It occurred to me in the last couple of weeks that, even though I write quite a bit about what my life is like now, as someone who’s mostly recovered from an eating disorder, I haven’t written much about the early stages of the recovery process.
If you’ve been through recovery from anorexia, you may know that one of the most regarded recovery approaches, the Maudsley method, has three stages:
- Regaining weight
- Returning personal control over food to the patient (often, this involves learning to eat intuitively)
- Forming a new, ED-free identity
While these stages overlap, to a degree, the first few months of my recovery were really focused on weight gain. So I thought I might do a short series of posts about gaining weight, particularly for any readers who might currently be in that stage of recovery or facing that stage of recovery, to see what eating for weight gain looks like.
And for the first one, I thought it might be an interesting spin on What I Ate Wednesday to show the specific kinds of things that I ate when I was gaining.
Each day, I ate a substantial breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a substantial snack both in the morning and afternoon, and a dessert or additional snack in the evening. I ate at least this amount whether or not I was hungry.
Eating for weight gain =/= intuitive eating. You must eat to your minimum every day.
I also tried to eat foods that were pretty calorie-dense; in other words, they were high in calories without being super-filling. It was surreal; after years of going to the grocery store and thinking, “I can’t eat this; it’s too high in calories,” suddenly I was thinking, “This would be really filling and too low in calories.”
In addition to showing readers who are looking to gain weight what that looked like for me, I thought other readers might find it interesting as well. A lot of the foods I ate on a regular basis while I was trying to gain are “fear” foods that a lot of people consider pretty decadent. In our food-fear culture, lot of people think, “Oh, no! I ate macaroni and cheese, which is a rich food! I’ll gain weight!” A couple years removed from eating for weight gain, I often find myself thinking this.
But thinking back on my meal plan from my weight gain days gives me some perspective on this irrational thought. Sure, macaroni and cheese is a relatively calorie-dense food. But in order to actually gain weight, I had to do more than just eat macaroni and cheese for dinner once in a while. I had to eat comparably calorie-rich foods for all three meals, plus three or more substantial snacks and desserts, every single day to gain a pound a week–and I was exercising as little as possible.
In other words: a couple bowls of mac & cheese a week–not enough to gain on, irrational food fear brain.
So this post gives you a general sense of how much even a relatively small, sedentary person had to eat from day-to-day to put weight on.
Disclaimer: What I ate to regain weight and recover is different from what you or anyone else might need to eat. Some people actually need a lot more than this to gain.
- Two large, dense pieces of toast with butter and jam, two eggs fried in oil
- A large bowl of calorie-dense granola with milk
- A large, bakery-style muffin, two eggs fried in oil
- A large bowl of oatmeal, cooked in 2% milk, topped with nuts, fresh or dried fruit, and brown sugar
- A tuna sandwich on two large, dense slices of bread with real mayonnaise, an apple or chips on the side
- A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on two large, dense slices of bread, an apple or a Greek yogurt on the side
- A large serving of rice and beans topped with cheese and avocado, chips on the side
- Two large pieces of pizza, or half a medium-sized pizza, a glass of juice
- Pasta in a cheesy sauce (mac & cheese, Alfredo, etc.), peas and carrots, a glass of juice
- Spaghetti and meatballs topped with cheese and pasta sauce, a glass of juice or milk
- A large salmon burger topped with mayonnaise and greens on a bun, a glass of milk or juice
- Two corn-and-bean quesadillas topped with guac
Morning & afternoon snacks
- A Luna bar
- Crackers & hummus
- Trail mix
- A large glass of kefir
- Peanut butter and celery or an apple
- A smoothie
- A muffin, a piece of quick bread, or another baked good
- A large bowl of ice cream
- A couple large cookies (or three or four smaller ones)
- A piece of pie
- Popcorn and a glass of chocolate milk
Have you ever had to make a concerted effort to gain weight? What were staples of your recovery diet?
Do you ever find yourself thinking: “I’ll gain weight if I eat this?”