Weight management is an issue for most eating addicts, and many other addicts as well. We will describe the problem from the standpoint of an eating addict, but we feel certain that many other addicts will also relate to weight as a problem in recovery.

One of the greatest dangers in recovery from eating disorders is that the obsession with weight is never released. This does not mean that weight is unimportant or that your weight does not matter. What it means is that the constant obsession with a few pounds, and obsession with the scales or comparing your body with others, is part of the disease you are trying to recover from.

Obsession with weight is like the tail wagging the dog. A moderate, healthy weight within a reasonable range should be one of the results of recovery. But if you focus on it, you bring up all the diet mentality that will lead to relapse.


Many eating addicts jump on the scales several times a day. They buy very accurate doctor’s scales or electronic scales that keep track of their weight history. All this feeds into the obsession.

Even if you did not obsess about what the scales said, they are not very helpful for recovery. Scales measure the wrong thing. All they tell you is your total body weight, which is much more sensitive to water fluctuations than to fat loss or gain. Most addicts are concerned with the amount of fat in their bodies, not the, muscle or other tissue.

Each of the following factors can change your weight by several pounds on any given day, with no change in body fat at all:

  • Food and liquids in the digestive tract
  • Salt in the body
  • Glycogen reserves
  • Dehydration
  • Time in the menstrual cycle
  • Other health factors

Look at what the typical food addict will do with the scale reading. If you have lost a lot of weight, you can feel like celebrating (by bingeing). Even if you don’t binge, you will be expecting to lose the same amount the next time you weigh.

If you have only lost a little, or weigh the same, you might get discouraged and decide your recovery is not working. You will probably get more into obsession and diet mentality in your determination to lose more next time.

If you have actually gained weight, you may panic, and you may very well use your discouragement and depression as an excuse to binge or starve (not eat, which may lead to a binge).

In short, there is nothing the scale can tell you that will be useful for your recovery!

Average by Fives

If you must weigh, do it no more often than once a week, and then pay attention only to the average of the last 5 weighings, not any individual weight. Here is an example. Suppose you begin your recovery by establishing a moderate Eating Plan. Here are your weights in pounds for the first 10 weeks:

  1. 253
  2. 246
  3. 241
  4. 238
  5. 237 243.0
  6. 235 239.4 (77% in a year)
  7. 238 237.8 (35% in a year)
  8. 235 236.6 (26% in a year)
  9. 232 235.4 (26% in a year)
  10. 231 234.2 (27% in a year)

The reason we picked five weights was that it makes it easy to calculate. Just add up the last five weights, multiply by two, and shift the decimal place once to the left (divide by ten). But look at the numbers above. If you were only looking at the weekly weights, you would be really impressed with the first couple of weeks, but then discouraged as the weight loss slowed down. The 5-weight averages, in bold, show that the weight is coming down. In fact, at first it is too much. The first, if you could keep it up, would result in losing 77% of your weight in a year. The following ones are much more reasonable.

Also, a couple of weeks actually showed an increase in weight, which might also be depressing. But normal. So looking at the 5-weight averages showed that you were still on track. Or, you could just skip weighing and notice whether your clothes are feeling a little looser after a couple of months.

The solution is to rely on a Higher Power to help you follow your abstinence, moderation, and your recovery plan. Over a period of several months, if you do not seem to be getting better physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, then you should discuss with your sponsor or counselor what changes you might make.

Your weight is only part of recovery. If you, your Higher Power, and your sponsor or counselor all agree that you could be gaining or losing weight more quickly, then all you need to do is allow your Higher Power to help you add or cut back a little on fats, and possibly adjust your activity (exercise) level.

Body Mass Index

Eating disorders professionals are using another measure besides pounds. The body mass index is better than weight because it takes height into account. We like it for two reasons: it gives us a way to adjust for height, and the numbers do not have as strong an emo- tional attachment as pounds do. The formula is: body mass index (BMI) = Weight (in Kg) divided by Height (in meters) squared.

Because it is based on international units, it is complicated to calculate unless you use meters and kilograms. Here is a chart that may help:

This CDC website has a handy calculator to compute your BMI. Choose either the Adult calculator or the child and teen calculator:

CDC BMI Calculator


As a rough idea of where you stand, remember that these ranges are all approximate. There are many factors, like your bone structure, your family characteristics, your age, and your own preferences that affect these generalities.

Less than 17: Much below 17 you may be emaciated, and should probably be under medical supervision.

About 17-19: This is probably underweight, and may be serious for some people, depending on bone size, age, health, etc.

About 19-21: Somewhat to slightly on the light side, but still in a normal range.

About 21-24: This is squarely in the normal range, ideal for most people.

About 24-27: Slightly to somewhat on the heavy side, but still in a normal and healthy range.

About 27-32: Slightly to fairly overweight, but not a significant health risk for most people.

About 32-48: Somewhat to fairly obese, and a health risk if gaining weight; just fine if gradually losing weight.

Over about 48: This has been called very obese or morbidly obese. Health risks increase with weight in this range but again, are more severe if gaining or cycling than if losing weight slowly.

Reasonable Goals

To be effective, you must avoid setting goals that have to do with losing a certain amount of weight in a set period. Your goal should be to continuue overall recovery on a daily basis and to enjoy the intermediate results as you feel better physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Weight, see also: Binge history, Bingeing, Biochemistry, Body image, Bulimia nervosa, Diet mentality, Edema, Exercise & activity, Fats, Marijuana, Metabolism, Nicotine, Nutrition, Obesity, Physical aspects, Premenstrual syndrome, Progression, Purging, Sugar, Unmanageability.

Updated 7 Sep 2015


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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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