Today let’s talk about body aches in eating disorder and overtraining recovery.
First I want you to know that I am not a doctor so everything I share is based on my personal experience and what I’ve experienced through helping other women get through this difficult time of recovering from food obsessions and overtraining.
Usually the physical symptoms of our food obsession and overtraining that make us realize we have to do something about it. Please check out the full video on overtraining symptoms. The most common signs are chronic fatigue, low body temperature, period problems, irritability, hair loss and low libido. Your entire metabolism slows down!
These are very typical symptoms in the phase 1 of the BURNOUT recovery spectrum which I talk about a lot in this post: The Burnout Recovery Spectrum.
In phase 1, which is called the BURNOUT, we start getting all these symptoms, and in phase 2, which is called the HEALING, we start working on recovery. Again, check out my video and post to learn everything you have to know about the Burnout Recovery phases and what to do in each one of them.
It Gets Worse Before It Gets Better
Now, when you start the HEALING phase, you likely experience couple of symptoms that may make you start questioning the process because it’s going to be little bit uncomfortable. This is what I want to talk about today because I don’t want you to get discouraged when this happens. It often gets worse before it gets better!
One of the major changes that you probably experience in the beginning of the HEALING phase is that your body starts aching and you start feeling major fatigue and exhaustion.
Body Aches and Pains In Burnout And Overtraining Recovery
Here are couple of signs that you may experience:
Major Muscle Soreness and Joint Ache
You may get up in the morning and feel like if you were hit by a truck at night. You’re probably confused because if you’ve done everything right and reduced working out as you should, at least quit high intensity stuff and long cardio, so why do you feel achy all of a sudden?
It doesn’t make any sense, yet you’re feeling as sore as after a hard workout…
The reason is that your body has started the healing process and it moves the energy to the areas that need a lot of support. You may have heard that no pain, no gain…. well, that used to be in a different context and may be the reason why you ended up overtraining or under eating in the first place, but now it’s definitely true. Your body is healing and it may hurt.
What you can do to help this phase to pass faster: Sleep as much as you can, take plenty of naps, and do whatever makes you more relaxed. Epsom salt bath is a great idea, and reading a book at night instead of scrolling screens at night will help you sleep better as well. Do what you can to give your body rest, and keep your movement gentle.
Your Stress Hormones Calm Down — And You May Feel More Pain
The second reason why you may feel pain is that your stress hormones are finally down.
When we work out a lot, we increase our stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, which help us through pain and exhaustion.
Someone once asked me: How were you able to work out so much if you were already overtrained? I saw you at the gym all the time! But it was possible because my stress hormones were constantly up and running. These hormones are designed to protect our bodies when we’re in danger, which the body thinks is happeing when we’re working out. So when these hormones are chronically elevated, we don’t necessarily feel the exhaustion and pain. Now, when we start resting more, the stress hormone levels come down as well, and we actually feel our exhaustion and pain more.
Again, let that happen — your body is healing!
Your belly is another area where you’re likely going to feel some discomfort. If you’ve recently started eating more, you may feel a lot of gas and like food is “stuck” in your stomach. Well, in a way it really is, because due to energy deficit your stomach emptying has slowed down too. So you may feel full and uncomfortable all the time and not want to eat.
I know it’s not fun, but the only way that helps is to eat regularly and enough, so that your body can get used to having frequent fuel so to speak.
It’s hard to tell how long this pain lasts as it can go from few weeks to few months before your stomach starts feeling better. You may be tempted to cut out foods to see if that makes you feel better but honestly, this is rarely the case. Of course, if you have intolerances, do not ignore them, just make sure you don’t hop on another diet or elimination plan because this is likely not going to fix anything. Again, make sure to trust your doctor in this! Don't make any decisions without consulting with him or her and running some tests if necessary.
Remember that part of the problem is also that if you haven’t been eating certain foods for months or years, you may not have enough gut bacteria to deal with these foods. That’s why eating a variety of foods is so important, and now is a good time to start introducing more variety.
Sudden Weight Gain In the Beginning of the Healing Phase
Last thing is not directly related to pain but it is related to eating, so I want to mention that too. That is quick weight gain in the beginning of your recovery.
Some of you may feel like you’re gaining weight way too fast, already within the first week or two of starting to eat more and resting more. This initial weight gain is very likely caused by hydration. This can be especially common if you’ve been restricting carbs or not hydrated properly.
Yes, this weight gain will give you the puffy look and uncomfortable feeling as it may seem like you gained a ton of weight overnight, but it will normalize after a little while.
I personally didn’t experience initial quick weight gain, but that was likely because when I started resting more, my relationship with food was already so much better as I had let go of food restrictions over the years. I was still under eating for my body, but I wasn’t under eating severely — I was probably eating 2200 or so calories a day. My problem was more overtraining, but if you’ve been limiting your food intake very severely, maybe to 1500 calories a day or so, you may experience quick weight gain at first.
So, feeling all sorts of pains and aches and feeling like you just got hit by a truck are pretty common things if you’ve been in the BURNOUT phase for a while and now start your HEALING phase.
No matter how uncomfortable it is, it’s never more uncomfortable than living according to obsessive food rules, starving yourself or overtrain yourself for the rest of your life! So do it, keep in mind that it’s just a phase, and you get through it.