How can I speed up my metabolism without a lot of weight gain?


I am a 28-year-old woman who has anorexia and bulimia. I started these behaviors when I was 16 years old and was recovered until last year. Last December I fell into the terrible anorexic trap again and lost 30 pounds, which only put me at 100 pounds (I’m 5 feet 5 inches). Luckily I was able to stop the weight loss in time but have not been able to eat properly.

I switch back and forth between lots of bingeing and purging (all day of eating and vomiting, unable to stop) and back to days of little or no eating. I really do want to eat normally again (and am under a counselor’s care), but my metabolism is so ruined now if I eat normally I gain weight immediately. I wouldn’t mind being 110 pounds (well sounds scary, but I know that is a healthy weight for me), but am afraid it will take at least a 20 pounds or more weight gain to get my metabolism working again.

Friends tell me that the temporary weight gain will be OK then I can start to work it off in a healthy way, but that idea scares me to death. How can I speed up my metabolism without a lot of weight gain?

I already have a diet very low in fat as you probably know and have tried eating a normal healthy diet for a period of 1 or 2 weeks at a time, but the weight gain is just too unbearable and I always retreat back to my old ways of vomiting after meals. Please advise me on the best steps to go from here. Thank you.

You deserve credit for recognizing that you need to gain control of your eating disorders. The issue is not food; food is only a symptom. Some incident may have happened to trigger a re-occurrence last December. So while you work thru your issues with your psychologist counselor, make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian to create a healthy eating plan for you personally.

Metabolism is the rate at which you burn calories to provide energy for daily activities and build or repair body tissue like muscles and organs. Your metabolism is probably not screwed up because you are alive and breathing with enough energy to move around. You don’t need to speed up your metabolism. Perhaps your eating disordered thinking is if your metabolism were faster, you could eat more food without gaining weight? Please forget about your metabolism’s effect on your weight.  Is a non-issue now.

You are using vomiting to control your weight from the binge eating and it doesn’t work as you have learned. Anorexia and bulimia eating disorder behaviors reinforce each other so you need to get both under your control. Start by reducing the number of binges and vomiting each day.  If you are binging and vomiting 5 times a day, set a goal for 4, then 3 then 2 then 1 then none.  Please don’t think in an all or nothing mindset.  Praise yourself for small changes.

Eating normally is scary because you are afraid the weight gain will get out of control. It won’t with a healthy eating plan created for your calorie needs and slow weight gain goals by a Registered Dietitian.

A healthy weight range for your height is 111 to 149 pounds, so a 110-pound goal is a bit underweight for your height. For now, 110 pounds would be a good goal.

I used my Healthy Body Calculator® to calculate your calorie needs based on your height and a current weight of 100 pounds. If you eat 1690 calories a day, you will gain 1 pound a week, which is slow enough. Once you get to 110 pounds, you will need about 1730 calories a day to continue gaining 1 pound per week to get to a healthier weight. I did not make any calorie adjustments for your physical activities which could add 275 to 290 calories more just for daily activities.

The next step is following a healthy eating plan which will help get your bulimia under your control. Do not try to work on more than 1 lifestyle goal at a time as it can be overwhelming.  For now, aim to eat enough fat to feel satisfied and enough calories to maintain your weight or slightly gain. Try not to be fixated on counting calories or grams of fat.

You should eat 3 meals a day every 4 to 6 hours to stay ahead of hunger. Don’t wait for you to get hungry or you will eat whatever is convenient which could trigger a binge.

A very low fat eating plan can trigger binge eating. Fat helps you feel full or satisfied. If you don’t eat enough fat, you are more likely to feel like you need to eat more food more often. Try increasing the fat in your eating plan to 25% to 30% of your total calories. This would include the fat in lean meats and low-fat dairy as well as 2 servings of added fats from margarine or salad dressing. If you eat 1730 calories, you can eat 48 to 58 grams of fat each day or about 16 grams each of 3 meals. While you can read food labels for the fat grams which are listed to keep track of fat grams you eat, please don’t obsess over getting the exact amount of fat each day. We average fat intake over 1 week so some days you might be a little over and some days a little under, but on average over a week, you need 48 to 58 grams of fat per day and 1730 calories to maintain your weight around 110 pounds.

To gain control of your bingeing, remove foods that you have binged on in your home. Usual binge foods are high carbohydrate, high-fat foods. Don’t buy any of these foods until your eating pattern normalizes. Put yourself in a positive environment where you are more likely to succeed in your eating goals.

Give yourself credit as bingeing and vomiting incidents reduce in frequency each day. Don’t expect perfection – all or nothing. You did it once, you can do it again.