Overshoot Weight Gain In ED Recovery

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Last updated on May 14th, 2023 at 12:32 am

Have you heard about overshoot weight when recovering from an eating disorder and wondering what that really means? 

Overshoot weight is eating disorder weight targets above the “minimum” threshold of weight expectations. Overshoot is also the weight gain above set targets weights that can occur naturally in eating disorder recovery.

Overshoot implies that: 

  • The goal recovery weight won’t necessarily match a rigid BMI standard
  • Height does not dictate what the ED weight target will be
  • Your body knows what your weight should be better than math calculations
  • Your weight target might be different than a peer of equal height
  • Your weight target will likely be a range 

This can feel very scary if you are in eating disorder recovery and your ED voice is likely to have very loud thoughts about this. 

After all, your eating disorder has likely convinced you that it’s only necessary to gain the absolute minimum amount of weight necessary to mark the checkbox of ED recovered. 

In this article, we’ll explore why weight overshoot is often necessary for ED recovery and, what overshoot means,  and how to work through some of the difficult emotions that can come with this.

infographic on overshoot weight

What is Overshoot Weight In ED Recovery

Overshoot weight in eating disorder recovery is when a target for weight restoration is set above the persons pre eating disorder weight. 

Clinicians will set a target for overshoot weight for several reasons including: 

  • Our body needs to rebuild the trust that we will feed it to carry out normal processes
  • Often weight overshoot is required to get a period again 
  • Our gut microbiome will need additional nutrients to normalize 
  • For teens, the body is still growing taller in addition to weight restore
  • There will naturally be some weight loss as a person moves away from a mechanical eating plan 

Your target weight will be set by your healthcare team which typically includes a doctor, a therapist, and an eating disorder dietitian

Why Do I Need Additional Nutrients In ED Recovery: 

It’s important to remember that there is a lot of tissue and organ repair that the body needs to go through in eating disorder recovery. Overshoot can be critical for repairing the damage done to the body during an eating disorder.

Additional nutrients in recovery is required for: 

  • Loss of lean body mass (muscle)
  • Hormones and digestive enzymes to resume normal function
  • Damaged tissue repair 
  • Hair regrowth and repair
  • Repairing bone mineral density as much as possible 
  • Dental damage and sores 

What is an Example of Overshoot Weight

Overshoot weight gain can mean different things for different people.  

Some examples of overshoot include: 

  • A BMI 5-20 lbs above the “minim healthy BMI weight” for those we don’t have good weight history data on 
  • Following an eating disorder meal plan and restoring weight greater than minimum target weight
  • Honoring all types of hunger and naturally falling at a weight higher than the minimum target weight
  • Restoring weight to a point above your UBW even if you are considered “overweight” on the BMI scale

Typically, the healthcare team will set a target weight range for a person between 10-20 lbs. 

Weight overshoot will typically be critical in: 

When Will I Stop Gaining Weight After An Eating Disorder

Weight targets are typically set based on a person’s personal growth history if the data is available. 

For example, if a person has always been in the 50th percentile for weight on growth charts, the target weight will reflect this.  

It is important to remember that overshoot weight will likely be a normal part of recovery. It is not uncommon for overshooting weight to surpass weight targets set by the healthcare team.

Reasons overshoot weight occurs naturally include: 

  • Extreme hunger that often occurs following an eating disorder
  • The body has not hit its natural set point weight even if it has hit the target weight
  • Weight loss rebound tends to naturally direct the body to a higher weight for safety
  • As a response to hypermetabolism

While overshoot might feel uncomfortable, it is critical that you trust your body to know its set point weight following recovery.

How Long Does It Take To Lose Overshoot Weight

It typically latkes about 6 months to 2 years after all eating disorder behaviors have been discontinued to get to your set point weight.

For some people, the set point weight of the body is less than the overshoot weight that was a target during your recovery process.

How long it takes to get to your set point weight which could mean reducing overshoot weight will depend on: 

You will need to be incorporating all foods and honor your hunger fully before your body will reach its set point weight. 

It is also critical to remember that your weight does not determine if you are recovered or not from an eating disorder. 

If you are trying to lose weight after your initial recovery, this is an eating disorder relapse sign and means that you have more recovery work to do. 

Dealing With Weight Gain In ED Recovery

Weight gain during eating disorder recovery can almost feel like a loss of identity.  Weight gain can come with fear, grief, uncertainty, depression, and anxiety.  

Recognizing that we are losing some of our thin privilege which is highly valued in this oppressive culture can feel traumatic. 

Part of the recovery process will include learning to honor and trust your body and heal body image.  

Here are some things that can help with weight gain in eating disorder recovery: 

Your fear of gaining weight is not unique to you.  Check out my anorexia story to see some of the challenges I had in this struggle. 

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