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The Dreaded ‘Overshoot’ In Eating Disorder Recovery

Updated: Dec 23, 2023

The phenomenon known as the "overshoot" theory in eating disorder recovery entails the body exceeding its predetermined weight range, commonly referred to as the "set-point." A prolonged period of energy restriction or starvation triggers the body's primal survival response, inducing it to store surplus energy in the form of fat to protect itself against perceived scarcity or dietary restriction caused by an eating disorder. Rebuilding trust between the body and its environment is a gradual process, during which energy consumption is utilized for essential cellular-metabolic functions, resulting in an increased proportion of energy being stored as fat.

Do you find it understandable that the body seeks to safeguard energy reserves, such as fat, after enduring a prolonged period of starvation? This intriguing phenomenon, known as the "overshoot," occurs during eating disorder recovery. The extra weight gained beyond our "set point" during the process of nutritional rehabilitation serves as a means for our bodies to ensure survival. It's important to note that this mechanism operates irrespective of an individual's body weight, which can be especially unsettling for those with Atypical Anorexia or in larger bodies.

The impact of eating disorders on our internal well-being often goes unnoticed. Adequate fat intake is vital for internal healing, cognitive function, emotional well-being, and appetite regulation. Insufficient fat consumption significantly increases the risk of relapse, which is why the concept of overshooting is considered a crucial aspect of eating disorder recovery. It is important to recognize that our biology plays a significant role in this process. Despite the difficulties involved in accepting this aspect of recovery, it is worth appreciating how our bodies, as highly efficient machines, possess the incredible ability to sustain us even in the face of self-inflicted harm. With time, the body will establish a "set point" and utilize the stored energy to restore the optimal balance of bone, fat, and muscle. Overcoming the fear of ongoing weight gain may be one of the most daunting challenges in recovery, but please trust in the transformative journey that lies ahead.


Raichle, ME and Gusnard, DA (2002) Appraising the brain's energy budget. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 99(16): pp. 10237–10239.

Galmiche M, Déchelotte P, Lambert G and Tavolacci MP (2019) Prevalence of eating disorders over the 2000–2018 period: a systematic literature review. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 109(5): pp. 1402-1413.

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