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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

In the past I suffered from anorexia. I am now recovered from the illness that I had for about four years. When I gained the weight back it went on very quickly without having to consume a large amount of calories. I have achieved a healthy weight for my body and I would like to maintain that. But currently I am finding it extremely difficult not to gain weight. I am not eating many calories at all, but my body seems to just cling to whatever I give it. Have I slowed my metabolism down forever? I just want to be a normal person again and maintain my weight without having to eat so few calories.

(Article continued below.)

Congratulations on acknowledging your anorexia and taking the steps to overcome it. As you probably realize, it's a pernicious disorder and the anorexic way of thinking tends to persist for quite a long while. Although you may have recovered from the most destructive behavior patterns, your psyche is still very fragile and you can still fall into negative thinking patterns and behaviors. You don't say how long you have been in recovery, or offer any details about your weight or how much you are eating. It is quite possible your body image is still out of proportion to reality. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stay close to your therapist, if you have one - or if you don't currently have one, to seek out professional help. An anorexia support group would also be very good for you. Anorexia is not something that can be dealt with by one's self. It takes a very long time to recover, both physically and mentally, from this disease. In addition, you may want to seek out a nutritionist who is familiar with eating disorders so that she can develop an eating program that is appropriate for you.

As far as your question about metabolism, only a doctor can tell you what is really going on with your body, but chances are you have not ruined your metabolism permanently. Anorexia does play havoc with the metabolism, however, because your body has been starving for so long, so it won't go back to normal overnight or even in a few weeks. Other anorexics have reported that it has taken their metabolisms as much as a year to get back to normal. The length of time it will take you depends on a lot of factors - the length and severity of your bout with anorexia, your age, your health, etc. You should not starve yourself for fear of weight gain - that could set you right back into the anorexic cycle. You must learn to accept the fact that 1) your body's weight will not make you happy for quite a while, 2) this does not mean you are fat, nor does it mean you will get fat, and 3) any unhappiness you have has more to do with what is going on in your head than what you see on the scale or in the mirror. This is one of the reasons why therapy and support groups are good - they can give you a reality check. Chances are your weight is quite normal for your height, or you may even still be somewhat underweight. What you should be concerned with is eating healthy foods and getting a moderate amount of exercise (and you should consider having an exercise buddy to make sure you aren't overdoing it - over exercising is another pattern anorexics exhibit). Your body needs to realize that you are no longer starving it - then it will stop hording fat. It's an adjustment process for both you and your body. Good luck!

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