Fat is key to eating disorder recovery

Updated: Jan 12

Fat is an anorexic person's best friend.

I achieved over 4,000 calories daily on a whole food, plant-based vegan diet by eating calorically dense foods. I ate tons of fat - it was at least 60% of my intake.

Fat is key to recovery.

Just some of the reasons why:

  • The female body needs to be at least 11% body fat to resume periods. Leptin is the hormone that signals fat stores to the brain. The fall of leptin triggers the cascade of neurobiological changes in people which causes anorexic symptoms (e.g. hyperactivity, constant thoughts of food, weight phobia).

  • Fat is necessary in a meal to absorb all the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals from our food.

  • Fat is necessary for proper firing of nerve signals in the brain.

If there is anything that will magically “flip the switch” to make anorexic symptoms cease, it is fat restoration. Studies show that upon leptin increase, anorexic symptoms decrease. And again the body needs that critical fat level to finally have a period. I would argue that increasing fat intake to restore hormone levels is actually even more important than focusing on just general weight increase.

Fat must be eaten in a meal to absorb all of the meals' nutrients

- Dr. Michael Greger has this video explaining why to add fats to food to increase absorption of fat-soluble vitamins:


- No Period. Now What? by Dr. Nicola Rinaldi has great science information on why fat is so key, as well as Dr. Shan Guisinger's upcoming eating disorder manual (2022).

- Sick Enough by Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani also explains how important fat is:

"Vitamin and mineral deficiencies contribute to poor skin and hair quality. Even when the vitamins are consumed in the food, inadequate dietary fat intake may prevent their absorption. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, meaning that to be absorbed, there must also be dietary fat present in the intestine.

A rigorous study evaluated absorption of a particular nutrient in salads called carotenoids. Carotenoids are healthful, fat-soluble pigments found in fresh vegetables. In the study, subjects consumed a salad with fat-free, low fat, or full fat dressing, and then blood samples were taken to evaluate absorption of carotenoids. In those who ate fat-free dressing, the levels of carotenoids were undetectable, while individuals consuming low fat dressing had slightly higher levels. Only individuals consuming salad with full fat dressing had significant absorption of carotenoids. Thus, someone eating salad must consume it with full fat dressing just to gain the full health benefits."

Advice written to a client:

Fat is key to recovery.

It’s normal during anorexia recovery for the body to store fat first (which is most vital to the starving body right now) than muscle. Trying to build muscle during anorexia recovery is impossible.

Your body will store fat for a good reason - it NEEDS the fat the most.

There is so such thing as gaining weight "too fast."

Or eating "too many calories."

What will make you stronger right now is eating more, which will give you more fat and also some more muscle. When you are finally at a healthy weight you will be able to build more muscle.

I know you haven’t eaten more fat in a long time. But you also haven’t recovered in a long time. To be able to recover, we have to do things you haven’t tried before.

If we continue the same diet while avoiding what is #1 for anorexia recovery (eating more fat, gaining more fat) then you won’t recover

Fat is an anorexic person’s best friend 😊

I eat fat at every meal.

I eat fat at EVERY meal! Even now! Fat is critical to being able to absorb the vitamins and nutrients from everything you eat, especially your veggies! Like Dr. Michael Greger recommends adding nuts to salads, otherwise you’re missing so much nutrition from them. There are many fat-soluble vitamins.

In college I would literally buy avocados + nut butter and bring them into the dining hall with me, to add to my food fat is still a good friend to me.

I always carry pumpkin seeds on me, or some form of fat, to add to things like my oatmeal and other food. Many foods naturally contain some fat, I just like to make extra sure I absorb everything.

You can't recover from anorexia without eating more fat.

Written to a client:

Avoid adding more fat and you drastically decrease your odds of becoming hyper- metabolic. I honestly think you probably *never* will reach hyper-metabolism if you keep avoiding dietary fat. It’ll take you many years to raise up your body fat % enough...

We know many foods have some fat in them, even leafy veggies, but it’s so little it’s like trying to gain while just eating raw salads. Impossible to get the fat/calories higher unless you had like 30 lb. Which is not physically possible and would really hurt

Literally just start out small. Avocados or nuts, tiny portion. The reason you binged on those nuts was because they’re very good for you and you were hungry and needed them

Acne is caused when hormones are in flux. It’s temporary. And gaining weight can cause hormones to fluctuate. Temporary discomfort

Even if you can’t eat more pure fat right now (like nuts and avocados), you should do the next best thing by choosing foods which have more dietary fat in them. So eat more oats than squash and raw or even cooked veggies, which are so low fat

Consumed fat is the easiest thing for the body to convert into body fat. You’d go up in body fat % faster and get your period back sooner, which will end the "famine" mindset your brain is in.