I’ve been swaying backwards and forwards on the subject I want to write about tonight. Initially what I began was a post on body image, the idea of getting lost in the mirror at the beginning of the day and staying trapped as it carries on. But during the last couple of days there have been a few people who I know who are thinking about increasing their intake and one of the things that they are finding difficult and quite frightening is the process of re-feeding. So I’m going to do my best to explain my experiences and hopefully help put some minds at ease.
*Please not that I am not a medical professional and re-feeding at any stage should be done under medical supervision*
The first thing I will tell you (even though I don’t want to) is that re-feeding hurts, not just mentally or emotionally, but physically. I’m telling you now because it’s the one thing I wish someone would have told me. It is not a pleasant experience and I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy but it’s a reality. the good news though is that it doesn’t last forever, it is just a brief thing you have to go through in order to take those steps towards recovery and once you push past that part you are going to be physically able to begin to tackle the thoughts that have you bound up in your eating disorder.
In the beginning it is frightening because you don’t know what’s happening, your body is doing all this strange crap that is beyond your control. There is a tiredness that you have never known before, walking from the bed to the door leaves you breathless, your dizzy when you stand and nauseous when you lay down. It is easy at this point to blame the food, after all you tell yourself ‘before you could run around all day and be fine’. I like to think of this time as my body waking up and having the energy to realise what I’d been doing to it and was trying to figure out how it was going to begin to repair itself. It does ease up in time, a few days or maybe longer, each body will work to its own time frame.
In the days that follow, as your body takes in more food your stomach will begin to stretch, and it does feel like it’s stretching. Your stomach will twist and pull and cramp and every other type of pain you can think of will happen. You will spend hours attempting to find a position that takes the edge of that pain, you may cry and that’s ok too. Heartburn might kick in, and although it may feel like you are having a heart attack you probably aren’t (but get it checked out anyway if your unsure).You might experience palpitations, or feeling as though your heart is racing, again perfectly normal but if in doubt see your doctor.
About a week in your bowels will try to start working again, emphasis on the ‘try’ here. This isn’t particularly nice but here goes…you will want to take a crap more than you have ever wanted to in your life. You can feel it and it’s like it won’t budge. You can’t sit down or stand up, you will feel like your ass is being torn in two. There will be hours spent on the toilet begging to any higher power that you believe in to just get it over with. It will pass (no pun intended) and things will become more regular. I don’t know anyone who has gone through re-feeding who doesn’t take the ability to go to the loo for granted.
Bloating will happen. It’s horrible. There aren’t any other words. You might swell in other places but the most common area is your stomach. I promise you that this is NOT fat. It is air and water and it goes down. Do you hear me? It goes down. Don’t let it freak you out. Don’t let it make you back out at this point because you are almost through the worst of it. It might last a couple of weeks or a little longer, again your body will respond differently to another.
Don’t be surprised if your body temperature starts to change quickly, hot flushes happen, and I personally found that after eating I would get really cold suddenly and it could only be sorted by wrapping myself up in a blanket.
So those are just some of the things to expect, there may be things that I have missed out or just didn’t experience. Look…your body is going through some pretty intense changes when you start to nourish it again and if you bear with it, have a little patience then it will start to sort itself out. It is worth it, having energy, not feeling as though you are about to pass out, being able to get from A to B without a considerable amount of effort is worth it. You are going to have a lot of challenges in recovery and to be able to meet those is going to demand more of you than any other thing you have probably experienced in your life. Be kind enough to yourself to know that you need something to fuel those demands. Re-feeding is an essential but short part of recovery, you can’t avoid it so be prepared and refuse to not let the fear overwhelm you.