Weight Gain

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Q & A: Weight Gain

Q: I am anorexic and weigh 85 pounds. I workout every day for over an hour, switching between aerobic and weight training. I know I’m supposed to gain weight, but I want to be sure that it is in the form of muscle. I’m afraid of putting on fat. So, what should I do?

A: It sounds as if your trouble in gaining weight has a few components. You don’t eat enough, exercise too much, and deny that there is a relationship between the two. You need to understand the connection. Most non-exercising, anorexic women have a resting metabolism requirement of about 11 kcal per pound. Some, who are restless or fidget will often burn 10-50% more calories. Your workout probably consumes about another 500 calories. So, if you are not consuming enough calories to gain weight, you need to severely limit your exercise. In restricted environments such as hospitals, patients are often refused exercise during weight gain, and I urge you to not exercise until you reach a more stable weight. But, if you are unable to resist the drive to exercise, try to do less and eat more to compensate for the additional caloric expenditure.

You cannot selectively gain weight only as muscle. Actually, your body desperately needs fat to function properly-for menstruation, to ward off illness, and to prevent osteoporosis. A healthy female’s body composition has 18-24% fat. You probably have less than 10%, maybe much less.

Your desire to gain weight in the form of muscle only is unreasonable and is a symptom of your anorexic thinking. In order to recover from anorexia, you must: 1) accept that you will gain weight and fat, 2) stop exercising until you reach a healthy weight, 3) find new coping skills to handle stress, 4) come to grips with whatever emotional problems are holding you back, and 5) admit that you have a severe, life-threatening eating disorder and become willing to do whatever it takes (including eating, gaining weight, or stopping exercising, etc.) to recover. Good luck!

Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Winter 2003-2004 Volume 2, Number 2
©2003 Gürze Books

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