One of the first physical changes you'll notice once you start recovery is how your stomach feels after eating. You may be eating more or less than you were prior to recovery. Depending on your weight, this change may become apparent.

If you're underweight and have been restricting you'll probably feel and may look very bloated after eating a larger, healthy meal. This doesn't mean you're eating too much, it's just that your body is in a state accustomed to taking in a much smaller amount of food. Your stomach (and the rest of your body) has shrunk because you've been giving it an unnaturally small amount of food, and once you put a portion of food that's meant for your natural, healthy weight, your small body will be a little overwhelmed. My advice is to eat until you feel full - not until you feel oversaturated or paralyzed, but a good, healthy full. A "good, healthy full" might not be comfortable for a while.

If you're average weight or overweight and have been restricting, you'll probably feel bloated once you start eating normally but this change won't be as visible as it would in an underweight body. You may look in the mirror after eating and be shocked at how much bigger your abdomen looks, but think about what you're feeling emotionally and physically and consider what you're actually seeing. I know how disconcerting it can be to look in the mirror and not be able to tell what you're really seeing, so you can always measure your stomach before and after eating to see if there's a real difference. I don't mean to make this into a big deal, because becoming less dependent on how you look is part of recovering, but measuring your abdomen is one way to get a realistic idea of how much your stomach grows or doesn't grow after a meal.

If you're average weight or overweight and have been binging, purging, or cycling through combinations and phases of these, eating normally will be a good balance for you. If you're coming out of a binging phase you'll be eating less and probably more often than you were prior to entering recovery, and you may be triggered to push further and go right back into a phase of restriction. This isn't something I've mastered - I still haven't found a balanced amount of food that I can eat on a daily basis without being triggered to restrict or binge the next day. I still feel better on the days that I eat less, but apparently "less" is too little, because I end up feeling lightheaded or deprived later on; on the days I eat more than I feel I should, I end up feeling bloated and equate that with guilt, so I end up eating too little again the next day. It's a cycle, but it's much less extreme and emotional than the binge/purge cycle and feels much more in my control than eating has in a long time.

If you're average weight or overweight and have been compulsively overeating prior to beginning your recovery you might feel hungry and as if you're on a diet if you make changes quickly. I advise that you think about when you're really feeling hungry or when you want to eat out of habit or emotion. If you start to eat compulsively try to have something like carrots, that will give you the satisfaction of chewing and it probably won't lead into an uncontrollable episode of eating.

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