The Truth about Bloating in Recovery

Alright, truth time.

There’s an elephant in the room, and it has to do with refeeding in recovery. And that, my friends, is bloating.


This is an uncomfortable topic to talk about, because it has to do with body image. During recovery, we’re working on accepting our new body and learning to love it. We’re overcoming body dysmorphia, and #realtalk: we’re working on weight restoration.

Frankly, bloating makes progress in those departments rather difficult.

My biggest fear during weight restoration was that I was going to wake up one morning and just be massive. I was afraid that my body would just balloon out of control. There was so much anxiety about that allusive “weight range.”  I journaled about it a lot:

I am nervous and weary of how my body will be at the end of my stay [at inpatient]. I am scared that if it changes to a point beyond where I am comfortable, that when I get home I will be depressed and unhappy. Lord, please give me the strength, courage and endurance to get through today. I know You will protect me from anything that scares me.

So let’s have some #realtalk about bloating. Spoiler alert: it happens in recovery.

During your eating disorder, you’ve been in a state of starvation. Your body has been feeding off of its own muscles. That’s why you become skeletal: because your muscles are literally deteriorating in order to keep you alive. But here’s what we so often forget: your organs are muscles too. So they deteriorate and shut down too — all in an effort to keep you alive. That’s why your menstrual cycle stops – because your reproductive organs have failed. You’re cold all the time because your circulatory system is shutting down. You can’t sleep because the adrenal and hormonal levels are off, because they’re shutting down. Your digestive system and metabolism as slowed to a halt. Your organs are literally wasting away, day by day, to keep you alive. And that’s why girls die from anorexia: because your heart is a muscle too, and it shuts down. Let that sink in: 1 in 10 people die from eating disorders. It’s nothing to joke about.

But what does all this have to do with bloating?

Well, since your body has been in a state of starvation during your eating disorder, it doesn’t trust you to nourish it. So, when you finally do begin to feed it again, it still thinks you’re going to deprive it in the future. So it holds onto the nutrients. Just think of a cave man, or a prehistoric animal: they would stock up when they could, because they never knew when a famine would hit, or they’d have to hibernate for the winter. That’s what your body is doing. It just thinks that it’s a temporary “feast” period, and that it should hold on to all those nutrients because you’re heading into another famine.

So in an act of self-preservation, your body insulates the most vital organs first, again, in an effort to keep you alive. And where, might you ask, are those vital organs? Around the trunk of your body: your heart, your lungs, your liver, etc. So it initially stores the nutrients around your midsection.

Before you start panicking, “Oh goodness, it’s true. My worst fear is actually a reality. I’m going to get fat!”

PAUSE. Breathe.


After a few weeks of getting consistent calories and adequate rest and restoration, your body will begin to trust you again to nourish it. Then, it will redistribute evenly. You will fill out beautifully, and in all the right places. I promise. 🙂

But here’s the kicker: In order to “beat the bloat,” you have to keep eating. You have to keep nourishing your body with adequate nutrients and sufficient calories consistently, or you body will stay in that starvation mode, and hold on to every nutrient that you consume.

This is very hard for a lot of girls in recovery, and is the moment where the “rubber meets the road,” and your recovery is tested. Your perseverance and will to fight are tested. Will you keep going or will you fall back into old ED habits because of poor body image? Will you continue to banish ED to the fires of hell, or will you let him creep into your mind because you are scared of a temporary bloating phase?

This is where the true warriors rise to the top.

This is where you become gold, refined by fire.


Finally, I’ll leave you with a few tips that I found helpful dealing with my bloating during recovery.

  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing. This really goes without saying, but tight clothing is very triggering in recovery. Stick with clothes that give you room to breathe. Yoga pants, hoodies, t-shirts. The stretchier the better.
  • Avoid the mirrors. Again, this is something that is intuitive, but scrutinizing your body in the mirror is not going to make the process any easier. In fact, just the opposite. Your body is blooming into the woman you’re meant to be. Trust the process. Learn to love yourself.
  • Take a gentle walk. This can be tricky, as a lot of women and girls abuse exercise as a way to purge calories, but I’m not talking about a power walk here. I’m talking about a gentle stroll — Something that will help to take your mind off of a bloated and triggering tummy. Talk a walk in your backyard and take pictures of flowers. Take a stroll through the park and look up the different plants on your phone as you mosey along. Be outside. Surround yourself in the beauty that God created. Remember that you’re also His creation, and are covered in His fingerprints:)
  • Drink water! Another aspect of bloating is that your body is holding onto excess water, otherwise known as edema. It’s counterintuitive, but the more water you drink, the less your body will hold on to.
  • Be with supportive people. It is so important to surround yourself with supportive people. In your recovery, you need people by your side who lift you up and support you in your recovery, not bring you down. 
  • Dwell on the Truth. Lastly and most importantly, keep your mind focused on the Truth. Otherwise, ED will find a way back into your head, and this time he’ll bring 7 friends with him. So remain centered on the Truth. These were some thoughts I found to be helpful in recovery.

