, and renourishment in other eating disorders. But, I tend to use the terms interchangeably.

Regardless of how much weight you need to gain in your recovery, you will experience body and weight change. A big fear of weight change can show up – it’s one of the most common struggles my clients have. I have written about what causes your fear of weight gain here.

1. Remember why you want to recover

I recommend that you make a list of reasons you want to recover from your eating disorder. This way you can read the list and remind yourself when you’re struggling.

This is a great option if you’re someone who gets tunnel vision when you feel overwhelmed with body change. My clients use this strategy all the time, and helps them remember their long-term goals.

To be able to create a list of reasons why you’re healing your relationship with food, you need to know your reasons why. You can do this by:

  • Thinking about what’s truly important to you in life, outside of food and body things
  • What do you want your life to look like in 5 years?
  • What are the things you really value in other people, and does living with disordered eating make you live that way?

2. What are you gaining alongside weight?

In recovery, your body will very likely change. But so will you life!

When you heal from disordered eating, your life becomes larger and more fufilling. This return to your life could mean:

  • More meaningul relationships with friends and family
  • Returning to work or study
  • Freedom to eat what, when, and how much you like
  • More time spent on your hobbies and interests
  • Less time being obsessed with food and eating
  • Less injuries, exhaustion, and brain fog
  • Eating at restaurants without guilt and stress

I know you wish you could recover without your body changing. But that’s just not the case. I encourage you to remind yourself what your life could be after recovery.

3. Immerse yourself with people who want you to recover

One of the biggest barriers in recovery after the fear of weight gain is not being supported by those around you. This doesn’t mean you need to boycott all your current friends. But it means you could find new people and places where recovery is celeberated.

You could do this by:

  • Unfollowing diet culture accounts on socials, and following more real-life eating and body neutrality/fat positivity accounts
  • Reading books like The Beauty Myth, Intuitive Eating, Happy Fat, and Body-Posi Panda (*)
  • Join in on online communities and groups, such as Facebook recovery groups
  • Listen to podcasts that are disordered eating recovery friendly – such as my podcast, Nourishing Women, and Rethinking Wellness

4. Look beyond body size

This is difficult, and you might roll your eyes. But recovery also means recovering from your disordered eating self. Your disordered eating self puts you in a box of body size, weight, numbers, food, exercise, etc., when actually there’s SO much more to you than these things.

You have humour, intellect, skills, qualities, relationships, likes, dislikes – you are so much more than your body.

Can you write a list of reasons (aim for 30+) you like yourself? This has to be outside of body size, food, and disordered eating. Try to include as many non-appearance things as you can. Refer to this list whenever you think you should stay living with disordered eating.

5. Work towards body neutrality

Body neutrality means taking care and respecting your body even at times you don’t like how it looks. This is a way to move away from focusing on your body.

Can you notice what’s happening as you gain weight in recovery? Are you:

  • More energised to move around?
  • Less snappy with your friends and family?
  • Less muscle aches and pains?
  • Stronger nails, brighter skin?
  • Can you sit with emotions easier?
  • Do you feel the potential to thrive now you have more energy and brain space?

The key to working towards body neutrality is to care for yourself every day, regardless of how you feel about yourself that day. What are some non-negotiables you will do every day to care for yourself?

6. Remember recovery is a process

You will probably find that sometimes you don’t feel 100% great in recovery. That’s because weight restoration and renourishment can cause short-term problems like gut problems, more focus on food, and increased anxiety.

The good news is, these are always temporary! It’s just your body’s way of recalibrating after disordered eating. Stick with recovery and impliment what I’ve suggested in this article.

There will be times (and it can feel like *alot* of the time!) when you feel really upset about body change. But over time you will feel the benefits of recovery and work to tolerate your body changing.

8. Learn to sit with the discomfort of body change

The uncomfortableness of your body changing isn’t the problem. It’s just the symptom. The root is something else, right? It could be your fear of letting others down, judgement, worry about health, or feeling like you will lose your identity if you gain weight.

To learn to sit with the discomfort of your body changing, you first need to know *why* this comes up for you. Can you write down the reasons why it brings up so much? After this, you can think about some ways you could make it easier to cope with these feelings.

Think about how you deal with uncomfortable or unwanted emotions. Do you find it easy or difficult? Are there certain emotions or situations that really push you out of your comfort zone? This might be worth exploring in 1-1 therapy if you need it.

9. My fear of weight gain masterclass

As I’ve given you a bunch of strategies to cope with your fear of weight gain, you might have already guessed that it’s a common struggle. Most of my clients that I’ve supported over the last 4+ years struggle with their body changing too.

That’s why I created a 1-hour masterclass to help you overcome your fear of weight gain! It covers why you feel this way, how to break free, in-the-moment strategies, and how to heal in the long term. Check out the masterclass here.

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