fat tummy

How Science Helped Me Cope with the ‘Fat Tummy’ in Anorexia Recovery. 137

My Experience;

When I had anorexia, I did not suffer from body dysmorphia, so I was acutely aware of how thin I looked and unattractive it was. I know that this is not the case for all sufferers, but I think that regardless, many will find this account useful for recovery purposes.

Recovery takes a lot of work—both mental and physical—and it is a process. Anorexia affects everything from behavioral pattens to biological systems. I was scared to eat, and then when I did I felt sick and bloated. Nothing about recovery was easy, but thankfully I was one sufferer who relished having some flesh to cover me when I did begin to put on weight.

Emaciated had never felt good to me, it felt uncomfortable. Literally: my seat bones would dig into even the softest of seats and sitting always gave me a sore backside.  I was covered in ugly reddened patches of skin where the bones rubbed against my clothes. Whoever thinks that eating disorders are a vanity problem I’ll show you pictures of me looking haggard and dead at age 20. Eating disorders make you ugly.

In my biggest recovery effort, I finally I started to put on weight again. It felt good. I could sit down without getting sore. Clothes looked and felt better. I actually enjoyed feeling my thighs rub together, that spelled victory to me over anorexia. I was winning. I was living again.

But then, the “fat tummy” came. Whilst I knew that gaining weight was what had to happen in order for me to get better, I wondered if this disproportionally fat tummy was normal.

I seemed to be putting on more weight in my abdominal region than anywhere else. The distribution of my bodyweight seemed uneven. And it bothered me.

As a person recovering from anorexia, it was difficult to talk to people about this sort of thing, as any mention of belly fat and people would immediately jump to assuming that I was having negative body issues (sigh) or even worse … a relapse.

I was having neither of these things. I was hell bent on recovering and honestly felt that if I needed to be overweight in order to not have anorexia than so be it. I also knew how great I looked, but I found myself covering up my stomach, which was certainly disproportionately large.


Is the Fat Tummy a “Normal” part of Eating Disorder Recovery?

I just wanted to know if this belly was normal. I asked Google, but initially all the answers that I got were fluffy feel- good memes such as accept yourself and you are beautiful. I was frustrated. It was as if questioning the distribution of fat on my body was taboo. It is hard for people to understand that I was not questioning my self worth, I just wanted to know why my weight gain was so uneven.

Finally, after turning to science for an answer, I found this study. The highlighted red line made me feel so much better:

One of the cardinal symptoms of anorexia nervosa (AN) is the fear of gaining weight and becoming fat (DSM-IV, criteria B). With near-delusional conviction, patients tell us that if they gain weight, it will be “all fat and no muscle.” Another common complaint during treatment is that weight gain isn’t being evenly distributed, but is collecting “all in my stomach.”

I realized even after reading that much that was all I had needed. I had been looking for something that would tell me that this protruding stomach was ok.


Yes: The Fat Tummy is a Normal Part of Eating Disorder Recovery

The conclusion of that particular study was that:

patients with anorexia nervosa may demonstrate an abnormal distribution of body fat (lipodystrophy) that preferentially deposits fat to the trunk and away from the periphery

Why this matters to me:

This is not a blog post that I have put up without really considering what my point is. I do not want any sufferer to ever read anything that might put them off recovery, and the knowledge that belly fat will be gained is certainly something that could do just that.

However, this fact is important to be aware of in terms of recovery, and just because it is not easy to talk about I do not think it should be ignored. It is very likely that a sufferer in recovery will experience stomach fat like I did, and steps should be taken to ensure that it does not cause them to restrict calories again.

Many sufferers of anorexia have a distorted body image also, and if it was hard for me to come to terms with the amount of fat around my middle it will be even more difficult for a sufferer with body dysmorphia to deal with.

This is a tricky topic, and I think for child sufferers who are being re-fed by parents and food intake is out of their control it is not something that needs to be brought into discussion unless it comes up as a sticking point. But for those of us who are adult sufferers and ultimately responsible for ourselves in recovery it is vital that we know what we are up against. We need to be aware of the things that are likely to come up in our recovery path that we are on so that we can protect ourselves against relapse.


Why it matters to sufferers in treatment:

I think that in terms of preparation for long term recovery, sufferers need to know from the start what that might look and feel like. The acceptance of an increased amount of fat around the stomach in the short term should be something that is worked on from the very beginning of recovery, rather than something that is not spoken about in the hope that it will not happen.

Personally I worked this out with myself my identifying my stomach fat as a trophy, it proved that I was winning.

Recovering from anorexia is hard enough. As an adult in recovery, I think that being set up for all the challenges that might have caused me to relapse from the beginning would have in the long run been helpful. When I knew that belly fat is a sign of recovery I could work on accepting it. I could even make myself love my sticky out stomach because I taught myself to see it as a trophy.


Does my experience mean that yours will be the same?

No. Because we are all different, we all experience anorexia differently and we all experience recovery differently; however there are many of us that share symptoms and experiences, and in talking about them we can help one another understand.


Why Does the Fat Go To Your Stomach When You Recover From an Eating Disorder?

I was underweight for over ten years, and I wondered if it was due to this that my body was so effectively storing fat on my stomach.

This study looked at the effect of weight distribution in terms of length of malnutrition period. It  recognized that patients with eating disorders are heterogeneous with differing degrees of malnutrition and clinical abnormalities. It also states that due to earlier diagnosis nowadays, most cases of anorexia are getting less severe (I wonder if you agree this is true?). Their results showed that only patients with prolonged malnutrition have an altered fat distribution.

In this next study that I read there was some discussion of why.

‘A decrease in gonadal steroids has been reported in anorexia nervosa and may also contribute to the preferential fat distribution encountered in our subjects. It is well known that estrogen and progesterone modify body fat distribution by increasing peripheral or subcutaneous fat deposition”

But the writers are very clear that this is an unconfirmed hypothesis. What was also interesting in this study is that they found that after prolonged weight restoration that body fat redistributed itself more equally.

I remember reading this and bucking up a bit, was this implying that after a while my fat tummy would redistribute itself?

Another study also implied that this abnormal weight distribution was apparent in shorter term but that the longer term effects were unknown.

This study indicated;

 ….weight-recovered women with AN who are able to maintain a normal body weight show redistribution of adipose tissue back toward the distribution seen in matched control subjects over 1 y of follow-up.

And so does this one which showed that the abnormal distribution of body fat appears to normalize within a 1-y period of weight maintenance.


In short, if I kept eating and kept my bodyweight up my body would begin to store less fat in my stomach area and distribute it more evenly overall. 

I have to say that this really helped me to accept it and to keep eating! I had my doubts that my bodyweight would redistribute for sure, but all I needed to help me keep pushing through recovery was to discover that firstly I was not the only person to experience this, and secondly I might even out if I kept going.

Thankfully, not every person suffering anorexia is malnourished for as long as I was. And hopefully due to sharper diagnostics and more efficient treatment those that do suffer need not do so for ten years like I did. With this in mind I am hopeful that most people recovering from anorexia will not experience as much of a distorted weight gain as I did. And even if they do, they should be made aware that this is their bodies short term response and that if they keep doing with recovery it will even out.

My body needed a long time at a restored bodyweight before it began to redistribute the stomach fat more evenly, I found that once I had educated myself and understood that this was probably normal for me, I had a much easier time with it.


Did My Fat Stomach Redistribute?


After over a year of a restored bodyweight, my stomach fat dispersed and my legs and arms looked fantastic. This was around the same time that I also got my period (I wrote about that in detail too).


My conclusion:

The fat tummy was potentially a relapse point for me. When I educated myself as to the science surrounding anorexia recovery, I was able to develop confidence about the path my own recovery was taking. Education helped me avoid relapse.

