Handling COVID-19 Weight Changes in Eating Disorder Recovery

According to a survey of over 3,000 US adults by the American Psychological Association (APA), the majority of Americans experienced undesired weight change last year. An Advisory Board article notes that “61% of respondents said they had experienced an undesired weight change since the start of the epidemic, with 42% saying they had experienced undesired weight gain and 18% saying they had experienced undesired weight loss.” Weight change can be particularly difficult to navigate if you are in eating disorder recovery. This article aims to support those in eating disorder recovery who experienced undesired weight change during the pandemic.

Four Steps for Support if You Have an Eating Disorder

Whether you experienced weight loss or weight gain, you might be feeling triggered, angry, sad, and overwhelmed. These four steps provide you will the support you need.

1. Get a physical

Get a physical by your primary care doctor. You should re-evaluate your baseline health and whether your weight change had an impact on your body. This step is important regardless of whether you lost weight or gained weight. Weight loss or weight gain in and of itself is not a sign of health and only a qualified physician can evaluate whether your body has been negatively impacted by weight change.

2. Get advice from a nutritionist

Consult a nutritionist specializing in eating disorder recovery. If your physician determines that your health was compromised from the weight loss or weight gain, it is important you reach out to a nutritionist specializing in eating disorders. A nutritionist
well versed in eating disorders will set up an appropriate meal plan to get your weight back within a healthy range. On the other hand, if your physician determines that your weight change did not affect your overall health, you still should connect with a
nutritionist to make sure your food plan provides all the nutrients you need.

3. See an therapist who specializes in eating disorders

Reach out to a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. A therapist specializing in eating disorders will help you process your feelings about your weight change. Your therapist can also help you navigate your new eating plan. You might notice old eating disorder behaviors resurface or that you begin struggling more with your body image. An eating disorder therapist can help you develop healthy coping tools and a more positive relationship to food and your body.

4. Get support

Attend an eating disorder support group. Navigating weight change can trigger uncomfortable feelings and you need to know that you are not alone. Eating disorder support groups provide a safe environment for those in recovery to connect and support each other. If you are looking for a support group to join, consider ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders). ANAD is a great resource and it’s free!

For more information on navigating weight change while in recovery, contact Claire LaBriola, LAPC.