Building back strength and muscle after anorexia

Hi guys and girls,
I’m new to the forum however have always been interested in fitness and have wanted to pursue bodybuilding but never got round to it. I know there are loads of experienced people on these forums who might be able to offer some advice and would appreciate any tips I could get...

I unintentionally lost a lot of weight by doing way too much cardio and not eating enough to fuel my workouts... by the time it all happened It was too late and I was left in a very vulnerable and severe state where I had to quickly recover and follow a meal plan to bring my health back up. Now I’m at a healthy weight however it seems like my upper body especially is extremely weak due to the loss of muscle mass that occurred along with weight loss.

I am left in a bad position since i’m now too weak to lift dumbells and have resorted to bodyweight exercises but it seems like it is not making a difference. I would ideally like to gain some more mass particuarly on my upper body as it seems like my lower body still has a decent level of muscularity and strength.


  • sheena_shewell
    sheena_shewell Posts: 48 Member
    Hi would be best to start with light weights for your upper body say 1 or 2kgs and then slowly add more weight as your strength begins to improve. Women are usually naturally stronger in their lower body. Also to build strength in arms without using weights you could practice doing push ups from your knees to start off with and work from there.

    Hope this helps a little
  • Lietchi
    Lietchi Posts: 3,302 Member
    I would also look at the nutritional side of things. Are you eating enough protein and calories?
  • crazycat2238
    crazycat2238 Posts: 2 Member
    Ah thank you so much for the advice. I have been cleared for exercise since i’m now around 50kilos and have a bmi of around 20. I think i’ll start off with some bodyweight stuff like pushups and then maybe add some resistance such as bands.

    I don’t count calories since I mostly eat homecooked food which is really hard to guess and I don’t want to spiral down that path again but I definitely eat enough to put on weight at the moment and my weight is going up each week but unfortunately I just can’t see any visible improvement in my upper body. I eat a good amount of protein too.
  • Geneveremfp
    Geneveremfp Posts: 475 Member
    Unfortunately muscle gains can be really slow. Also go you - you are amazing having done this wonderful thing for your health - I imagine it's been a long hard road.

    If you have the financial means to I would suggest a couple of sessions with a personal trainer (not sure what state of lockdown you're in) as they can help you find ways to work with your current strength.

    Also have you looked into resistance bands? They could add an extra level to body weight.
  • debrakgoogins
    debrakgoogins Posts: 2,034 Member
    Congratulations on your progress so far! I would recommend trying DDPY. It is strictly body weight exercises but you can gain quite a bit of strength and it is fantastic for regaining joint mobility. Gradually, as you build muscle, add weight training (with a trainer if you can afford it).
  • myfp67
    myfp67 Posts: 27 Member
    Can I ask a personal question and ask whether you are young? I ask because, when I was about sixteen I simply couldn't put weight and muscle mass on despite weight training. As I got older it got easier though (too easy now).

    With regards to weight training, make sure that you are doing the exercises slowly. So, for example, if you are doing arm curls, do not swing the arms and don't use your body to 'cheat' but slowly move the arms up.

    Good luck with it.
  • staticsplit
    staticsplit Posts: 538 Member
    You'll have to start thinking more in terms of medium-long term goals, which was hard for me when I recovered, since I was used to losing weight quite fast and seeing more obvious differences in my body. Gaining muscle is much slower, in my experience. Make sure you're eating to satiety, and yes stay away from counting calories if you find it triggering. I do--I did it for months last year but it probably hampered my recovery in some ways. Now I occasionally track for about 3 days and then stop for awhile. So I use it as an occasional gauge to make sure I'm eating around what I should.

    You might want to look into something like yoga, as it helps build some strength with the planks and down dogs, or some of the other bodyweight programs mentioned above. I personally like yoga (or pilates) too as it helped with the mind-body connection, which I think we lose when we're in the midst of our disorder because we're so obviously ignoring the needs of our body.

    I also echo that if you can, see if you can do a couple of sessions with a trainer, and make sure to tell them you're in recovery for an eating disorder so they don't push any sort of weight loss or strong aesthetics focus, which some do.

    Best of luck!