I think it is something that adult sufferers should be made aware of when they embark on recovery, this way proactive steps can be taken that will reduce the potential for relapse should stomach fat occur.

Thank you for reading. If this post was helpful to you, my book—Love Fat—tells in detail my journey into, and out of, anorexia.


2017 Update to this post

I have since written a number of blogs on overshoot (fat belly) and the importance of it in eating disorder recovery. You can find them here 


I now officially offer recovery coaching for adults with eating disorders. You can find out more here. 

I am launching a meal support service for adults in active recovery from eating disorders. You can find out more here. 

I am offering 2-day clinics in using principles of FBT to help adults with eating disorders recover. You can find out more here. 


Body composition changes in patients with anorexia nervosa after complete weight recovery.

Visceral fat, anorexia nervosa and weight gain. 

Regional fat distribution in adolescents with anorexia nervosa: effect of duration of malnutrition and weight recovery

Body fat redistribution after weight gain in women with anorexia

Adipose tissue distribution after weight restoration and weight maintenance in women with anorexia nervosa

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About Tabitha Farrar

I work as Head of Marketing for a software startup in Boulder. As a recovered Anorexia sufferer, I advocate for proper understanding of eating disorders in my spare time. On that note, I wrote a book about my own journey into eating again called Love Fat.

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137 thoughts on “How Science Helped Me Cope with the ‘Fat Tummy’ in Anorexia Recovery.

  • Maisy

    Can I just say you have put in to words exactly how I feel and it’s nice to know that we are not alone , I too have had all my weight settle on my tummy but after researching it found it much easier to cope once i knew why it was happening and why it needs to happen , you are right when you say that these issues are not spoken about and I feel that they should be upfront as it’s a daunting process if you are unaware of the facts. Thank you for your brilliant words x

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Thank you so much Maisy!
      I makes me happy that you are in a place of understanding too and that you got their via research. The more we talk about things the more that we are able to work through them. There is something wonderful about knowing that you are not in isolation, especially when it comes to the things that people do not tend to talk freely about, such as tummies and periods 🙂

  • Alison Maffucci

    Thank you so much for your written experience. I am having the most difficult time with my recovery because my belly-bloat always triggers me to go back to my behaviors. I suffer from bulimia – but am also experiencing extreme bloating and am also in the re-feeding process. It honestly scares me to think that it will take up to a year for complete weight redistribution… I’ve been sick for 10 years and have been underweight… Recovery just needs to be more important to me than a flat stomach. I know it rationally makes sense- but there is such an emotional significance wrapped around body shape. I am glad that you wrote about this, because I was so distressed and hopeless today – just feeling fat and bloated and wondering if the pain and all the discomfort would be worth it. I need to give it a chance… and learn to love myself unconditionally – no matter what my stomach size. It sounds so simple… but I am so scared.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Alison

      Its not simple or easy, but the good news is that with commitment and time you can turn things around. I have a practice of putting my hand on my belly fat and appreciating it, and the fact that for me it is a recovery trophy. I also continue to research into the functional qualities of adipose tissue and human health, as for me understanding why it is not normal or healthy to have a flat tummy is helpful.

      Surviving your eating disorder will probably be the hardest thing that you do, please do not operate in isolation, make sure that you have a good supportive team behind you and this will help.

      Much love


  • MacKenzie

    There’s no word on whether or not your weight actually redistributed. My issue is that I read everywhere that “weight will be distributed” but there is no evidence or pictures of this. No real testimonies. It upsets me and makes me want to regress back into old habits. Just wondering if you have experience redistribution, and if so, how long did it take???

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Mackenzie

      Yes I have! It probably took about a year and I noticed that my tummy went down and my legs, breasts and arms bulked up more. Its looks great and it is more than worth hanging in there! I love the way that my body looks now, I have feminine curves and feel wonderful

  • y3

    Hi, I’m an Asian and currently recovering from bulimia on my own. I almost getting to third month and currently experiencing weight accumulation and some bloating residual on my upper part. Not only tummy but also my arm that let me look huge. I look through every single info on net about bulimia recovery to make sure I’m doing it right. Sometimes I feel depressed too when when around me asked why that I have gained so much. But all these never cause me to relapse and I believe that I will get back to a body that I will love. The only thing that bother me is that it seem like the fat not only accumulate on my tummy but is everywhere every part of my body that let me look huge and obviously gained weight that other ppl notice once seeing me… I have gained 12kg in this two months plus and it seem to be stabilize… I just need a word of assure that my body will become proportionate again…

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi y3

      You have to have faith that your bodyweight will redistribute. Mine did and yours will too! Congratulations on your recovery and I am so glad that you have got as far as you are now.

  • Sophie

    Tabitha, thank you for writing such an informed and reasoned article on an uncomfortable fact of recovery so seldom addressed.

    Abnormal abdominal fat distribution during recovery is an anxiety that stonewalls my attempts to gain weight, and get well, time and time again. Like you, this has been a potential relapse point for me.

    Now, however, having read your article, I feel so encouraged and so happy to go forward.

    Thank you.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Excellent. It’s important that you understand that your body will redistribute weight once it knows that it is safe to do so. See this as not a stonewall, but a massive bridge in your recovery. You are on the right path, and full recovery is fully achievable for you!

  • nat

    I have suffered anorexia in the past and I have found it’s been hard to put weight back on no matter how much I eat, it isn’t really even gaining in a particular spot of my body it’s almost like my metabolism has gone into over drive, of course it doesn’t help that recently I had been prescribed topamax without proper diagnosis for seizures that I was not even having. This medication caused me (already underweight to lose more and get down to 96 lbs . the long term affect of this has caused me to feel very unconfident about my body as I’m so skinny I have lost my feminine figure. I have the breasts of a 12 year old with A cups when I use to have perky C cups. I also lost the curbs and nice shape to my butt that I use to have. It really bothers me. I’m just afraid no amount of weight I try to gain or muscle I try to build will ever give me back my old figure from before my anorexia almost 3 years ago.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Nat

      I appreciate your fears; I have had similar myself. I have been there, and I can tell you that you can and you will return to your previous weight. You will have to work for it, but you can achieve it and once you have maintained it for a couple of months to a year, your body will hold you there. I went from an AA cup to a C cup in recovery. I have to say that I adore my breasts! They remind me of the beauty of the natural womanly shape that I have achieved.

  • LYY

    Hi Tabitha, I apologize for my broken English at first because English wasn’t my main language,I wanted to ask you about during recovery phase, do you binge eating often?? Because I found out that I often feel hungry,I ate 6 or 7 meals a day, and it’s a lot,I’m afraid I’ll lost control when I’m on normal weight and I still have this kind of behaviour it will lead me to.become fat again…

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author


      This is a great question. I found that I did binge eat a lot until I was really eating enough good fat AND my bodyweight had been at a good level for some time. Then, when my body trusted that I would continue to eat regularly and I was eating enough fat every meal, I stopped binge eating.

      In recovery, we need a LOT of food. This really does level out once the body has recovered a while. Do not fear losing control forever.

      • Jodie

        Thank you so much, this comment really helped me as well. I just binge ate again and my stomach is looking/feeling especially massive. I’m really upset that it’s going to take so long (especially as I have my prom and the summer holidays coming up) but reading this post a couple of weeks ago has definitely saved me from a relapse.

  • Sam

    I don’t know if this is actually happening or if this is just how I am. I was wondering how long you have to be malnourished for, for something like this to happen?
    i don’t suppose you get many boys on this site but hey ho

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Sam

      I do not know your situation, but I imagine that if you believe you might have been malnourished that you were. We are all different, so there is not a specific time that one would have to be underweight for things to change and the body to react by storing fat in this manner once it gets some.

