I don’t want to start WW3. Let me just preface this post by saying that there is no right way to recover. There is no wrong way to recover. Everyone’s eating disorder is slightly different and has surfaced in different ways. So naturally, no one recovery method will work for everyone. Also, a big part of recovery is letting go of these rigid beliefs. I think that the end recovery goal for most people is to live life without compulsively worrying about calories, meal planning, or food. In order to achieve this state, the journey will look different for everyone.
If you aren’t yet weight restored or in the beginning states of recovery, I recommend keeping a rough track of your caloric intake. This will help you monitor your weight trends and ensure that you are getting “enough”. If you are living at home or with someone else, I recommend putting them in charge of planning your meals and keeping a record of your calories. It can be scary to give up all control, but it is necessary to let go.
Once you are a bit more physically and mentally stable, I recommend that you change things up a bit. I personally find it harder to maintain rather than to gain or loose weight. When I get asked “how many calories should I eat to maintain my weight”, I never say a specific number. Because the number is different for everyone! I would say to eat as much as you can in order to maintain your weight. You will not keep gaining weight. Personally, I can maintain my weight in a range of about 400 calories (not going to mention specifics). But if I am on the low end, my quality of life is so much worse and I behave and feel like total crap. If I am eating a higher number of calories, I don’t gain weight but I gain happiness, energy, and the people around me like being with me a whole lot more!
Once you are weight restored, I recommend not strictly planning out your calories ahead of time. At the end of the day, it can be nice to go through and roughly estimate how much you’ve eaten. If at the end of the day you realize that you have had a low intake day, maybe you can suggest a spontaneous ice cream run. If you estimate and realized you’ve had a high calorie day, don’t freak out. Nothing will happen. You will not gain “real” weight or fat simply from having a few thousand extra calories. Even if this lasts a few days or weeks. Your body wants to remain at its set point. It knows what to do with food. Even if you’ve had a high calorie day and your family wants to go on that spontaneous ice cream run, don’t go “oh no thanks. I’ve already eaten xxxx calories do I don’t need that.” Food is more than fuel, it is also something that brings us closer to those we love. If you are feeling full, instead of simply saying an outright no, maybe order a plain cone instead of a huge milkshake. Unless you know that milkshake sounds better. And you will know whether or not you actually want it or not.
This is what works for me in my recovery. I am not saying you should or shouldn’t count calories. Recovery looks and feels different for everyone.
Do you find counting calories helpful?