Have you thought to yourself:
...then you're in the right place!
In this post I'm talking all about fluid retention and edema and how long edema typically lasts during diet / ed recovery.
Now, disclaimer: I'm not your doctor. But I am a Holistic Nutritionist, and I've personally went through my own painful edema during my metabolism healing process myself, and healed.
So what we're going to go over is both from my experience as well as the many people I've now been honored to work with or who've worked under me in my program FYB to recover from restrictive eating, caloric deficits, disordered eating, eating disorders, and all of that stuff.
So let's get in to it: edema, water retention, puffiness, swelling in diet recovery, once more!
Unfortunately, some ED sources out there claim that edema, water retention, puffiness, and swelling should only last for a couple of weeks or three weeks in a metabolic rehabilitation process..
And that's it. 🤯
And if the edema lasts for any more time, then there's something wrong, that it's not recovery related, and that it's not healing..
And so the advice from these sources are: to cut carbs to get it under control. *sigh*
Now this can be dangerous advice for people who are most often coming from a place of being afraid of carbs.
First off, many readers know by now that I struggled with edema and water retention so severely in my recovery.
It was one of my number one concerns, along with severe constipation and severe digestive issues.
But, the edema and the water retention was a primary concern that freaked me out!
I thought that I had kidney and heart failure because I couldn't find a lot of information out there about water retention.
So that's why I like to put out so much information about water retention because the edema DID end up going away from me...
BUT, it was not within a couple of weeks.
For me, it lasted for a year and a half before it even started to taper away, and this is what I see a lot with the people that I work with long-term - that the edema doesn't go away within a couple of weeks, but rather after months or even after a year or more.
A lot of the recovery symptoms don't go away within a couple of weeks.
For some people, it can and does go away quicker.
But, for the majority of people, these symptoms:
...last a lot longer than a couple of weeks.
People get freaked out by this - understandably.
The fact that this stuff can last so long, like a year-and-a-half, two years, can be terrifying.
But this is often the reality of recovery: which is that it takes time.
I know that for me, if I would have read this information on edema, because I was researching like a maniac trying to figure out what the heck was going on with my body, anxiously researching thinking: "I need to learn about this edema and what's wrong with me?"
I already suspected it must be something wrong, and I was diagnosing myself with all of these things.
I was even given prescription grade diuretic pills to try to get rid of the edema...
which of course backfired and only amplified it—a terrible mistake.
But nobody knew what was going on.
So this is the last thing that I needed and what last thing a lot of people needed.
Why? Most of y'all are already coming from low salt diets, taking diuretics, low-carb diets (like ketogenic and fasting), which all dehydrate you...
...so the last thing they need to do is try to get rid of the edema.
For whatever reason, your body is holding onto water weight and is swelling up, and it's puffy.
I talk about it more in detail as to why in the posts I already mentioned.
But briefly - the last thing that the body wants is for you to get rid of the water and to get rid of the salt by you starting to cut salt here and start taking diuretics there and start sweating more to get rid of it here and start cutting your carbs there and intermittent fasting and going keto etc etc etc.
No no no!
That's the last thing you want to do in your recovery if you're going to get out of the cycle in the long term and HEAL by healing your metabolism's ability to process and regulate fluid levels in the body.
Again, if I would have been given this advice when I was in pain from my edema because it was excruciating for me in my knees, ankles, fingers, face, and stomach everywhere..
Because it was excruciating..
I couldn't even stand on it without it feeling so painful and achy and swollen and tight..
I felt like I was going to pop, and I was always face-checking and checking the mirror to see if it had gone away yet if I recognized myself again.
....And so if I would've been told this: "Oh no, it should only last for two to three weeks, and if not, then there's something wrong."
Well, I already thought that because there wasn't any information..
And it would've completely triggered me.
And I don't think I would have fully recovered if I had taken this advice to start cutting carbs because all I was craving was carbs and sugar and processed forms for that.
And I don't think I wouldn't have endured the process as long as it needed to take for my body to recover and the length and time that it was necessary to.
Out of anything, this post is to encourage you to stay on the path you've been doing.
If you're starting to question things and you're like seven months in it or ten months in and year in, and it's not easing, the stuff takes a long time typically.
And because it took long for me, it obviously kept freaking me out because I couldn't find anything on it, and I felt like I needed to "get things under control" because it couldn't be "healthy."
So I felt I needed to get it under control quicker than my body wanted to let go of it.
But my body was holding on for the water and fluid for a reason.
The reason being - I restricted it for so long, it was deprived of energy and hydration and salts, electrolyte balance, adrenal function, and all kinds of things that it's good for, even digestion.
And so the same thing that it does with the energy (calories) - the body holds on to energy (fat storage) after being deprived (dieting), and it conserves it because it doesn't know if it's going to be starved of it again in the future.
Coming from deprivation of salts in any way (as salt/sodium and hydration go hand in hand), your body wants to hold on to water and salt because the body doesn't know if it will be deprived of that again in the future.
And until the body trusts that it won't be restrained in the future, it won't trust enough to want to let go of what its lifeline and that's its lifeline.
Edema, in general, is not limited to only food / caloric restriction.
There are other causes, but we're talking about recovering from dieting, long-term chronic dieting, yoyo dieting, low-salt dieting, fasting, juicing, cleansing, low-carb diets, ketogenic, Atkins - any diet that puts you in an energy deficit and puts you in a state of deprivation of any kind.
This edema, water retention, puffiness, and swelling are unique in the recovery process.
When you're going through it from a past of this, it's unique to you what's happening.
So compared to someone that maybe has some chronic health issue and has edema, this is unique.
You can always get things checked out, but many people find that their blood work is perfect and it's even better than where they're coming from.