      Actually, guys get eating disorders too you know. They are much less spoken of, but that is something that many of us are trying to change.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this post. I am recovering from anorexia and have gone without a period of severe calorie restriction since July of this year. However, I feel EXACTLY the eay you describe. I am very strong, fit and muscular and my entire body is wonderfully toned…..except my stomach. It looks so unnatural and I was really starting to have a hard time believing my dietitian and was struggling with the growing temptation to restrict rather than keep feeling so disproportionate. Thank you once again. It is so good to know that I am not the only one.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Tabitha,
    Thank you so much for these insights. I found this post more thorough and informative than many peer-reviewed articles.
    Like many others here, I’m struggling with abdominal lipohypertrophy in recovery at the moment (it brings me comfort to think of it in these clinical terms, as though approaching it as a condition enables me to see this as a transient stage of recovery, and not to so quickly conflate it with self-image…a sort of “this is something temporarily happening to my body, not a permenant change to myself” mantra). I plan to re-read this whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by the anxiety this has been causing me, so I’m really grateful to you.

    I wonder, do you have any further thoughts on visceral vs subcutaneous fat deposition during this stage of recovery? I have both, but my abdominal weight gain seems to be mostly (70-80%) visceral (which I find just as distressing as the jiggly, outer subcutaneous fat). I’ve heard this referred to as ‘organ insulation’, where the body attempt to protect vital organs (especially the liver, ovaries and pancreas) located in the trunk, by storing energy here rather than in peripheral organs or limbs during the refeeding process. Everyone’s experience is different, but do you think it matters as to what sort of fat this is as to how long redistribution might take?

  • Annie

    Hi Tabitha,
    Thank you so much for these insights. I found this post more thorough and informative than many peer-reviewed articles.
    Like many others here, I’m struggling with abdominal lipohypertrophy in recovery at the moment (it brings me comfort to think of it in these clinical terms, as though approaching it as a condition enables me to see this as a transient stage of recovery, and not to so quickly conflate it with self-image…a sort of “this is something temporarily happening to my body, not a permenant change to myself” mantra). I plan to re-read this whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed by the anxiety this has been causing me, so I’m really grateful to you.

    I wonder, do you have any further thoughts on visceral vs subcutaneous fat deposition during this stage of recovery? I have both, but my abdominal weight gain seems to be mostly (70-80%) visceral (which I find just as distressing as the jiggly, outer subcutaneous fat). I’ve heard this referred to as ‘organ insulation’, where the body attempt to protect vital organs (especially the liver, ovaries and pancreas) located in the trunk, by storing energy here rather than in peripheral organs or limbs during the refeeding process. Everyone’s experience is different, but do you think it matters as to what sort of fat this is as to how long redistribution might take?

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi- thanks for writing!

      I’m the same in as much as I find it really helpful to think of these things in clinical terms- and why should we not, because after all, this is a disease and should be thought about and treated as such. Your mantra is perfect, and add onto that the idea that every ounce of fat you withhold is testament to your recovery. A trophy.

      In regard to your question – I certainly think that organ insulation makes sense and believe this is why the body directs fat to this area in the primary stages of recovery and weight gain. I honestly think that your body knows what it is doing, and it knows what type of fat it needs and where. As long as you concentrate on your body- which is weight restoration and maintenance- your should be able to work out the rest. Obviously this takes a bit of trust, but trusting one’s own body is a practice in itself, and one which I certainly had to consciously work on.

      I hope that you are continuing to do well!

  • Mikep976

    Hello, recently I received news from a blood test that I was having problems with my liver and among other things, symptoms that pointed to an eating disorder and not eating enough. With help from my mother, I have recently seen the damage I had done to my body by sever calorie counting and not eating enough for my body (18 year old, running every week day morning) I would eat not nearly enough for my weight (125 at the lowest, also I’m 5 foot 10, male). We have gone at this on our own (I have an appointment with a nutritionist, but I new I needed to start gaining weight before that to try and repair my body. My mother says at this point I should just eat what I want because my body needs it. I know I shouldn’t eat anything, but I find myself craving nothing but typical teenager foods (sweets, chips, ect.) My first few days I managed to polish off three things of peanut butter that were each 1/3 full, and large amonts of cookies, and other sweets that were “off limits” in my eating disorder mind. My question is, is this normal in the first couple of weeks, should I be worried that I crave all the foods that I didn’t allow myself for so long, and further more, is it bad I act on it, as in eating these cravings. I feel like Ieat so much of the bad foods, I am actually hurting my body, but read on some places its normal to binge on certain bad foods the first couple of weeks, and that it will go away when my body adjusts. I just love sweets and have missed them for so long, and really enjoy them, and for once don’t feel guilty after eating them. I commonly find my self eating cookie after cookie, or a spoon ful or two of ice cream multiple times, or just a just a large amount of yummy stuff I missed throughout the day. I feel as if I’m bingeing but need to remember I’m feeding my body. I have already gained some weight, but am worried because its mostly all in my gut area (probably due to the high sugar intake), and hope that it will distributed equally eventually. So in the end, is it bad to indulge (and I mean INDULDGE) in the foods that I have restricted for so long, or should I cut out the sugar and try to induldge in other foods that I missed (I also crave pizza and burgers like crazy). Thanks.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author


      Remember that my advice is just my own opinion.
      I think that the very most important thing it eating regular meals. So for example, if you binge on sweets at 4pm, this is no excuse not to eat a proper and nutritious dinner in the evening. As long as you are eating a minimum of three balanced meals a day then especially in the short term allow yourself to eat whatever else you like. I found that when I was really really eating enough protein and fat at mealtime the urge to binge on sweet foods dissolved. If you think or know that binging on sweets will make you not eat proper meals that is the only time I would say to try and hold out on it. Or, eat something with protein and fat in (like a cheese sandwich or similar snack) and see if that does the trick. Nothing is off limits to you so long as you eat your balanced meals too. Enjoy it!

      Belly fat will redistribute—I wrote a post on that too!

    • Ellie

      Hi Mike,

      I’m late to the party here, but I want to say something to you because I get it! I recently fully embraced recovery after living 4 years in what I’ll now call “fake-almost-recovered.” When I decided I was done with anorexia, I was DONE. That was about 3 months ago. My favorite parts of the day are those in which I am eating…. cake? cookies? peanut butter? cheese curls? YESSSS. It’s like all those years of denying myself those indulgences are now coming back, and I’m making up for lost time, haha. But, that said, I’m going to continue because I’m happy to be eating these great foods now, and I’ll hope for the best in terms of weight redistribution.

      I’d love to hear how your progress is coming along, and I wish you the best!


  • Ruth

    Thank you for this. I am 54 with a long long history of restriction, and have been in full recovery for 9 months – which is about how pregnant I look also, as a coincidence. It is good to be reminded of the way our body works to help us recover. My Dad also had a long term eating disorder, and his anorexia hastened his death, and I remember how enormous his belly became at certain ages – I know now that he was in fact restoring weight after periods of extreme restriction, and that his belly, like mine was a symbol of that process. His belly DID normalise after a period of time, at least until he was triggered to restrict harshly again. Gwyneth Olwyn also talks about the belly on her site youreatopia, another source of encouragement.

  • Eliza Gray

    Hi Tabitha,

    Thank you so much for your advice, your research has shed much light on my journey.
    It’s really nice to know that I am not alone in this, and the same with all the other comments.

    I was just so frustrated as to why this was happening! Can’t our body just co-operate for once.

    I feel as if their needs to more talk about all these issues, I hope more can be done.

    Thank you again. x

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Thank you for reading and commenting. In commenting, you reinforce the notion that we really are not alone in the chaos of this disease, and therefore provide support for other readers xxx

  • Dan

    Thank you so much for this! Tonight I had been questioning everything because the same thing has been happening to me. Your post has helped me keep going!

