8

votes

How can I help myself recover from extreme caloric restriction?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created January 19, 2012 at 11:35 AM

Hi! This is a general 'troubleshooting' question. I want to be energetic and happy, and I feel like something is holding me back physically.

Some background: I am a 5'10 female, 60 kg, 19 years old, and in 2011 I put my body under a lot of stress with extreme caloric restriction (200-1000 calories with exercise, fasting for days) and a 5 month stint into veganism. Lost my period, dropped to 55 kg. Ate mostly 'whole foods' like rice, beans and veg, but had a problem with binge eating on sugar. I often feel like my body is more sensitive and very rattled because of this. I believe I had an eating disorder. Have always had depression, and unsurpringly it got super bad last year. Still occurs but not so often and is not so crippling. I still have feelings of low self-worth and maybe a skewed perception of my own body.

So basically, totally textbook stuff. My questions are related to my extremely low energy levels. Have I just hurt myself from that crazy dieting, and it will take a while to recover? I haven't tried low carb paleo for the 4 week 'adjustment' period people talk about. I'm not sure if it will work and it's not worth the gamble right now, I think. I also just don't care about fat loss anymore- just want to feel strong and happy. I plan on stocking up the freezer with fatty grass fed lamb next week, making bone broths, eating offal regularly and making some water kefir. I think all these things will help.

Here's what I ate yesterday:

4 eggs, 4 tbsp pastured butter

2 grass fed lamb chops, 1 cup chinese cabbage/broccoli

1 cup sweet potato, 1 large tin salmon

1 cup white potato, 2 tbsp coconut oil

2 kiwi fruit

1 nectarine

1 peach

1 cup blueberries

Adding up to 2500 calories. 60% fat, 18% protein, 23% carbs. I have been really hungry for more food and I tend to go for fruit. Hard to say if sugar makes me tired, I think it would be better to eat more fat and protein in general however. I eat salmon twice a week, take fish oil, avoid excess omega 6, don't eat anything in a packet with more than 1 ingredient...

I'm wondering if I could just eat more, until I am stuffed? I only really walk or ride my bike for an hour a day, and I don't kill myself over it because my energy is so precious. It seems to be important though, otherwise I just don't have the appetite to eat what I do. I get out in the sun every day and try to sleep 9 hours a night.

Thanks a billion in advance to anyone who takes the time to read and share their thoughts about this. This is a great community and I really hope I can make paleo work for me.

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on May 23, 2012
at 12:06 AM

@Julia - just stick to it, even if it's frustrating at first because nothing works straight away. As long as you remember that you're worth the effort, you will find something that works for you. Paleo was a great starting point for me and I'm starting to move past it as well, eating more sugar and dairy as well. Good luck!

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on May 23, 2012
at 12:03 AM

@Julia Thanks so much Julia, you are very kind! It seems that this is a very common experience and it makes me sad that so many people fall into this terrible spiral. I can't believe how much things have changed since I wrote this post earlier this year. I feel SO much better. It's almost like I was never sick in the first place, even though I've been sickly most of my life. I eat lots of all kinds of things now, stay away from the things that make me sick and don't demonise any nutrient or food. Eating is a joy now, and I have energy to live my life! I wish you the very best on your journey -

584cdd1a2dd83e46b8b76758f4c57b19

(600)

on May 12, 2012
at 01:42 AM

I just want to send you a big hug as I'm going through this myself right now. I was on a calorie counting diet and was limited to 20g of fat a day. I developed an eating disorder due to it (each week eating less and less calories to beat the scales each time) I've switched to paleo about 4 days ago and I'm still stressing about how much food I'm eating and the fat content but I know it's in my best interest. It's been a while since you posted this and I hope things are going wonderfully for you :)

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 20, 2012
at 02:35 PM

Fish now is bad or did you mean just fish oil supplements? Sorry, it's just hard to follow and seems worth getting right.