What you may be then told is that they didn't find anything and perhaps that you may just have a mental health issue, send you on your way, put you on psychotropic drugs, and call it a day because this stuff in recovery is very under-researched and misunderstood, and there's not a lot of info on it.
I'm sharing with you an alternative if you've tried everything else and you know you want to be free from dieting and the yo-yoing of water retention, weight gain, weight loss, and blah, blah blah.
A lot of what goes on in restrictive eating recovery, even a lot of doctors don't understand the recovery process.
And even doctors that do have an understanding of it may have never been through the process themselves and don't understand a lot of what's going on in recovery.
Perhaps when this approach is at the backlash of diet culture and a lot of people seeking answers, there may be more studies and research on this when it becomes more normalized and people are funding this kind of research.
Where you get scientific studies is where the money is at many times.
And diet recovery isn't normalized, yet.
This is very opposite and radical to what we've been brought up in and learned.
There's not a lot of research yet on it, but there is a thing where people go through many of the same symptoms in their recovery.
It's like a step-by-step process where a lot of people go through the same stuff of fatigue, water retention, digestive issues, extreme hunger, hot flashes, and they don't know why this stuff happens, but it's very common even to get sick all the time.
You may feel like you're sick 24/7 throughout the whole first or second winter of your recovery.
Hopefully, this kind of research will happen in the future so that the people who need science have based their whole studies on science, which was me.
All I did was research and science and wanted to understand everything about nutrition and health, this and that.
Hopefully, that comes out, so for those people who need the science to take action in their lives, they can see it.
But blessed are those who believe without seeing!
If you're doing it now, then props to you.
Takeaway - this is my experience and a lot of what I see with the majority of the people that I work with.
Listen to your body, and start to listen to the internal rather than the external.
A lot of you guys like the testimonials, and I love sharing (and receiving) the success stories.
I was honored enough to have Maria allow me to show some of these photos for you, so you don't hear it just for me,
But you hear it from other people that have gone through recovery that aren't on YouTube sharing about it, that have also gone through the process, and it wasn't a quick fix.
But it does happen, and it happens so subtly that you don't even notice it.
So Maria sent over some photos, and I wanted to give you her backstory because she was starting to feel like recovery wasn't working for her.
And it wasn't until she looked back and reflected on some photos that she took at the beginning of her recovery that she was like, "Oh wow, this is working. I didn't even notice it."
- Because those changes can be so subtle that you don't even realize it.
Maria found my YouTube, and then enrolled into my Find Your Balance program.
In March last year, she was 8 months into her recovery and suffered for years with symptoms of starvation, but she was never considered underweight.
"Therefore, my doctor had me on an extreme elimination diet, several different medications, told me I would likely struggle to have children. Hypothalamic amenorrhea was misdiagnosed and left me feeling hopeless. I found you on YouTube videos and started my recovery shortly after. Although I'm still healing, most of the horrible starvation symptoms subsided within a few months of being in recovery. I signed up for your course to keep me on track towards healing, and it's worth every penny."
Then she later wrote in (because I requested her to come on the channel) but some people are more private, and I respect that.
So I was lucky enough to be able to show these photos with you.
So she wrote back in January this year.
Suppose it was 8 months in March, so this is now, 18 months into her recovery.
She wrote in again, and she's said,
"I just thought I should share these pictures with you and thank you again. I was having a how come recovery isn't working for me type of day. So I took some now and then pictures. So much progress has been made. Thank you for spreading your message. The before pictures were from about a year ago when I was six months into recovery. I'm now a year-and-a-half in."
These are the before and after photos.
You can see that, first of all, the swelling in her ankles has significantly subsided.
My ankles looked just like her before ankles in the first, oh man, year of my recovery, and that's how my ankles look now.
But now you can see the swelling is gone.
The breakouts as well.
And I've talked about this in another youtube video on acne and recovery, and I broke out so bad at the beginning of my recovery from head to toe, rashes, breakouts, underground, painful pimples.
And I started to blame it on the food.
I was like, "Oh, it must be the gluten. It has to be the sugar. It has to be the processed foods. It has to be the dairy."
So I would try to cut them again, and Oh my gosh, that just made everything worse.
And for the most part, besides around my period and stuff, and if I eat like whole grains, it makes me break out, but for the most part, my skin has been better than it ever has been, out of all their restrictiveness and the restrictive diets and elimination diets.
If anything, I hope that that gives you hope.
So it's not just me and my story.
But it took time for Maria.
And it took time for me.
Here's another success story from Shannon. This is a screenshot from a client of mine in my Find Your Balance Program who also reports her edema going down:
It takes a long time for many other people who don't share these things on YouTube, even though there's a lot of people going through recovery and going through the same symptoms that you're going through.
So know that you're not alone and that you're on the right path to proper health and healing. So I hope that this helps to encourage you to keep going and don't lose hope.
Again, always listen to your body.
When in doubt, listen to your body.
Your body is the best guide.
And remember that your body is not the disordered eating or the condition thoughts from diet culture and conditioning and trauma and control and all those things.
Your body is different.
So listen to your body, the subtle guide that's trying to fight for your survival.
Don't underestimate the voice and wisdom of your body.
I hope that this video has helped you somehow, and big thanks to Maria for letting me share her story with you guys!
I hope that your recovery is going well!
I know that recovery is not the funnest thing or comfortable, but a lot of change is happening, and you're going to come out a completely new person with a completely new life, and it's going to be better than ever before!
I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't believe in it 100% and I didn't get through it myself.
It's a whole reason I'm doing this because I never thought that there was a way out.
With that said, I'll see you in a future post. Bye for now. :)
xx Kayla Rose
P.S. If you'd like further guidance in your food freedom journey, I have a unique complimentary resource that maps out How to Stop Feeling Obsessed With Your Weight. Click here to get your copy!