    Again, thank you! 🙂

  • Marie

    Thank you so much for this! I’ve been going through the exact same fears, and I k n o w it’s a normal side effect, but it’s so encouraging to over-read these things every once in a while.

    Because, yeah, that’s how our brains work – I may have read similar posts such as this maybe half a year ago and recognise that “aha, this is what’s going on”, and even remember myself reading this, but half a year later, even remembering what I had read in the past, my brain may STILL go into asking “Omg omg, what’s happening with the body, is it normal, is it OK ?!”

    So thank you for reminding me that I’m on the right path 🙂

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      The pleasure is all mine Marie. I think that keeping positive reminders close at hand is a really great way to stay on top of those thoughts also. You are totally on the right path and power to you!

  • Jar

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’m struggling immensely at the minute but this really helped. I will try my hardest to avoid relapse and restriction💪🏼

  • Betty

    I am a senior and had anorexia for twenty years and have almost died and was down to 87 lbs About a yr. and a half ago I met the love of my life who got me to eat when no one else could. However, I have gained weight and now weigh 131lbs and am 5′ 2″ and it has all the fat has gone to my stomach and I am having a battle wanting to go back to being anorexic and starving myself again seeing myself once again as obese and hating myself. Well, meaning friends do not help because they don’t understand that anorexia is “a disease of the mind that affects your body.” John, the love of my life says really tries to understand but unless you have suffered from anorexia, you can’t understand. I have not had any “therapy” as my insurance does not pay for it. Just need some friends that are having the same struggles and understand. Thank you, and God Bless. Betty

      • Betty

        Thank you so much Tabitha for your encouragement, it is so much more appreciated than I can express. Please feel free to email me at “hallb9782@GMAIL ” I hope you are doing well. Blessings, Betty

  • Ellq

    Hi Tabitha,
    I recently learned about the MinnieMaud treatment plan – are you at all familiar? It also preaches the weight redistribution factor, and it is allowing me to FINALLY fully embrace recovery. I’ve been eating in excess of 3000 calories each day for about three months… and I do see the weight more on my stomach. I am eager for weight redistribution, but I also am appreciating the tummy as a trophy!
    So thankful for you and your shared experiences. Thanks for a great post!


  • pq

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am experiencing this now, and it is freaking me out and making all of my fears come out. This was comforting to read.

  • Melanie jacob

    Dear Tabitha, thank you for this post. I am a Clinician who counseled many recovering adolescent clients/families surrounding the redistribution of fat….especially concerning and obvious around the abdomen. I thought of recording comments from clients who successfully hung in there during the hard days,weeks and months prior to the redistribution. This is very important to not judge the comment or concern as irrational and to discuss the concerns openly and honestly.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hey Melanie

      Thank you so much for what you do. I am sure that your clients really appreciate your understanding! Where is your practice? I am always on the scout out for places all over the globe to refer people to.

  • Rikke

    I cannot tell you how great and motivated you just made me feel! I have been wondering about the same thing with weight distribution! Because I feel like all of my fat is either on my legs (which it was from before) but also in my stomach! That you wrote how long it took for your body to distribute it, was actually amazing! Thank you! Because I have felt like it would not happen to me, as I have been weight restored for around 9 months now!

  • Sara

    I honestly can’t articulate how important it was to find this entry of yours. My bloating is absolutely ridiculous right now – it’s not dysmorphia, I seriously look like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee from Alice in Wonderland, haha! I gained some ridiculous amount of weight over this past Thanksgiving – something like 10 lbs in a week, and it’s been so strange, simultaneously (and rationally) being happy to have gained but wondering how much was simply bloat and water retention, and then another part of my consciousness (irrationally) hating my body for looking so “fat”, and wanting to go back to the old habits. Scientific research has always been my safe place – thanks for doing so much of the work!

    Reading through the comments has been cathartic too – about the binging, and how sometimes I just feel like I have NO control on when to stop. Oy. I hope you’re still doing fantastic! And that I will continue to have the will to healthily gain, stop at a healthy weight, eventually redistribute to something that doesn’t look like a cartoon character, and not feel the need to binge like a bear going into hibernation. Just…thank you. Thank you thank you!

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Sara

      I am really glad this helps. It is wonderful that you are able to tell apart the rational from the irrational thoughts. I think that this is one of the most crucial aspects of recovery as after a while I started to hate the irrational thoughts so much that it was like a battle against them. When I started to deliberately provoke them by purposefully eating foods they told me not to I really grew stronger than the disease. Hang in there girl! Know that every bit of that belly is a victory and love it for what it is doing for you: saving your life.

      Funnily enough, for me, it was just about when I had actually accepted my pot belly, and kinda liked it, that it went away. 🙂

  • Laura

    I suffer from anorexia have for 18yrs and this time i WANT to recover bit this os a HUGE fear of mine and stops me from eating more this is a great rwad i just need to believe it!

  • Anna

    I’m my 8th month in ed recovery, initially i would up about 200 calories a month until i reached between 1400-1600. At this point i’ve gained 33 lbs & i’m so scared i’m nearly at my pre-ed weight. i have fat around my sides that i dont remember ever having. will i ever stop gaining?! i’m so scared! i considered dropping this whole process- i can’t even find any stories online where people gain 30+ lbs 🙁 i also used to really dehydrate my body and not eat salt/sodium so i’m wondering if any of this is water? anyway, any feedback would be very appreciated!

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Anna

      Are you in an offical recovery process working with a professional? It sounds to me like you are still resisting recovery a lot, and I think that you could use some help to help you overcome that? You need to be on board with your body, and you need to trust your body. Only then can you expect your body to trust you.

  • Bexxy

    Thank you this has been fab information for me to pass on to my daughter who is in the early stages of recovery but she is slowly relapsing but not like she has in the past

  • Kate

    Hi Tabitha! I’m a senior in high school and am currently about a month or two into recovery. I was wondering if you knew how the length and severity of malnutrition affect how weight redistributes? I was malnourished for a few months, and lost enough weight to lose my period but not enough to need hospitalization. Now that I’ve started recovery, I’ve regained some weight and definitely am seeing more weight in my abdomen.
    My question is, will regained weight redistribute evenly even if the period of malnutrition was relatively short, and comparably less severe? I’m very worried that even if I keep up with eating enough, the fat won’t redistribute and will stay collected in my abdomen (right now this is one of the main issues that has come up in recovery; I very much dislike how I look right now).
    Thank you!

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Kate

      Congratulations on your recovery. I have to say that really all this is going to depend on your individual body and how it recovers. Remember that one thing that the disease will do is tell you that you don’t look okay—that’s just how anorexia works—your job is to work very hard to overcome this and ignore what your eating disorder is telling you about the way that you look.

      No matter what, if you allow it to, Anorexia will try and sabotage your life by telling you lies about how you look. While I am sure that your weight will redistribute when your body is ready to do it, I think that in the meantime you should concentrate on learning how to ignore the thoughts that make you dislike how you look right now. I hope that helps?

  • Mary

    Tabitha please help me . So I have been maintaining my current steady rate of weight over the last few years at around 900-1000 kcals . I like to sometimes think I’m pseddo recovered but deep down I know I’m not . Recently as I’m qualifying this year from college I have realised I can’t go on like this .. I have over last 2 weeks being trying to increase my intake but …… A few days have ended up in binges .. Well let’s say I’ll go to add a bowl of cereal mostly before bed and have ended up havin 3-4 as I feeeeel so hungry … I used to hate coco pops before I got sick now it’s all I crave .. All I want is cereal .. This has left me sacrificed. I’ve never binged before and thus for a few days after I end up going bak to my old kcal routine . Please help me .. I kno ppl say just give into the hunger . Deep down I kno I need to gain weight but already after those few binges feel I have put on too much too fast . How do I deal with this and the weight gain .