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 20, 2012
at 03:38 AM

I'll check it out! It's so crazy what people recommend and how easily it can go wrong. I was on board with body love and stuff before this began and I thought dieters were a crazy bunch. But cutting out so much vital food to do animals and the planet some good really backfired. Brain chemistry just did a total 180.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 20, 2012
at 02:24 AM

....Absolutey no proof that overconsumption of sugar is a large part of anything, maybe high fructose corn syrup which according to studies has 4-5 times the calories of what they say it actually has on the label(http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/24/1_MeetingAbstracts/562.1). When I say sugar I mean fruit too not refined sugar necessarily.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 20, 2012
at 02:22 AM

@primaldanny- Fructose and galactose. @korion- Veggies can be included if cooked for long enough but over-consumption would no doubt lead to excess endotoxin, fish is definitely a no go(check out the studies I posted and rays site many other reasons not to consume it). @rogue nutritionist- thats your opinion, I disagree. I don't think I made any blanket dismissals of anything, check out the studies I posted.....

Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on January 20, 2012
at 01:42 AM

Overconsumption of sugar is a large part of what has gotten a lot of people pretty far down the road to chronic health issues.

Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on January 20, 2012
at 01:40 AM

This kind of blanket dismissal of foods and supplements that really have helped people bothers me as does this blanket encouragment for folks who may not benefit from something(sugar) to consume more of it...sorry Cliff, this may work for you, but if I followed your suggestions, I'd be a mess!

Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on January 20, 2012
at 01:36 AM

It sounds like you are well along your road to recovery...I wonder of you've read Julia Ross' book The Diet Cure? She has so much valuable information for people recovering from calorie restriction and eating disorders, and I find her views to be mostly in line with Paleo principles. http://www.dietcure.com/

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 10:38 PM

That sounds good! It is hard to eat a dreadful amount of tubers. Thanks for your input.

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 10:36 PM

Thanks Korion, I'll look into that! Is it difficult to achieve optimal magnesium and D levels through diet alone? I wonder how much I should supplement with.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on January 19, 2012
at 10:33 PM

You'll take a bit of a hit on nutrients, but rice is so much easier to digest with no bloating at all. Better to get the nutrients from organs anyway. If you try to hit a reasonable carb target with tubers, you'll be totally bloated all the time. If your current amount of tubers isn't causing problems, then just leave it and add rice on top of it.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on January 19, 2012
at 10:32 PM

You'll take a bit of a hit on nutrients, but rice is so much easier to digest with no bloating at all. Better to get the nutrients from organs anyway. If you try to hit a reasonably target with tubers, you'll be totally bloated all the time. If your current amount of tubers isn't causing problems, then just leave it and add rice on top of it.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 19, 2012
at 10:27 PM

Only cowards downvote without a comment. +1

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 10:03 PM

Last week I had food poisoning and the only thing I could get down was white rice. Why do you think it would be beneficial to swap the tubers out for it though? I can try it, and it's very cheap which is great.

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:58 PM

This is good info Renee, thank you. I eat more than everybody I know and I only feel good for it. There's still that voice in my head that's like 'holy crap, this is more than I *ever* used to eat! Better slow down here' but I think back then while I was binging, My hunger signals just weren't trustworthy. I think I'll just roll with this insatiability and see where it takes me...!

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:52 PM

This is interesting. I'm not well-versed in nutrition speak, but I have heard about some concerns regarding fish oil. My eggs aren't the omega 3 kind so I thought perhaps I should take them. If anything it makes me feel less guilty about doing well on plentiful carbohydrates even when I thought I might be quite damaged.

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:49 PM

That'a a good point too. I will focus on eating to satisfaction and not to satisfy some arbitrary requirement. I think the visualisation thing helps quite a bit, and it's what gets psyched up enough to do paleo in my decidedly anti-paleo household XD Thanks for your thoughts.

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:46 PM

The therapist idea is a good one gydle. All my problems started when I entered university, didn't seek support and obsessed about food to distract me from how low I was feeling. I want paleo to be a healing journey, not another way for warped thinking to manifest. The visualisation might help with this too, thank you!

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:41 PM

Thanks PrimalDanny. This is what I am finding works best, if I can afford enough meat or be arsed to cook it in the first place XD It helps me stop binging on the fruit, an easy and dense source of calories, and somehow fatty Australian lamb chops never stop being yummy.

1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:41 PM

why would she do this? she is underweight, the nutrients from tubers aint gonna hurt her

D5c8768927c463b363b109f18b7c16c4

(375)

on January 19, 2012
at 08:05 PM

It never has been good, you've been scammed ;-)

6b365c14c646462210f3ef6b6fecace1

(1784)

on January 19, 2012
at 08:01 PM

^ | | ditto, I like this answer.

