Drinking calories to restore weight is very common in eating disorder treatment. ED patients are often required to eat a high number of calories, and that can be a challenging feat—for both the body and the mind. But liquids go down easier. They take up less room in the stomach. Not to mention that they’re a lot less intimidating than a slice of cake or a piece of pizza, even if the caloric value is similar.
I, myself, have had to “drink my calories” on quite a few occasions, from supplementing meals with Ensures to choking down thick protein shakes multiple times a day at my first residential treatment center. Just last year, when I returned home from college fifteen pounds lighter than when I’d left, I drank sixteen ounces of chocolate milk with lunch and dinner until I was back in my normal range.
And it’s always worked. Sure, I’ve fought it—once going so far as to hurl a milkshake across the room (would not recommend)—but consuming calories in the form of beverages has proven to be an effective and not-too-painful way to put the pounds on.
That said, there have been repercussions. Doctors and nutritionists focus so much on the pros of this weight restoration method that they often ignore or simply don’t consider the psychological effects of consuming thousands of calories via liquids can have on a patient. To this day, five years after discharging from that aforementioned RTC, I still have trouble consuming—much less enjoying—milkshakes because I associate them with that painful experience. The best way I can describe it is that it’s like a switch goes off in my mind, which in turn triggers a physical response in my stomach similar to a really unpleasant stomachache.
I hope that one day, I’ll be able to drink a milkshake without experiencing this maybe-physical-maybe-psychological reaction (I mean, at this point who knows which it is?). That’s not the case at present, but I’m getting there by continuing to challenge myself every now and then. If there’s something else treatment has taught me, it’s that exposure is key to combating anxiety and overcoming obstacles.
My advice to anyone who’s currently weight restoring is to drink calories and, if you can, drink them in moderation. Sometimes, only consuming liquids is a necessary evil for healing, but, like we always preach on Nourish, balance is ideal. For years, I’ve struggled to obtain balance in my diet, and although I still have adverse reactions to certain foods or drinks (like milkshakes), it’s gotten so much better.