Hang in there, sweet girl. Bloating comes with the territory, and is only temporary. You’re doing the right thing: you’re sticking with recovery, nourishing your body, and learning to love yourself. The bloating will pass. Keep doing the right thing. One day at a time. One meal at a time.

I believe in you.


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416 thoughts on “The Truth about Bloating in Recovery

      1. Hello, could you please let me know if this is the case for men also? I have been gaining weight slowly, I was 46kg in December 2015 and am only around 52kg at this current time.

        My stomach area seems to swell up or bloat as you’ve put and I was wondering if it will fill out as you’ve mentioned in this post. I haven’t been to any doctors or hospitals, my recovery has been provided by my self and I feel it’s working out alright.

        Though I’m not sure if my progress is too slow or if my body will recover the same way as women do based on the information you provided here.

        Sorry for the long post and thank you : )


      2. Wanted to reply to your Like. Thank you. Forgive me if I cannot fully understand everything you write about, I can appreciate almost all suffering but I have so much trouble understanding eating disorder. I can see why…well you know, I think. Of course, I spent the last twenty years trying to kill myself as slowly as possible and then tried a little harder. Thank you for what you are doing and all who can see that, yes in fact, there is a door leading out of this and believe it or not, it’s not locked. Thank you, daniel.

        On Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 7:46 AM, BeautyBeyondBones wrote:

        > beautybeyondbones commented: “Hi James, I’m sorry you’re also going > through this. Yes, I do believe this is the same for men too. Hang in > there. Cheering for you in your recovery 🙂 big hugs xox ” >


  1. It’s crazy to me that doctors and “experts” never tell us that eating too little can lead to weight gain and bloating. My MIL had gut issues and couldn’t eat much, yet she struggled with keeping a healthy weight. She wasn’t underweight as many would think she should be, she was quite the opposite. She went to several doctors and only one told her “eat more, your body is fighting starvation by holding on to all the fat you eat.” She got her gut fixed (gall bladder), started eating normal quantities, and her weight stabilized.


    1. wow, that’s pretty incredible. I’m glad your MIL is doing better now! Yeah, the body’s relationship with food is pretty finicky when we venture into the too-much or too-little categories! thanks for stopping by! hugs xox


  2. This made me want to cry with hope while reading this. I am struggling with intensive bloating at the moment and hanging on by a hair to keep going. Thank you for the bit of hope.


  3. Have you ever seen the bloated bellies of starving children in Africa? Starvation does bad things to your body. That is why it eventually leads to death. If you become addicted to thinness you will keep “using” more and more thinness until it kills you. This is a strange addiction as the pleasure does not come from taking a substance into your body but rather by keeping a substance (food) out of your body. This addiction to thinness and to control is as difficult to overcome and as deadly as heroin addiction. But if you put every bit of yourself into the fight, if you choose life over death, if you climb this mountain, then the view from the top will be beautiful. Use every tool you can lay your mind on to fight this. Prayer, spiritual growth, physicians, medications, support groups, friends, loved ones all can contribute to your recovery. Do not hesitate to use them all. You are literally fighting for your life. Perhaps you may one day find that God does not care if you are thin or not. He cares about you, not how you look and it is much more important to please God than man. He wants you to be healthy. Jesus is often called “the Great Physician” because He heals body, mind and soul. Grab the hem of His robe and hold on. He will love you through this. He will help you ignore the voice of Satan that tells you you are fat, you are not pretty, you are not good enough, you are out of control. Listen to the voice of Jesus when He tells you that He, the God of the universe, loves you. That love is more important than any reward you can ever find in the mirror or from man.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is so true and so beautiful. God knows how much we suffer with EDs. When we can no longer carry our cross, he will give us the strength to let it go and heal us forever. xxxxxx


  4. What you are doing is both courageous and inspiring. I don’t believe in coincidences. God knows exactly what you need and when you need it. I have been in recovery for decades but, I still struggle with body image. Lately more than usual. It is my thorn in the flesh. I have to choose not to give into those hurtful thoughts and keep pressing forward and become all that God planned me to be. I look forward to reading your posts and joining you in you journey.