C4f1a0c70c4e0dea507c2e346c036bbd

on January 19, 2012
at 07:27 PM

Whoa so now fish oil is bad too? Its always cleared up my head.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on January 19, 2012
at 06:38 PM

I wouldn't be so sure it didn't help; the mind and body are one.

1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on January 19, 2012
at 05:48 PM

cliff can you go hack my blood test i posted yesterday :)

1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on January 19, 2012
at 05:45 PM

interesting....

D5a4ff096a452a84a772efa0e6bc626e

(2486)

on January 19, 2012
at 05:12 PM

Up vote for you...

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on January 19, 2012
at 03:57 PM

I had the same thing as you last year, Medis. Started fasting, then went vegan for a while, ... 2 important things : stay away from very low carb (certainly ZC!!!) and take magnesium + vitamin D.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 19, 2012
at 03:57 PM

Another downvote? Why?

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on January 19, 2012
at 03:53 PM

Interesting, cliff! I fasted last year too, for a very long time. Probably f'd up my thyroid that way. Just 2 things about Ray Peat and Danny Roddy : why no veggies, and why no fish oil (fish oil happens to help me a lot).

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 19, 2012
at 03:52 PM

You say sugar here, is it all sugar or just fructose that is the only thing that the liver can make glycogen from?

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6 Answers

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9
Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

on January 19, 2012
at 11:51 AM

It sounds like you're on the right track to me. Adding in the protein and fats should help regulate your energy levels although it will take a bit of time to adjust. I'd say eat that first and then fill up on veg and/or fruit. If you need to exercise more to get the appetite to eat more then it should be ok to increase things steadily, I would expect that it would help get your body functioning quicker - you won't be doing any more harm by taking time over it though. I'm not sure you need to eat more, but there's no reason to hold back if you're hungry so you want to give your body every opportunity to recover. So make sure you get the fatty proteins in first at every meal, and possibly for snacks as well if you get hungry and can stomach it, and then eat fruit and veg on top as and when hungry.

Also I guess try and look at getting a good range of micronutrients, although in due course it looks like your current diet should work out fine. If you do all the things on your plan and aren't feeling a whole heap better in a few weeks then I'd be very surprised.

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:41 PM

Thanks PrimalDanny. This is what I am finding works best, if I can afford enough meat or be arsed to cook it in the first place XD It helps me stop binging on the fruit, an easy and dense source of calories, and somehow fatty Australian lamb chops never stop being yummy.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 19, 2012
at 03:57 PM

Another downvote? Why?

6b365c14c646462210f3ef6b6fecace1

(1784)

on January 19, 2012
at 08:01 PM

^ | | ditto, I like this answer.

D5a4ff096a452a84a772efa0e6bc626e

(2486)

on January 19, 2012
at 05:12 PM

Up vote for you...

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on January 19, 2012
at 10:27 PM

Only cowards downvote without a comment. +1

8
Bf57bcbdc19d4f1728599053acd020ab

(5043)

on January 19, 2012
at 03:18 PM

I agree with you that it sounds like you have an eating disorder. These things take a long time to sort out, and it's usually a good idea to do this with a competent therapist who can help you try and find out where it's coming from and give you some techniques to deal with it in a non-food related way. At 5'10" and 60 kg if you are thinking about fat loss you definitely have a skewed perception of your body - which is part and parcel of the ED.

Your low energy levels are probably tied into this - when your body is in survival mode you just don't have any energy to spare. I'm not an expert but I have been through some of this, and I definitely recommend being gentle with yourself. I totally agree with blueballoon that visualizing healing from within is very helpful. The food you eat is nourishing you. If you want to eat fruit, eat fruit. Stick to whole, unprocessed foods and don't obsess, because obsession can be a major problem with EDs. I also recommend getting outdoors in the sunshine as much as possible - go for a walk or a bike ride just to be out and moving. THat helps with depression and will allay your anxiety about gaining weight.