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Mary,

      Are you seeing a professional to help you with this? It sounds like you need some additional support. Eating disorders mess with your head, and they can be really tricky to deal with on your own, especially in the most crucial stages of recovery. If you let me know what area you are in I might know some resources for you.

  • Frances

    Hi Tabitha
    Thank you so much for explaining what is happening. I am on my 5th month of recovery and am having a really difficult time with my tummy.
    I have had anorexia for 25 years so I am wondering if the weigh will redistribute because I have been underweight for so long. I have read your
    article every day for the last two weeks and it keeps me doing what I need to every day. The eating disorder keeps telling me that I will be the one
    that doesn’t have the weight redistribute.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hang in there girl! You got this!

      When your ED talks to you, tell it where to go. I tend to use the never-fail “you’re not the boss of me” line with mine because it makes me smile at the same time. ED is not the boss of you!

  • Kathy

    Hi Tabitha,

    I am a recovered anorexic for 9 years now( struggled 10 long years 1994-2004) but have lost weight slowly over the course of 6 years due to Pelvic Floor Dysfunction probably after I had a hysterectomy in 2008. I had maintained my weight at 10 pounds below what I had gotten up to when I was deemed fully recovered by my PCP) for a long time. The my Pelvic Floor Dysfunction got worse & I began to lose weight slowly again. I am in no means “anorexia c again. I have no ED thoughts or behaviors. I don’t “fear food & don’t think like I did when I was suffering from the anorexia. To make a long story short. All of a sudden Whatever I drank/drink makes my stomach protrude or distend a lot. I was hospitalized over 30 times for the anorexia over those 10 years I was severely sick & I never had this happen. My weight is NOT ( even by a long shot) as low as it was when I was severely anorexic & being hospitalized. even when I was at my lowest weight & had to be tube feed for 9 days with eating my stomach never acted this way. Actually the weight I am now is the usual weight the hospital would discharge me at. Then it was up to me. I am now 23 pounds lower then what I was at in 2007 when I was at my healthiest weight & actually by my height was my ideal weight. If I could flick a switch & be that weight again i would in a second. I miss looking healthy. In 2000 I was 49 pounds below my ideal weight & even then my stomach never did this. It is so ditended by just liquids that the only thing i can wear are overalls because no pants will fit me. They my stomach is distended so much. This is not the so called ED voice talking. I know what that voice is & it has been gone for 9 years. I don’t think of my stomach as fat when it is distended because I know it’s not. It’s just distended. Have you ever heard or seen someone who’s stomach distends a lot when they drink liquids?

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Kathy

      I asked a PT friend and she said maybe your abdominal muscles are weak particularly since the pelvic floor muscles are weak. The rectus abdominis is basically what it holds all the organs in and keeps everything from protruding. I would imagine they atrophied from the anorexia. Also, that you could see a specialist to help you with this.

      Personally I am just thankful it is not your ED voice talking. I think that is the most important thing.

      • Kathy

        Thank you so much for finding out what is going on. I knew I hadn’t relapsed! 20 years ago when my anorexia started these sites weren’t around. I wish they were. Thankfully they are now.

        • Tabitha Farrar Post author

          Hey Kathy

          That’s just a best guess from a PT, so it’s probably best that you still seek specialized treatment from someone who can take a look at what is going on. I really hope that you find out more.

          • Kathy

            Just to clarity are you saying that the reason my my stomach is protruding so much when I drink something is that my rectus abdominis muscles are weak because my pelvic floor muscles are weak? Also you think the rectus abdominis muscles are atrophied my past history of anorexia? please correct me if I got it wrong.

          • Tabitha Farrar Post author

            Hey Kathy

            I am saying that is the opinion of a PT that I asked, therefore not my opinion, but just a possibility. And that you should get it checked out by a specialist to know for sure what is going on.

  • Stacy

    Hi! I’ve been deciding to recover for about a month but I don’t really know how to go about it, how much should I eat and how often? Should I eat like a ‘normal’ person around me or eat more ? I also feel bad when I’m starving all the time even between snacks! I’m always hungry but I’m scared I will get very fat or binge. And I have a big stomach now but lanky arms and legs, it’s horrible I wish I’d gain weight everywhere.
    What did you eat when recovering? How much ?

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Stacy,

      I don’t think there is any set rule that we can all follow as we are all so different. However, for someone recovering from an ED I think it is safe to say that you probably need to eat more than you think you do.

  • Ward

    Thank you for posting this article, it addressed my exact concerns. I’m hoping my body fat will eventually distribute more evenly, and that I will have a similar experience to you (not sure if males in recovery have a similar experience).

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Keep going, keep going! You’ve got this!

      I’m not sure either if there is a difference between men and women with weight distribution. Hopefully you’ll come back one day and tell me!

      I think that it makes sense that it will re-distribute, but more in the male pattern of weight distribution. You’ll get wonderfully muscular arms maybe where we get boobs and a butt? 😉

  • Anonymous

    This was a great find for me. The fact that I’m not the only one, I truly felt alone with it. Reading everyone’s successes, but I don’t know I can picture it for myself. I’m almost back to the weight I was before ED, which is killing me to think about. I want to be patient enough to see this happen, but I don’t know what the outcome will be. Combine being under 5 ft, poor posture (which I’ve been trying to correct) and being top-heavy, I think gaining any more will just make me look downright odd, more so than now even. I’m 94lbs now. I’m really struggling with it, and have been for over a year. When it first started happening it was very much almost overnight, I didn’t notice until I looked down one day…oh. What the f*ck? I look so out of proportion it’s ridiculous. I’ve tried using weight training for years to help, looks like it’s just fat I’m gaining. I’ve arrived at an A cup despite trying to eat more (was a C at 11 :O 20 now.), my hips have almost no curve, my rear is just flat despite the weight training…I just look like a block. I feel trying anything, will still make me end up looking lumpy and weird now matter how long it takes. I hate this so much. I also hate hearing “I’ve been eating so much but I haven’t gained anything” this makes me angry. That is a huge trigger for me. I eat better but still, somehow that’s enough to keep me ALWAYS gaining fat. I don’t understand. It should be leveling out by now surely. I can’t even let myself wear the clothes I would love to wear so much. It’s heartbreaking looking in the mirror and BAM there’s a big protrusion stabbing right through it. I was depressed through the worst parts of my restriction, but I feel even worse now. I’m starting to relapse, I’m so sick of this. Therapy hasn’t really helped me either. Didn’t realize I was ranting so much, I’ll stop now.

  • M.J

    This was a great find for me. The fact that I’m not the only one, I truly felt alone with it. Reading everyone’s successes, but I don’t know I can picture it for myself. I’m almost back to the weight I was before ED, which is killing me to think about. I want to be patient enough to see this happen, but I don’t know what the outcome will be. Combine being under 5 ft, poor posture (which I’ve been trying to correct) and being top-heavy, I think gaining any more will just make me look downright odd, more so than now even. I’m 94lbs now. I’m really struggling with it, and have been for over a year. When it first started happening it was very much almost overnight, I didn’t notice until I looked down one day…oh. What the f*ck? I look so out of proportion it’s ridiculous. I’ve tried using weight training for years to help, looks like it’s just fat I’m gaining. I’ve arrived at an A cup despite trying to eat more (was a C at 11 :O 20 now.), my hips have almost no curve, my rear is just flat despite the weight training…I just look like a block. I feel trying anything, will still make me end up looking lumpy and weird now matter how long it takes. I hate this so much. I also hate hearing “I’ve been eating so much but I haven’t gained anything” this makes me angry. That is a huge trigger for me. I eat better but still, somehow that’s enough to keep me ALWAYS gaining fat. I don’t understand. It should be leveling out by now surely. I can’t even let myself wear the clothes I would love to wear so much. It’s heartbreaking looking in the mirror and BAM there’s a big protrusion stabbing right through it. I was depressed through the worst parts of my restriction, but I feel even worse now. I’m starting to relapse, I’m so sick of this. Therapy hasn’t really helped me either. Didn’t realize I was ranting so much, I’ll stop now.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Lol. You can rant as much as you like her:)
      And why shouldn’t you? ED is a bitch, and it’s tiring and frustrating. You have every right to be wildly mad at it.

