Why we should aim for OVERSHOOT in recovery
Today I wanted to discuss "overshoot", and moreover, why we need to stop treating it like it's something to fear, when it's something we should be aiming for!
So what is it? Overshoot is formally known as “Post-starvation Hyperphagia”, but essentially it refers to going over your pre-ED weight during recovery from restriction. The key here, is that this is completely normal and to be expected! Countless studies including the 'Minnesota Starvation Study' have shown that following periods of starvation, then given sufficient calories and nutrients, we will go over our original weight by approximately 10%, but that we will then return to our natural weight. Without. Any. Restriction.
Just take a second to digest that, and then question why we see it as something that could happen, rather than something that should happen in recovery?
Let me backtrack a second... because regardless of whether you're able to accept overshoot as part of the recovery process or not, it's admittedly a terrifying aspect of it. It is difficult enough trying to accept the need to weight restore, but to then be told you need to go beyond this seems awful. If your ED came from a place of poor body image especially, then you are literally being told you must not only regain all the weight you hated so much in the first place, but that you must in fact go beyond a body you already disliked. I think it is important to bear in mind that when we are discussing this, or any other fear we have in recovery, that it is not us who holds the fear, but our ED. Therefore, when we are experiencing these unpleasant emotions we must try and alter our mindset to see it as a win, as winding up our ED is exactly what we need to do to recover. That said, this is never going to be an easy concept to come to terms with which is why some therapists may edge around the topic, thus creating the stigma, as they fear overwhelming you and dashing your motivation to recover. It's my view though, that whilst the subject should potentially be treated with some caution, the need to relay the message that it is just as real a part of recovery as anything else, is superior to protecting us - we're not that delicate come on.
I feel passionately about this, as I believe that it's this disproportionately imposed fear of overshoot that then has the snowball effect of evoking more fear around concepts such as honouring extreme hunger, and binge eating. This is because we are not only scared of these behaviours for the traditional reasons of fear of weight gain and loss of ED identity, but we are also scared that by engaging in them we will go beyond our set point and they will morph into the likes of binge eating disorder. I am under the impression that the latter fear can be prevented or at least lessened by better education as to why exceeding your set point following malnourishment, is part of full recovery, and so not something you should be looking to avoid.
It is essential that we can create a more accepting attitude towards overshoot, in order to prevent us from running back to our old ED behaviours and reintroducing restriction when we're so close to full recovery. This is because if we place so much importance on hitting a target weight and not going beyond it, then we will either never quite get there, or even if we do, we will never discover if that is where our weight naturally wants to sit. In addition to this, whilst we may be physically recovered, we will be preventing our mental recovery to ever be fully realised, as unfortunately, whilst the two are linked, they do not occur perfectly in sync. Any restriction here, no matter how small will also keep a foot in the door for our EDs, allowing them to regain more and more control, and potentially spiralling us into relapse.
We fear overshoot because our ED's tell us we should. They tell us we'll get fat, be unhealthy, lose that quality that makes us superior or special, and so on... it's boring at this point! We need to allow our bodies to go above their pre-ED weight because who's to say for sure that that was our healthy weight, or that just because it was once upon a time, that it still is. Furthermore, we need to accept that we have damaged our bodies and so if they need that little bit extra to repair the trauma we inflicted on them, then we owe it to them to allow it. In most cases they will hold that extra weight whilst they do this, and then naturally settle at a lower weight once the process is complete. It all goes back to trusting in our bodies that they are doing what is necessary to make us healthy. They're not just holding onto that bit of extra weight for fun, they need it!
I hope this post was helpful to some of you, and demonstrated why overshoot is an essential part of full recovery and so not something we should be looking to avoid.
Remember that it's our ED that fears such things and so by pushing through it we are winning, even if it feels like the worst thing in the world.
More from me soon,
Mais// The Recovery Bean <3