  5. What an incredibly sane column on such an insane disease. Eating disorders are something I have never had a particular reference to until I quit drinking. At the point I was in my alcoholism, I was eating maybe, 4-5 meals a week and surviving most on the calories of booze while defeating hunger with cigarettes. Shortly before entering treatment, I quit smoking. A year or so after my last drink, I began eating, not a lot, but all the wrong things. Then I started gaining weight. THEN I started freaking out. Now, I am trying to be as rational and proactive as I can. See a doctor, watch what I’m doing, hang with supportive people (you’d be surprised, tho probably not, by the number of well meaning people who just can’t help themselves when it comes to pointing out the issues another may be suffering), set goals, routines, celebrate little victories, and so on. Still. I have a new respect for anyone who was suffering but is now taking back theirselves. Thanks.


    1. Thanks so much for sharing part of your story. Oh gosh, I feel you there with the well meaning people. Me too. Reclaiming ones life is deserving of a victory dance! Thanks for stopping by and for your encouragement. Hugs and love xox


  6. Check out my latest Blog ‘No Mirrors at 55″…I think you’ll find it refreshing that I came to terms with physicality…the space that I take up with this body of mine…..Thanks for sharing.


  7. You have found your inner strength. That loving core of self. As T.S. Eliot once wrote: “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” So stay the coarse, it is guiding you on to an amazing path.


      1. Food. It does a body good. If I can be of any assistance on your wellness journey, don’t hesitate to reach out.


  8. Hello I am 15 years old in recovery I been eating more and going to therapy but I been so bloated even after eating a small meal when will it go away ? I just want to be a normal teen


    1. Hi Emily, oh gosh sweet girl, I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. Hang in there. You’ve chosen freedom and chosen recovery and that is something to be celebrated! You’re on your way! I know this time is rough when your body is readjusting, but keepdoing the next right thing and nourishing with constant goodness. Everything is going to even out beautifully and in all the right places 🙂 in the meantime, just embrace life and all the “normalness” it has to offer. You’re a warrior. And your courage is inspiring! Love you! Xox


  9. I really appreciate this post. During my recovery (last two years), I managed to gain 10kg and size out of all the trousers in my closet. This was quite a dramatic increase in my weight and all throughout my recovery I was worried about how I looked and that I was getting fat. It really was my body readjusting from underweight to normal weight when I started eating healthily, but it is difficult to accept the weight gain. I am now finally starting to accept my new look as the healthy me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


    1. Hi friend, thank you for sharing your journey. yeah, that aspect of recovery is hard…really hard, not going to sugar coat it. But slowly, like you’re seeing now, you will come to realize just how truly sick – as in ill – we looked in our disease, and how beautiful a healthy body is. For me, it really helped to realize that when i was in my disease, my appearance actually repelled people and pushed them away — because it was scary. And it made people uncomfortable. Becoming healthy and at a healthy weight, i realized that people became at ease around me, and the more I got my life back and was focusing on goals and school and friends and being social, those lingering things became less and less. i had to look at myself as a whole person — spiritually, socially, mentally, and yes-physically — but the more i viewed myself as more than just my reflection, the easier it got. but you’re so right, that transition phase is hard. and my biggest piece of advice…those old trousers that (are tiny and not meant to be worn by a thriving, gorgeous and healthy woman) **throw them away!** Because if I saw them, i would honestly long to be that size and get in an unhealthy mind set. So my advice, is to get that shiz outta here! 🙂 Shopping was hard for a while, but find a supportive friend or your mom – someone who makes you feel like a rockstar – and go, and just remember that you’re healthy and gorgeous and that there is no “right or wrong” size of pants. 🙂 Sorry to be rambly, i hope this wasn’t too much. but i just feel for you. what oyu’re going through is really hard, and i just want to cheer you on because you’ve chosen life and you’re embracing recovery and that is just so freaking awesome! you’re a rockstar in my book!! 😉 big hugs to you xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is so helpful. I didn’t get any professional advice about this for years, and I thought it was ‘just me’. Just like every other body-dysmorphic lie: ‘you are uniquely burdened by shame’. Thank you for this space for lots of people to take heart for the journey. God bless. x


  11. Thank you for sharing about this. So much of this is just unknown to the public and advocates like you are so important. I’ve struggled with addiction and I know the awfulness of it all. Being vulnerable makes you such a role model.


  12. Great post. although I don’t have an ED I have a few other mental health disorders( BP1 & PTSD) this helped me to understand what the body does for some of my friends who do suffer with the illness. Hang in there it seems u are on the right track.


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