      But the only way to really get even with ED is to kill it, and the only way to kill it is with food. Consistent food. Put your rant energy into that. Use it to help you. I think that hating ED is pretty healthy actually, as I had to hate mine so much I would do anything to get rid of it.

      You’re on the right path MJ—keep going!

  • Kate Goldston

    Hi! I just wanted to thank you for a straight forward and honest look at what happens. I have been at full body weight now for just about a year maybe a little less and have yet to start menstruation and do have fat on my abdomen which is the only place. I was anorexic for 21 years and brought myself from hospice to health in a year on my own. I am patient and grateful for my body and its ability to heal!

  • Vanessa

    First time I regained weight in my midsection I admit it freaked me out and caused me to relapse, twice. Of all the areas it has to redistribute to it has to be the stomach area, which has always been my number one trigger for me.
    Not only that; but the digestive pain was almost unbearable. The fluid retention in my joints cause me pain for days, it only went away when I restricted again. The tiredness of feeding your body again is also hard.

    Why doesn’t anyone tell people like us all this advice? I had no clue what would happen in my recovery cause even the doctors didn’t inform. I had to go Googling what was wrong with my body. 🙁

      • Ada

        Hi. I have bee in recovery for 2 months and gained a lot of weight. I have a lot of weight not only on my tummy, but at the top of my legs as well. Big lumps on both sides of them. Is this normal? Will this even out as well? How long did you go with the same weight (with no gaining) before it redistributed? If tapering happens, does this happen at the same time as the redistribution?

        • Tabitha Farrar Post author

          Hi Ada

          We are all different, so I don’t think that there is any one “normal” way for a body to recover from an eating disorder. As the post says, it took about a year for me.

          Keep going.

  • Valentina

    i want to thank you so much for this , i feel so frustrated everyday cause of this. Its been 6 months since i start trying to overcome anorexia. Eating 2500-3000 per day and i feel like all the fat goes straight to my tummy. I was sad and angry cause i didn’t know if i was doing something wrong, if i should eat less, if its cause of my metabolic hormones that still are lower the normal ,etc. I cry every week feeling crazy desperate for this process to finish. I really don’t want to relapse but i feel this so far and impossible sometimes ! So thanks for the information.

  • Brian

    Thank you for this! I’ve been dreadfully skinny for years, I stopped smoking and started eating more (though due to various stomach issues like acid reflux, IBS and lactose intolerance) I am still unfortunately a picky eater (never a good concotion for someone with a eating disorder)
    With that said I have put on at least 10-20 pounds in the area you described in your blog post. I couldn’t understand it and I see terms like “skinny fat” and scary articles about that. I just wish the weight I was putting on would go around my ribs and my back. But when I look at my side profile in the mirror, as awkward as it looks, I still want to believe I’m filling out….just starting at the bottom. Your article has relieved some fears and I’ll continue to eat my 2 bagels in the morning.

  • Ajay

    hey….i found this post and it gave me a little hope….im 20, male 6ft tall and i currently weigh 9 stone…i currently feel that im at my worse as i’m currently eating 200-500 calories a day and some days i don’t eat at all… i feel fat all the time and im terrified that if i eat more than 500 ill gain weight and get fat….i dont know what to do anymore or who to talk to….im sitting here now and i haven’t eaten in 2 days and i just feel so down an trapped like there is no way out 🙁

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hey Ajay,

      You need some help. Look at it this way, you have a mental illness, and it will kill you unless you treat it. If you had a physical illness that you could see you would be treating it, wouldn’t you.

      Food is medicine. Every day that you do not eat you are not taking your medicine and you will get sicker as a result.

      email me if you want me to help you find some treatment options. If I did this YOU CAN TOO.

      And I promise, it is worth it. Life will be rich and wonderful when you are free from this disease.

  • Julia

    Reading this blog post is genuinely what is getting me through my fourth major relapse. My stomach is the only part of me I absolutely hate, and always have. Yet, in regaining weight my stomach is always bulg-y and bloated looking. The rest of me looks fairly thin still, so when my parents or doctors look at me they think I’m not gaining weight. But I do a pretty dang good job at hiding my insecurities, so no one takes my concerns seriously or cares to explain things from a scientific, non-physiological perspective, seeing as I too, do not have body dysmorphia. This honestly was a God-send, and I’ve felt hope for recovery for the first time since this started. Reading that you were willing to look fat in order to beat anorexia puts a whole new perspective on things. I’m supposed to be graduating in a year but my parents don’t want to let me go because I’m not better yet, AND they don’t think I can do it. (They’re already planning how I’ll be staying next year) I really needed this. Like REAAAAALY needed it. I’ve relapsed way too many times just because of my stomach, but I finally get to know what’s going on. Thank you thank you thank you. You most probably have been the one to help break through a major wall in my recovery. I’ll come back to read again when I start to lose hope. (There is no way I’m not going to university cause of an eating disorder that has ruled my life for five years) Thank you again though I can’t put into words what it’s like to finally feel like you’re recovering.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      I am so glad this was a help to you. You’re already so far along wanting to recover it sounds like all you needed was a final part of an explanation about the Fat Tummy in recovery. You’ll sail through now!

      • Kiki

        This is such a helpful article, I couldn’t find much else when I searched so thank you. This might sound strange, but my big problem is I don’t believe what anyone says. I think if I eat more it will make my tummy fatter because it always has, and my arms and legs will stay super skinny. I find tummy that unbearable. I’m scared that if I eat to recovery my tummy will be huge, after a year it won’t distribute, and I’ll be stuck with fat stomach. I nee a guarantee that it will redistribute because I believe it doesn’t fit everyone. Especially when I notice so many people with thin bodies and large tummies, which I loathe.

        • Tabitha Farrar Post author

          Hi Kiki

          It’s not you that is unwilling to believe that it won’t redistribute, it is your ED making you think that because your ED does not want you to try and recover.

          There are no guarantees. There is nothing anyone can say to give you any guarantee about your body. What it comes down to is trust and understanding. Also, I found that I got to the point where I didn’t care. I was so unhappy that even the possibility of getting overweight was better than continuing as I was if I meant I would be free from Anorexia.

          I’m not overweight – far from it – and I am free from Anorexia. All I can tell you is my story, but trusting is up to you.

  • Kiki

    Thank you for your helpful reply, made me reflect on my thoughts a lot.
    I went to see a dietitian who told me that it might just be that my genetics are that weight is gained on the tummy and it won’t distribute elsewhere if that’s just how I am, I find that so scary, and disgusting but still trying to gain. So hard to eat like a horse though. I really hope this works out for me. I gave wondered if I were to weight train at the same time it might help move the belly fat. But am told I need to increase calories by 400 if I train.
    What can you do about the belly fat even though it might be temporary, with clothes. I find mine get right on my tummy but legs are super loose, if I go up a size I look awful, and dresses make me look pregnant. What did you do?

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Kiki

      Please do not increase exercise. You know that is an ED behavior for most of us.

