If you are triggered by topics such as weight gain/loss please don’t read this topic. Also, the subject matter might be slightly contravertial – read at your own risk.
Recently I’ve had a recovery englightenment, or rather I’ve seen a topic in a new light – and that topic is my weight and the way I see myself.
I vaguely remember a time where weight wasn’t an issue for me. I was a slim child/pre-teen, so up until the age of 13 I really never gave it much thought. Nuttella and limitless white bread for breakfast – don’t mind if I do. Frenchfries and burgers for dinner, followed by cheesecake for dessert – don’t mind if I do. The meaning of the words “fat” and “calories” were an obscurity to me, in fact I enjoyed surprising others with just how much I was able to fit into that little body of mine. And life was pretty great that way.
Teen years, whe I started going through puberty and my body started changing – that’s when I started thinking about my weight. In the beginning it really wasn’t a big deal – I embraced the weight gain and my womanly figure. It wasn’t until people began commenting about my “weight gain” and how I should be dieting/exercising that I started worrying about it – and it was a downward spiral from there.
I started listening to diet tips and trying to diet (the typical ones where you quit after a few days). Then things got more drastic with crash diets and strict exercise regimes. Then came a time I gave it up all together, and tried to accept myself where I was at. Then I got into an unhealthy relationship, and really started getting “serious” about my diet, until it spiraled out of control into an ED. The rest I’ve talked about in earlier posts (you can read about it here) so I’m not going to discuss that issue.
The underlying reason for my weight lost attempts was low self esteem and body image. When I was in a place where I felt loved and accepted for who I was, those negative voices faded a bit, and my weight became less of an issue. When I was in a place where I felt unloved, unwanted or somehow inferior – I focused more on trying to change those negative aspects – all in an attempt to somehow feel better about who I was.
On the flip side of the coin – since my long recovery journey I’ve had to face the issue of weight gain several times. Sometimes I saw the need for it, other times I didn’t – but during the last year or so I definitely have. I wasn’t happy with my bones sticking out everywhere, or looking like a 14 year old girl instead of the 19 year old woman that I am. Especially now, I can hardly walk past a mirror without shuddering – it’s not a joke. And I always looked at that as a good and motivating thing – something that will push me forward
On my last trip to see my doctor (who, contrary to my first impression of her, might be the most supportive person in my life right now) we talked in depth about my health and what’s important for me to do right now. She said that aside from my low weight and acid reflux – there’s nothing seriously physically wrong with me yet. But she also said something that surprised me a bit. After telling her how much I hate the way I look right now she said – “You need to accept yourself where you are at right now, before you start trying to change yourself. Yes, you DO need to put weight on, but when you look in the mirror learn to love who you see. Weight gain shouldn’t be about self-hate, but about self-love”. This shocked me because I expected her to say – “Yes, you look skeletal. You need to pack on the pounds to look normal again”.
This isn’t to say I think that weight gain for people in recovery should be an aspect that is pushed aside – especially for people at very low weights. But the underlying attitude shouldn’t be the same as the one that fueled your ED in the first place – of self-hate and loathing. When forced into hospitalized weight gain, I learned to hate food and weight gain, because of the way it for forced upon me. Even if I saw the reason for it, the fast pace it was forced on me became just too much for me to handle. I couldn’t start being asked by everyone – doctors, family members, friends several times a week “So, how much weight did you gain?”. There was so much focus on it, that I felt it almost defined me, and I didn’t want it to. I think a much healthier attitude is to accept yourself as you are, where you are at right now and start to make the changes for your health. Why? Because you recognize the need for change, because you love yourself and your body enough to do what is right. It may take a while, but be patient and consistent and treat yourself well.
I think the same thing can be related to weight loss as well. In order to do it in a healthy way, crash diets and quick fixes aren’t really an option – but small steady steps towards developing new and healthy habits will get you where you need to go. In the meantime we should all accept ourselves where we are at – today, flaws and all, because that’s what makes us beautiful and unique.