Thursday, January 28th, 2016 is a date that I will never forget: it was my first day of treatment, the day I decided I had to start to eat again. It was the day I said goodbye to starvation as the unquestioned companion of my days and years.
I can only imagine how my life would be different, as a young girl, had I seen more diverse body types that are real and not manipulated by the media. Bodies at their “unflattering” angles and bodies that are treated with love.
I remember the countless meltdowns I had upon realizing the only way to make strides in recovery is to gain weight. I couldn’t recover and stay at the unhealthy weight that I was. The weight gain, though subtle to everyone else who refer to me as “looking healthy” or “having a glow,” was beyond evident to me.
I could literally see myself expanding, which I came to learn is just a delusion. Then, my clothes became too small. My bras stopped fitting. I couldn’t get my jeans past my hips. Shirts that were once baggy became tight.
I broke down. I put off clothes shopping for so long, convincing myself that I could shrink enough to fit in my old clothes again. My sick clothes.
And then it hit me: it’s literally just fabric.
The space I take up through recovery is my birthright. I am allowed to take up space!
Everyone, even those without body images struggles, have to go shopping for clothes. Humans have bodies that grow and shrink and change. It happens. And when it does, it involves mirrors, misery and meltdowns.
Ask yourself: What part of yourself have you transferred into this inanimate piece of clothing? Maybe you felt sexy, powerful, in control, invincible, competent, pulled-together, mainstream, acceptable, sassy, or brave in that pair of jeans.
Remember: The jeans don’t have feelings and they don’t transmit feelings to your brain either. You need to let the jeans find a new home. Discard the jeans. They hold so many dark secrets that have kept you a slave to your distorted relationship with food/yourself/your body.
Now let’s imagine for a moment that you will, in fact, never stop gaining weight. Would you end up in the Guinness World Book of Records as the only living creature on the planet that never stopped getting bigger? Would you become planetary-sized? Cause the cataclysmic end to our galaxy?
When I tried on my favorite pair of jeans yesterday, I almost broke down in tears. My stomach hung over them. I realized that I have love handles. My hips could have busted their way out.
I wanted so badly to wear them. I thought if I sucked in hard enough, they would fit me again.
Those jeans from your restricting days shouldn’t fit you because they represent the falseness of pretending you have control to the detriment of your health, wellbeing, sanity and life.
I didn’t realize that while staring at myself in the mirror with disgust. I didn’t learn it while I changed into something baggier. There’s no way I could have thought clearly while my emotions were running wild.
Hours later, when I tucked myself in to sleep, I realized: the jeans don’t fit me, and that’s why they feel so unflattering and tight. All I have to do is buy a new pair of jeans. Mind. Blown.
I can’t force my weight to be in my control, and when I tried, I harmed my body and my life. Now, when something doesn’t fit, I remind myself constantly that it’s the clothes and not the body. Move on.
You need to let go of the weight you consider acceptable. I know this isn’t easy… AT ALL, but you can trust the wisdom of your body.
At some point, your weight stabilizes at its most optimal weight. This isn’t a specific number, but a range in which your body genetically wants to be and gravitates towards, even when you have celebrated the holidays with elaborated dinners or when you spend an evening with a pint of your favorite ice cream. (It is biologically impossible to gain weight overnight).
You will know when you’re on your set point weight when all body functions are working properly (ladies, are you menstruating?). When you can eat in an unrestricted way, without rules or compensatory behaviors and your weight remains stable, you’ve reached your set point weight. You’ve reached healthy. You’ve reached freedom!
Be patient and trust your body! In order to have this experience in the best way, you need to be healthy, and you need to be fueling your body correctly and you need to feel good.
Life is not meant to be lived in restriction; life is meant to be lived in abundance! If you’re recovering from an eating disorder or a past of restrictive eating or maybe you just need to gain weight regardless of food issues, my #1 tip is to focus on feeling good rather than looking a certain way.
All the photos in this post are of me, post-treatment, eating or drinking. In these photos, I am happy. I am with friends. I enjoyed life’s simple pleasures without any inhibition!
Does this mean I no longer have a fear of weight gain? Sadly, no. But it is something I am working on daily, and do not spend hours thinking about anymore.
It is hard. Seeing your body changing is hard for anyone.
But first off, lets forget about the scale. Those jumble of numbers do not define you. You sure as hell can’t measure your talent or worth or heart of gold or how how much you giggle when your tummy is tickled by a number on a scale.
It’s just a number… just like your age, your height, the time, the date, the price of gas… its a number. It means nothing. I can proudly say that I haven’t known my weight since January, and I don’t think I ever will.
Think about all of the things that the fear of your weight is preventing you from doing. Going to the beach, drinking another glass of wine with your girl friends, dancing at your cousin’s wedding…
What are you left with? Exhausting exercise, loneliness, a downfall of mental health, loss of friendships, loss of identity, and overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame.
I wish that I could give you some magical advice, but there is no magical solution. You just have to know that gaining weight is for the best, that gaining weight is a natural and normal part of being a human being. Keep strong, find your reason to recover and never give up.
To celebrate my recovery, here is a photo of me doing something I never thought I’d be able to do. Eat a donut while flaunting my pooch. In public.
My stomach cramps. It bloats. It retains water and gas. It digests food. It gets constipated and bloated. My stomach is not flat. It rolls and squishes and moves. Six packs are nice, but so is squish.
I may not always be comfortable but I will always be grateful for a body that works to keep me alive. The rolls on my stomach are perfect, the softness of its touch is sensational. The bits and bumps and all the squish I loathed so much are now the things I love most about me. Because I choose to love them.
In the words of my beloved friend Savannah, “Life is short, so eat the damn donut!”