      You need to learn to just sit and be okay with this. See that belly as sign that you are winning and learn to love it. Download the ED recovery kit that I published as a free pdf and that will help explain techniques to help you be okay with it. I wore leggings a lot and honestly didn’t care too much about my clothes for my recovery period. Learning to be okay with your body no matter what shape it is is incredibly important. You don’t stop loving your friends if they change shape so you shouldn’t stop loving your body if it changes shape a bit either. I know all this is hard to start, but it gets easier once you start to really “get it.”

  • louise mcintyre

    thanks so much for ur help.i have been in recovery for a yr now after suffering for 18yrs.i hav been struggling with my body image cos of my stomach and hav relapsed a few times but not to the extent where I lose weight.i now have to b patient and keep going.it will even out.xxxx ps.still not completely convinced tho.

  • Joss

    This is so informative, and I love your blog/site, so pleased to have found it – via Google. In fact I googled this very topic about fat distribution. I’m recovering after a lifetime of problems, I’m in my late 30s. One thing I wanted to ask you is, once you’d gained the weight, did it redistribute gradually day by day or was it sudden? I’m really curious about the pattern and timing. Like many others I’ve got a flabby belly now, and wonder if I need to reach my ‘safe’ weight then there will be redistribution, but not sure if it will be gradual from now, or when I’m at a safe weight, and how long the redistribution takes? Thank you so much.

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author


      So personally my weight redistribution happened really rather fast. It felt like overnight, but realistically I think it happened over a couple of weeks and I just didn’t really notice until one day I had boobs again and my legs and arms had filled out. I know that for some people it is more gradual as all of our bodies are different.

      It’s rather like babies if you think about it. Babies get all chubby for a while and then have a growth spurt. That’s more or less what the recovering body has to do too.

      I am glad that you found this site as there is a ton of resources for adults on it. Feel free ask questions about anything you like.

      • Joss

        Thank you for replying Tabitha.
        I hope you don’t mind me asking
        Before your weight distributed was your belly huge? What did you do about that/how did you cope with it?
        Mine has got bigger and bigger, and I’m embracing my fat. I still have 5kg to gain, and think I’ll end up looking 9 months preg before the distribution happens.

        • Tabitha Farrar Post author


          Yes. Basically my belly got huge. Funnily enough, what usually feels “huge” to us is actually not that huge at all. It just feels like it as we are not used to having anything there. It’s great that your belly is growing. It means you are on the right path. I am so proud of you. I learned to embrace it and love it. Then I just didn’t really care if it was huge or not. I’d rather have had a big tummy for the rest of my life than have Anorexia. It’s just a bonus now that I have a normal-sized tummy and no Anorexia 🙂

  • Natalie Hillyer

    Thank you so much for posting this article; I am currently noticing the belly bloat and everywhere being lumpy. It’s been really rough but I really love how you reframed your thinking to being a trophy. thank you so much.

  • Anon

    Tabitha, thank you, THANK YOU for putting this on your site. I can see it’s reached a lot of people with the same concerns in recovery, and that’s a powerful thing.

    I’ve been in recovery for 10 months, and have gained about 30 pounds. That number itself still FREAKS me out, but I’m becoming more aware of what my body actually looks like (without body dysmorphia) and I can see that I look healthier than before. My hair is regrowing, my skin is slowwwly getting better (anorexia gave me AWFUL acne), my nails are strong and beautiful now…

    But all the fat has gone to my stomach and thighs and butt! For the most part, I just wear giant sweaters with leggings and try to forget about it, but it’s sometimes really painful to experience the uneven weight gain at such a delicate point in recovery. My forearms and calves are painfully thin, but my upper legs and stomach are either retaining water or just plain fat. I’m hoping it evens out, but I also recognize that looking kind of weird is 100000% better than starving to death. I also wish there were some studies on WHEN redistribution happens. Guess it depends on the person.

    • Joss

      Hi Anon
      I totally sympathise with your experience. And I feel exactly the same, and look the same in terms of how you describe the proportions. My belly looks 6 mo this Preg fat bottom and thighs. Very skinny calls and forearms. I’m so anxious for redistribution and holding a lot of hope. I’m still gaining weight and have a way to go. It’s so so hard, we are doing so well, let’s keep the hope.

  • Barbie lee

    But what if i was bulimic to begin with. Orthorexic and Exercise bulimic then last year i started eating tons of crap and processes foods and stopped workinh out due to my eye surgery before then when i started working out i retained my cravings for junk foods which before i dont eat at all. Then last year I started purging until now. I have gained tons of weight and fat. From 35kilos then last year 37klos then just this year before the end of sept at 42.2 or 43 kilos. I am different from you coz i binge and purge 700 calories of foods every night. I still count my calories at 1350 calories daily for a 5ft woman but i always exceed. I stopped exercising due to my sceondary amenorhea. I feel so fat 🙁 i cant stop waking up at middle of the night 3am to eat 700cal of junk food and will purge it and will eat the next day at 12pm or 1pm as my first meal and the cycle will just repeat. Coz im faraid to exceed in my calories daily and so i will start eating quite late.

  • Ashleene

    I so needed to read this! I am recovering myself and noticed that i was now storing more fat in the belly area and knew that if i talked to anybody that would think it was in my mind and i had mental issues, I knew deep down something was now right, it was like i was skinny and fat at the same time :/ there was a point in my life where i weighed more than i do now and i never had a belly that told me something was up. like i have now I thought i needed to slow down my weight re gaining but this post has gave me piece of mind and i wont stop until i am back up to my old weight when i was healthy. I know this is an old post from yourself but the fact its still out there for people to find is invaluble! i have not found another article like this that was so helpful, i love the way you also linked real studies, AMAZING! thank you so much!

  • Hadley

    Thank you for this post!! I am reading it again and again. It explains so much of what I have felt and feel. I can relate to seeing yourself as thin and gaining as a good thing yet the stomach sticking out. I know when I address this to my team they think oh no it’s ED. Ugh! But your words and research are helping me to see this is part of the process and to sit and be with it and hopefully over time with continuing recovery all will balance out.

  • Liz

    Thank you. I’m struggling with this. Over the past year I’ve actually had a number of people ask me if I’m pregnant. I was fortunate to have read about the disproportionate redistribution of body weight, which I clung to in order to avoid relapse. It really angers me that people asked me that. They had no idea I’ve been trying to heal from anorexia. I feel like it’s taking an extremely long time for my tummy to normalize. But I was sick for a long time. And I’d rather have the tummy than anorexia, that’s for sure. I celebrate that I have the clarity of thought now to realize that. Thanks for sharing your story. It is so tremendously helpful not to feel so alone in this. xo

  • K

    THANK YOU. I am experiencing the distended belly bloat and it is extremely uncomfortable but this helps me feel like I am on the right path and in time, it will all get better. Thank you for sharing.

  • JustLittleMe

    Thank you so much for this. I have been having thoughts about going back to eating little calories and working out too much because I noticed my tummy was getting fatter, but I read this and realized that with recovery came a better body! I don’t have body dysmorphic disorder as bad as most, but I do see somebody much fatter and uglier than other people see me, and after reading this I realized that eating again is key and that with time my body with distribute fat better. you helped me so much, stay strong!

  • Chris Grau

    I am 65 years old and am an anorexic. I have not undergone inpatient treatment although it has been recommended. But I do see a counselor who specializes in eating disorders. I am very interested in what you had to say. I have not changed my bad eating habits at all in like 5 years or so, but now all of a sudden my belly has become fat. It is freaking me out because how can it be fat when I don’t eat hardly anything all day and I exercise every day. As I keep looking at my stomach I feel like if I did start eating like I am supposed to I will get even bigger. Even my clothes are getting tight. I don’t understand how that can happen. Where is the fat coming from? Everyone I ask cannot give me an answer to this. After reading your article , I was wondering if you could explain it a little more. I have not begun any refeeding yet so again where is the belly fat coming from

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      Hi Chris

      I have known this happen before with changes not associated with increase in intake. I don’t however feel that I can give advice or much more specific information in comments here as I would have to know a lot more about you and your situation. What I will say is that the only way out of Anorexia is to eat, regardless of how you feel about that, it is the inevitable truth

  • Nicole K.