Your sample diet sounds very healthy, and it sounds like you're very self-aware, which are both really good signs. Your stated goal - to just feel healthy and have good energy - is perfect. Now just internalize that a little more every day and you're on the road to recovery. Bon courage!

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:46 PM

The therapist idea is a good one gydle. All my problems started when I entered university, didn't seek support and obsessed about food to distract me from how low I was feeling. I want paleo to be a healing journey, not another way for warped thinking to manifest. The visualisation might help with this too, thank you!

7
F92e4ca55291c3f3096a3d4d3d854986

(11698)

on January 19, 2012
at 06:33 PM

As a recovering anorexic, I just want to point out that most women with a restriction-based eating disorder (which it sounds like you had) will have elevated caloric needs post-disorder. Tons of studies on this. So you may need more calories than your average 5'10 60 kg woman. Keep eating. Don't "stuff" yourself but eat til you're full. In in-patient treatment, our goal was to assess our hunger on a scale of 1-10, pre- and post-meal. So it's ideal to go into a meal at a 2, 3 or 4 (hungry but not devour-the-fridge starving) and finish at a 7 to 9 (full but not so stuffed you can't stand it and decide to binge and purge). Might be something to mentally check with during your mealtimes.

http://www.gwynetholwyn.com is a good site by a doctor who discusses what's involved physically in recovering from an ED, how it affects your metabolism, caloric needs, periods etc. The "Health and Support" forum on CalorieCount.com is also good.

if you're hungry, keep eating, that's the main thing.

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:58 PM

This is good info Renee, thank you. I eat more than everybody I know and I only feel good for it. There's still that voice in my head that's like 'holy crap, this is more than I *ever* used to eat! Better slow down here' but I think back then while I was binging, My hunger signals just weren't trustworthy. I think I'll just roll with this insatiability and see where it takes me...!

5
E36cb992cf0a5eba8b97a359c15f38b3

on January 19, 2012
at 12:45 PM

I think you're probably doing fine, but it will take you a while to recover. I dealt with eating disorders (specifically bulimia and binge eating disorder) for years. Don't try to eat to stuff yourself--in my experience that just ends in a bad spiral--just try to be kind to your body for a while. It'll take time, both for your body and your mind to heal.

I know this sounds really hokey, but when I finally started eating paleo-ish I kind of visualized my body healing from within because of the nutrients I was [finally] giving it. I'm sure it didn't help in real life, though it helped my mindset immensely. Just being nourished is a huge change from extreme calorie restriction/exercise addiction/etc.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on January 19, 2012
at 06:38 PM

I wouldn't be so sure it didn't help; the mind and body are one.

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:49 PM

That'a a good point too. I will focus on eating to satisfaction and not to satisfy some arbitrary requirement. I think the visualisation thing helps quite a bit, and it's what gets psyched up enough to do paleo in my decidedly anti-paleo household XD Thanks for your thoughts.

2
Medium avatar

on January 19, 2012
at 07:38 PM

You sound like the perfect example of someone who should start eating a lot of white rice. It's not very filling, which for some would be a bad thing, but in your case you should be able to just pad your diet with it, or replace the tubers with rice for a while. Give it a try for a few days and report back.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on January 19, 2012
at 10:32 PM

You'll take a bit of a hit on nutrients, but rice is so much easier to digest with no bloating at all. Better to get the nutrients from organs anyway. If you try to hit a reasonably target with tubers, you'll be totally bloated all the time. If your current amount of tubers isn't causing problems, then just leave it and add rice on top of it.

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 10:03 PM

Last week I had food poisoning and the only thing I could get down was white rice. Why do you think it would be beneficial to swap the tubers out for it though? I can try it, and it's very cheap which is great.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on January 19, 2012
at 10:33 PM

You'll take a bit of a hit on nutrients, but rice is so much easier to digest with no bloating at all. Better to get the nutrients from organs anyway. If you try to hit a reasonable carb target with tubers, you'll be totally bloated all the time. If your current amount of tubers isn't causing problems, then just leave it and add rice on top of it.

1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:41 PM

why would she do this? she is underweight, the nutrients from tubers aint gonna hurt her

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 10:38 PM

That sounds good! It is hard to eat a dreadful amount of tubers. Thanks for your input.

