You are now going to have to start establishing the routines that allow you to budget normally for a life where you get enough food to not get sick. You are going to do this while you do the most expensive part of this process. You have retrained your body to expect nutritious food, now you will correct the deficiencies that have made you ill. Quickly. You may also have to bring your weight to a healthy BMI and make a plan to slowly gain the rest of the weight you need. The longer you can sustain building yourself up, and establishing those routines, before you rely on them within the context of your normal life, the better.
Unless you are very lucky, no-one has given you two weeks off your life and enough money to deal with malnutrition, so your reintroduction of food groups is likely to have been done in and amongst the day to day hurly burly of your life. While this may have been hairy at times, this is good because you are going to have a very realistic idea of the things that you are doing that are working and the things you are struggling with.
1. When to start this process.
Once you are comfortable you are through the worst, your symptoms have gone and you are fairly comfortable eating through the day(and really this will take no time at all), and you have introduced a variety of food to your diet by introducing different food groups regularly, you need to start putting a bit of pressure on yourself. You WILL have energy though, and you WILL feel better and much more able to. You need to be smart about how you use the rest of the time you have food freely available, so you can transition back to budgeting and including you in the normal day to day budget, taking with you enough new routines that you will stay healthy without sending your body crashing back to square one.
1. Things you need to know for this process.
What deficiencies did your blood tests identify?
You need to gear your shopping around these deficiencies, as soon as you get these blood test results back, discuss supplements with your doctor and then amend your shopping list accordingly.
Are you underweight?
If you are severely underweight, your body mass index is below 19, you should concentrate immediately on gaining weight. Calorie counters like the one at Livestrong can help you calculate how many calories a day you need to intake to gain weight.
How many calories do you need?
This is a calorie counter from Livestrong. Find out how many calories you need in an ideal world, for your level of activity. Weight gain is very much like weight loss, once you are back within a healthy BMI you can aim to gain weight gradually. It is a very good idea to work hard to get your BMI back up quickly. You need to consume more calories than you use. WINNING.
How many calories do you need normally?
How many calories can you get away with?
How many do you need to gain weight?
I can get away with about 1500 calories on a day with lighter activity but not too often, to gain 2lb a week I need 2900 calories a day, on a normal day I should be consuming about 1900 calories if I want to stay at the same weight. While I was doing this, I tried to consume as many calories as possible and I will discuss that in the weight gain section, and I think for a week I hit 3-4000 calories a day. It paid dividends quickly. Your watchword with gaining weight is still nutrient dense calories. You are gaining weight to treat malnutrition not just to gain weight.
3. Keep eating the food different food groups.
You should be making sure you are continuing to do a constant roundabout of the food groups. You should slowly be establishing certain foods and routines that you like, breakfast, a snacking routine, things that are convenient to have around during the day.
Concentrate on building a safety net to your life, so that if all else fails, those foods will give you enough energy and nutrition to not get sick, even if you can’t manage meals, or the same level of eating over and above that routine.
4. Create a safety net.
Sit and work out how many calories you can get away with in a day, and write down all the food groups you need to hit, or even better go scooting round the interweb for nutrition tools. Then work out how you are going to meet them, in the cheapest way, look at the things you can buy in bulk.
Now is the time to explore which foods work for you and develop routines so that your body demands food at similar times each day, and to identify the foods that will allow you to meet those demands and keep those routines in place even when your life and finances are in chaos. Try to create a list of foods, which will allow you to build towards the calories you need on those days, and explore the very cheapest ways to do this. This may require completely ignoring that food is supposed to taste good.
A couple of bowls of porridge(even made with water), rice, a few eggs(I keep them around boiled), dried fruit, dishes consisting largely or completely of of staples like pulses, carrot, potato, onion, rice, pasta, dressed up, a tin of low quality tuna, handfuls of frozen peas and a multi vitamin, may not be inspiring, but can provide a safety net underneath your day to day life which will keep you functioning. You will still feel good even if your mouth is begging to belong to someone else. You have to say that this is the minimum, this is the bottom line, this is the least you need, and that THIS is as important as the electric meter and you commit to it if humanly possible. Then buy these staples in bulk when you can to prepare for the times when you can’t. Be prepared for the times where you have to exist on this for more than a few days.
3. Develop healthy routines on top of the safety net,
This is not about budget, this about meals, eating with your kids, eating with people, sharing food, enjoying food, making it a part of your life. Bringing together your food routines with your kids, your friends, your family, eating together. Sharing resources increases variety and makes things go a lot further, it’s also nice. Setting a good example by eating well. Food as fuel, not as sin, luxury or reward, although food as something you love is a thing to hold on to.
Learning to work with the seasons, know what is sold where, knowing the best places to buy things, getting to know a butcher, which places online sell things in bulk, and making food an intrinsic part of your routine. Turning your home from a place of consumption to a place of production, and reducing waste by utilising every bit of your food and producing the things that will back up your budget.
2. Right now. Eat what you like. When you like and as much as you like.
Don’t feel confined to what you have bought to cover your nutritional bases and you are much stronger than you were. Eat what you like on top of that, and use every opportunity you have to be eating and every little thing you can possibly indulge, go ahead. You may find that processed food does not make you feel very good and you might not really want it, you are likely to be hypersensitive to the way your body reacts to food. This goes quite quickly and you can still eat high fat, creamy, delicious, lovely things you just might not want the really rubbish ones filled with empty calories. Your appetite is back, and this is your time to reintroduce yourself to the joy of eating, it’s not guaranteed to stick around, you know that. Try new things, if you can’t cook, now’s your time to learn. Learn to make hollandaise and pastry.
Get those calories in, and if your mouth has paused by now, you should have filled it with something./ The safety net you built for the days when you are skint is also likely to be the safety net that allows you to keep being a glutton at this stage, it keeps you digesting!lol
Whole grains, leafy vegetables, raw vegetables….
Whole grains, leafy vegetables and raw vegetables are your friend at this point, because these are the things that will stop you feeling sick and allow you to digest everything else. It is a good thing to eat leafy soup or an apple, an hour or so after that gluttinous bowl of trifle or sunday dinner, because it means an hour later you will be fine to enjoy mashed potato and melted cheese and butter.
I am fairly sure the occasional spoon of mayonnaise won’t do you any harm if you weight gain is your aim, but mayonnaise and tuna is basically protein and fat in its most spoonable form. You’d be surprised the difference managing a few spoonfuls of that stuff a day makes to your progress.
How long for?
Keep this going for as many days as possible, but always with an eye for two days ahead, in case you are going to have to stop and go down to normal or less than normal calories. If you have worked up to several thousand calories a day you need to transition yourself back down to your normal intake safely. If are severely underweight, keep this up at least until you have a healthy body mass index and your weight is in the safe range for your height.
You will have been weighed at the doctors and you are going to have to decide how often you weigh yourself, I do it once a week Don’t let it rule your life. In the end up your jeans are a better guide, and the number of bones that are visible. Your hair, is it shiny, is your skin knackered and pale? But do keep an eye on it, at least until you are a healthy BMI.
Also set yourself a weight you will use as a trigger to say things need addressing, and schedule a food holiday like this one every now and again.