    Thank you for this amazing gift you have provided for these readers in recovery- including MYSELF. I am 30 years old and I began the binge/purge/restrict/addictive behavior/addiction around the age of 16. I am ending DAY 32 and my stomach is large and in charge- haha. bloating, constipation, edema, some nausea, acid reflux- I have it all — BUT THAT MEANS I AM WINNING!!! This feeling- even though it certainly MAY last over a year or so until my body truly normalizes, it worth more than anything in this entire lifetime for me.

    Since I let go and let God, SO MANY amazing things have been happening in my life the last month. I was deep into my ED, drinking excessively every single night because i was dancing at a strip club and sleeping with men for money outside of the club for over 10 years, I had been to prison sentenced for a year, I performed in the Adult Industry for years, – I became addicted to pain pills, and I literally sat alone in my house and realized….I’m dying. It is a miracle I haven’t passed away with all of the damage I have done to my body over the years of abuse.

    Now…on day 32… I started a new VERY good job ( which I had been applying for MONTHS but never got a response or a call back even after getting in for interviews), I re-gave my life to Christ and attend Mass regularly, have a wonderful and fulfilling relationship with my family, …and now I realize I am just scratching the surface with what God has in store for my life.

    ED recovery is worth it- I am healthier, happier, and I know a year from now I will be a force to be reckoned with.

  • Wangui

    Hi Tabitha,

    I’m so glad I found your website.

    I’ve been in recovery for about 1 year and 2 months I which I had a relapse for about 3 months But got back on track. When I started recovering last year I was at 69lbs and dying. Since then my weight has shit to about 158lbs so basically I’ve gained almost 100 lbs in more than a year. I started exercising a couple months for 3 days a week 30 min a day but recently stopped because I wasn’t enjoying it and was doing it to control the weight gain. I’m eating well over 2500+ cal a day and I’m 5″3. The weight gain isn’t stopping and I feel so abnormal. What is wrong with my body? My medical team doesn’t know what is wrong and I’ve never heard of anyone gain this much weight. I’m still Gaining about 10 lbs a month and I’m nit even binging! I’ve never had extreme hunger and I’m constantly so full after every meal and never hungry. This is so discouraging ! I feel like a freak and that I’ll forever be obese which is where my weight seems to be heading. I tried to recover about 2 years ago from 70lbs and I gained to 168lbd and even at that time I was not binging and my team once again was so confused. What is wrong with me? Why am I going from one extreme to another? I feel like my bjdy is broken! People say you don’t gain Forever but it seems that way for me! I don’t want to be 200 lbs but with this pattern I may be there by the end of this year if I continue gaining 10lbs a month! I miss my eating disorder so much as this solidifies my belief that my body is different than everyone else and everywhere I’ve googled and researched I can’t find any one else who has experience d close to 100lbs of weight gain! I want to give up

    • Tabitha Farrar Post author

      A year and 2 months is not a long time – and especially if you had a 3 month relapse! It is early days for you. Some people do gain fast at the start. I certainly have heard of this, and have worked with people in this sort of situation. You are not the only one.

      While you may have experienced 100lbs of weight gain that is because you started from a very low place. I understand how scary this is for you, but restriction and exercise are not the answer. Rest and heal. Keep eating. If your team are not helpful look for someone who has experience in this and seek out professionals who can help you.

  • Sarah

    Hi there! My recovery has been quick from the start. I started 3 months ago and extreme hunger has hit almost everyday though it has slowed down a ton. I am shocked and so proud that I got my period back in one month after having lost it for 3 years. I have got my period twice in the 3 month period. I now have a great butt and C cups which is the largest I have ever been. However, my stomach is disproportionate (even in the viewpoint of my mother and sister). I still am fine with how I look I just am hoping that, even though I have gained everywhere, my stomach will still redistribute. I don’t really have hips, just a big backside. Is it unrealistic to assume that even though I gained everywhere, my stomach will still redistribute (maybe to my hips)? I am having trouble coming to terms with this stomach.

  • claire Curtis

    This was very helpful I’ve been struggling with pot belly but my arms have yet to put anything on it does make you question putting more on so thank you

  • Anon.

    Hi Tabitha, thank you for writing about this. When I was first recovering from anorexia I couldn’t stand all the weight I had gained in my stomach, and I started to question if I was even eating correctly again. I then relapsed in hopes of not having to deal with all the weight I had been putting on. After relapsing I got tired of not being happy anymore and always worrying about food and am now in recovery again. However I’m afraid I will relapse once again, since I am now seeing all the weight mainly go to my stomach after just 5 days. I don’t recieve therapy as my parents can’t afford and aren’t really supportive, they mostly just judge me in disgust of what I’ve done so I don’t feel comfortable talking to anyone about how I’m doing mentally. I’m just not sure what to do. I also find that when I feel my weight I’ve put on I panic and distract myself by eating and watching tv. I feel like I’m not recovering correctly 😞

  • Maggie K

    Do you think “recovery belly” still applies if you never experienced amenorrhea? Really struggling right now with the fear that I’m “recovering wrong” or “have just made myself fat” 😞

    Any tips on how to fight through the bad body image days? Thank you!!

  • Angela Inge

    To the eating disorder survivor who wrote this article. Thank you so, so much for the info. But I have some concerns toward my own belly fat after recovery. I am 44 years old and had slight anorexia and had bulimia from the age of 12 till 24. After my boyfriend commuted suicide when I was 24 my weight plummeted to 86 pounds and I am 5 foot 7 inches. I was no longer bulimic but had pretty much just stopped eating for about 6 months. Then after 2 months in the hospital I was sent home to live with my mom because my insurance refused to pay for any more hospitalization. When I got to my mom’s house I actually heard a psychiatrist tell her he refused to take me as a patient because I was useless, I was just going to die soon! This made me so mad I got completely healthy on my own. I was under weight for a couple years. Then I was at a decent weight for a long time. Then about 7 years ago my psychiatrist put me on anti psychotic and mood stabilizers and I immediately put on 50 pounds. And it looks like it’s all on my belly. The last time I visited my sister overseas she saw how little I eat and the size of my abdomen and begged me to get a CARt scan of my belly, like I had a tumor in there or something! I also stopped havinhaving my perioperiod at around 30 years old. About 5 years ago a gynecologist did blood work to see if she could tell why I wasn’t having a period at all and the results were showing that I am not producing the hormones to make me have a period. She put a Mirena ICU in my uterus and told me it should make me menstrate but it never did. I do know for a fact that when people start taking the specific psych meds I am on they gain anywhere from 40 to 50 pounds right off. And stopping the meds doesn’t usually make the added weight go away. Besides it is not safe for me to stop taking those meds.

  • Jane

    Hi Tabitha, thank you for all your amazing help 🙂 I’ve just bought your book Love Fat, going to read it when it arrives in the mail 🙂
    I come back and re-read this post every time I’m feeling bad about my stomach fat, it really helps me.
    I’m so confused at the moment, I’m so far along in recovery now but I’m still eating SO MUCH FOOD, I kind of feel like I shouldn’t be?
    Also, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I feel like I WANT to restrict food again, just so that I have an excuse to eat this much, because eating excessively feels SO GOOD< I can't explain it.
    It's kind of reverse to when I was the most sick, I wanted to gain weight just so that I could lose it again, because losing weight made me feel so good.
    It's really confusing, is this normal??? I kind of don't WANT to fully recover, because I know I'll miss being able to eat all these foods and not exercising.