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Not Gaining Weight – After Starvation



Hi, I`m not sure if this is the right site to help me or not.

My mother (currently) went through a very bad depression and basically starved herself for the last year and a half. Most weeks she only ate between 2 and 4 small meals a week. She is 62 now, stands 5`6″ and weighs 104 pounds.

Over the past 6 weeks, she has been in treatment and eating pretty regularly – Ensure once or twice a day, plus at least two regular meals and a snack each day.

My question is – why hasn`t she gained any weight back yet? She has been eating “normally” for the past 8 weeks and has only put on a pound and a half. She has had at least three small meals, a snack and one or two Ensures everyday for the past 8 weeks and has only gained 1.5 pounds.

Is there a medical condition or something that happens to the body after starvation that makes it hard to put weight back on? Blood work and thyroid tests have come back normal. Do you have any suggestions or related reading I could learn about this at?


During refeeding from acute weight loss, the body often enters a hypermetabolic stage, out burning foods within a normal range of intake. At times food may need to be steadily increased and under close monitoring by a nutritionist and physician to assure refeeding syndrome does not occur and that the body can take in needed additional calories daily to offset the hypermetabolism.

For more information:

Go to the Eating Disorders health topic.