2
E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 19, 2012
at 03:27 PM

You crave sugar for a reason. Fasting destroyed your ability to make thyroid properly, sugar is pretty much the only thing that corrects this with its ability to powerfully refill liver glycogen.

Check out dannyroddy.com and raypeat.com

Drop the fish oil too, it destroys your ability to process glucose properly and has many other nasty side effects.

O3 deteoriates glycemic response- "Average blood glucose concentrations during the third week were significantly higher fasting (+ 15%, p < 0.01), and during the day at 1100 h (+18%, p < 0.001) and 1500 h (+ 17%, p=0.002) on PUFA than on the saturated fat diet."

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-5491.1992.tb01748.x/abstract

Dietary supplementation with n-3 fatty acids may impair glucose homeostasis in patients with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.- "The blood glucose concentration tended to increase during MaxEPA treatment, and to decrease during the placebo period, the changes under the two regimes being significantly different (P less than 0.01). In addition, the rate constant for glucose disappearance (k value) for the intravenous insulin-tolerance test, which reflected the peripheral insulin sensitivity, tended to decrease during MaxEPA treatment and increase during administration of the placebo, there being a significant difference (P less than 0.03) between the changes during the two treatments."

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2394967

Fructose improves glycemic response to glucose- "In conclusion, low dose fructose improves the glycemic response to an oral glucose load in normal adults without significantly enhancing the insulin or triglyceride response. Fructose appears most effective in those normal individuals who have the poorest glucose tolerance."

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11134101

1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on January 19, 2012
at 05:48 PM

cliff can you go hack my blood test i posted yesterday :)

C513f1dba19e01bbd7e0f4f12b243a97

(670)

on January 19, 2012
at 09:52 PM

This is interesting. I'm not well-versed in nutrition speak, but I have heard about some concerns regarding fish oil. My eggs aren't the omega 3 kind so I thought perhaps I should take them. If anything it makes me feel less guilty about doing well on plentiful carbohydrates even when I thought I might be quite damaged.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 20, 2012
at 02:35 PM

Fish now is bad or did you mean just fish oil supplements? Sorry, it's just hard to follow and seems worth getting right.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 20, 2012
at 02:24 AM

....Absolutey no proof that overconsumption of sugar is a large part of anything, maybe high fructose corn syrup which according to studies has 4-5 times the calories of what they say it actually has on the label(http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/24/1_MeetingAbstracts/562.1). When I say sugar I mean fruit too not refined sugar necessarily.

Ccacf7567273244733bc991af4ac42ed

(5198)

on January 19, 2012
at 03:52 PM

You say sugar here, is it all sugar or just fructose that is the only thing that the liver can make glycogen from?

C4f1a0c70c4e0dea507c2e346c036bbd

on January 19, 2012
at 07:27 PM

Whoa so now fish oil is bad too? Its always cleared up my head.

1f8384be58052b6b96f476e475abdc74

(2231)

on January 19, 2012
at 05:45 PM

interesting....

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on January 19, 2012
at 03:53 PM

Interesting, cliff! I fasted last year too, for a very long time. Probably f'd up my thyroid that way. Just 2 things about Ray Peat and Danny Roddy : why no veggies, and why no fish oil (fish oil happens to help me a lot).

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c

(12857)

on January 20, 2012
at 02:22 AM

@primaldanny- Fructose and galactose. @korion- Veggies can be included if cooked for long enough but over-consumption would no doubt lead to excess endotoxin, fish is definitely a no go(check out the studies I posted and rays site many other reasons not to consume it). @rogue nutritionist- thats your opinion, I disagree. I don't think I made any blanket dismissals of anything, check out the studies I posted.....

D5c8768927c463b363b109f18b7c16c4

(375)

on January 19, 2012
at 08:05 PM

It never has been good, you've been scammed ;-)

Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on January 20, 2012
at 01:40 AM

This kind of blanket dismissal of foods and supplements that really have helped people bothers me as does this blanket encouragment for folks who may not benefit from something(sugar) to consume more of it...sorry Cliff, this may work for you, but if I followed your suggestions, I'd be a mess!

Ed983a42344945b1ff70fd9597a23493

on January 20, 2012
at 01:42 AM

Overconsumption of sugar is a large part of what has gotten a lot of people pretty far down the road to chronic health issues.

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