• Rachel Rutherford

Staying Strong in Hard Times


This year has been the hardest 5 months of my life. I started my recovery on the 17th November 2021. I will always remember that day, as my life was in a really bad place.


Living with an eating disorder is hard, but the recovery process for me has been even harder.


I totally believe that when my body fully recovers, I will be so glad I stuck the process out, but when it all just feels like a blur, its hard to really see the light.


In my head, all I needed to do was gain the weight and start eating a variety of foods again. I saw recovery taking around 1-2 months, and by February be ready to go, to start training properly, feel better and just be back to ‘normal’. I soon came to discover I was severely underestimating the process.


I wasn’t just slightly underweight, I was severely malnourished, and realistically had probably been suffering with RED-S for years. It wasn’t until last year that things properly got out of hand, but I am now undoing years of damage.



At the beginning of recovery, I had SO MUCH energy, little did I know this was just pure adrenaline and wasn’t to last. It came the start of January, and the extreme hunger and extreme exhaustion began. For weeks I couldn’t get out of bed. All my body wanted to do was eat and sleep. Not to mention the brain fog that came along with it. While it was one of the hardest parts and I thought my whole life was doomed, I would later realise that in fact harder times were still to come.


Hunger

My hunger and cravings have morphed quite significantly. At the start my stomach was so small I struggled to fit it all in. But before long extreme hunger set in and all I wanted was carbs. Bread, crumpets, pizza, cereal, bagels, toast, granola, bars ect. You name it my body wanted it. It wanted it in huge quantities. I would often have eaten a bowl of cereal, 4 crumpets, a bagel, a flapjack, and a protein bar before lunch and that was a normal day, many were more. I remember the stress, the fear that it would never end. The fear that my weight would never stop going up.


I plotted my weight gain to date today, and its actually just gone up steadily over the last 6 months, slightly faster after the first month but nothing of note. So interestingly, eating a lot of food day in day out didn’t make me gain ‘loads of weight’ or make me fat.


Now I eat a mix of things, but the difference is I find myself fancying other things, like yoghurt, fruit and veg. It’s become much more balanced, and I can eat something and be content for a couple of hours, rather than 10 minutes. I still eat a lot of food, but it feels much less like a primal overdrive and a lot less stressful.


I can go out to dinner, order what I want and just accept its only one day. I can eat cheesecake and whole pizzas (afterall half a pizza, how does that fill anyone up) and not have a breakdown. AND then still eat normally the next day without a burning need to burn it off. In fact, at the moment, I don’t have the energy to burn it off, which sure as hell tells me something about not being fully recovered.



Exercise

At the end of January, I moved home for some support during the process. In February I started to dabble in some exercise again, then unfortunately caught covid. It was hard to really work out whether it impacted me or not as I was already so fatigued and foggy.


Out of nowhere 2 weeks later I felt better, brain fog had gone, and I felt back to myself. I took that as my cue to get training back on track, and I won’t lie, I had a great week. It was likely I didn’t eat enough, and based on how things are going now, my body wasn’t even close to being recovered at that point.


10 days later the brain fog returned, and I ended up back in a very challenging place. Lots of naps, lots of frustrated tears and the loss of hope. I can’t lie and say the hope has returned now, but I just hope with each day that passes I am getting closer to something that resembles normality. My bikes are gathering dust and I am losing all my well-earned muscle, but I’ve learned that health is the most important thing. The body needs to heal, while I didn’t choose this, I can’t pretend it didn’t happen.


The last 6 months has taught me so much about the body. Exercise is about more than burning calories. Exercise, movement, work etc all put stress on the body. The body can’t work out where that stress comes from and treats it all the same. It can’t recover effectively unless there is a reduction in this stress.



Diets?

Body systems require a lot of energy to work properly. I’ve realised now all these low-calorie diets literally are a fad. Your body has a set point, and it will always look to find its way back there. I’ve discovered why diets don’t work as a sustainable long-term approach, and how the yo-yo dieting mechanism works. I’ve learned pushing yourself to the absolute max every single day isn’t necessarily strong, its also weak in that sometimes it’s a good thing to rest and listen to your body.


I’ve learned there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating a bit of the nice things every single day as its all about balance.


Thanks for reading,


Rach

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