Recovering from disordered eating is a long, difficult, and possibly never ending process. You’ve started nourishing yourself and are feeling great, then you notice your jeans or top are a bit tighter. Your brain goes off the rails and panic ensues. I’ve been there many times and, trust me, it’s not fun. This single moment can derail your progress for days, weeks, or even months. But we must remind ourselves that Eating Disorder recovery weight gain is so much more than just weight.
First & Foremost
Before I get into what weight gain in recovery really signifies, I want to address the mental strain accompanying it.
We all develop disordered eating for different reasons. For some it’s striving for acceptance or and others seek control. Regardless, the weight you’ve gained in recovery symbolizes recognizing the validity of these desires and accompanying emotions. In the same way, we must approach the feelings that arise within eating disorder recovery, and subsequent weight gain, with the same compassion.
Allow yourself to feel sad, angry, or whatever comes up. However hold steadfast the truth that you are so much more. Our bodies weren’t made to visually please others or even ourselves. At the end of the day, they’re vessels for our existence and serve us accordingly. They’re the reason we are here today and can do beautiful things like run, jump, hug, kiss, and even eat!
The weight you’ve gained isn’t something to be ashamed about. Your body needs it. It’s just here to help you, and now you’re allowing it.
I understand profoundly that some days this mindset is at best a struggle. But the more you practice adhering to it, or at least reminding yourself of it, the easier it becomes. Comments or feelings that once would set you off track for days only weigh on your mind for a few minutes.
All in all, respect your discomfort but know your weight signifies absolutely nothing about you.
Gaining Weight & So Much More
Ten months ago, I decided I was going to recover. For real. I had tried in the past but never completely dedicated myself to the endeavor, allowing old habits of deprivation to resurface. But sitting here today I can tell you I’m the most recovered I have ever been, the most free. That being said, I want to share the 10 things I’ve gained, along with a few pounds (that I’m so grateful for too!).
- Internal & External Compassion
- Going through ED taught me how to nurture myself and those around me. It’s okay to feel insecure, sad, angry, happy, and pissed off all at once. When you start seeing changes in your body, feel these things if you must. Console yourself as you would a friend. Once we can love ourselves in this way, we can extend the same compassion to others.
- If you’re at the beginning of your recovery, or in a down turn, the idea of self love is almost comical. But I promise you, it’s possible. I still struggle with it every day, but my weight gain has allowed me to love myself for more than just my appearance. Whenever I have a negative thought, I force myself to counter it with a positive one. Re-train your brain and eventually self love, or at least acceptance, will come with ease.
- Healthy & New Relationships
- When you love yourself, you open your life up to love other people as well. Current relationships flourish as you now can contribute so much more positivity to them. You no longer are consumed by scheduled exercise, calorie-counting, and deprivation. You can go on those spur of the moment trips or ice cream runs.
- As you stop criticizing yourself and projecting that insecurity onto others’ fabricated thoughts of you, you can foster new and healthier relationships.
- Strength in Every Way
- Fueling yourself properly makes ALL the difference. Now that I have a healthier relationship with both food and exercise I’m the strongest I’ve ever been. Even on my bad body image days, going into the gym and seeing what my body is now capable of because of the weight I’ve gained, changes my mindset entirely.
- Gratitude for Everything
- Once I let go over control and manipulation of my body, I became wildly thankful for the smallest of things. Such as impromptu meals ordering dishes I would’ve never fathomed this time last year (pizza!!), taking a week off of exercise for the first time in four years, or even having a peanut butter sandwich on regular bread with regular, full-fat peanut butter. These moments filled me with immense gratitude as I knew I was stepping further away from my ED.
- Energy!!! Warmth!!! Healthy Hormones!!!
- Not feeling absolutely exhausted at every moment? Being able to be indoors without wearing seven layers? Getting a normal, healthy period? Having clear, maybe even glowing, skin? Who would’ve thought! These little changes are all thanks to letting my bodyweight go where it needs to be. Look out for these small differences and use them as motivation to keep going.
- When you deprive yourself of food and push yourself too far physically, you lose touch with hunger cues, soreness, and all sorts of signals your body tries to send you. As I’ve gained a few pounds, I’ve regained my ability to sense my hunger, know when I should and shouldn’t exercise, and predict my monthly cycle.
- If I’m craving a bagel, I know it’s for a reason and will probably just eat a bagel. Simple. Your body tells you everything you need to know, listen to it.
- Rekindled Passions
- Living a life based upon limiting the consumption of, and burning off food leaves no room for your actual passions. Through leading the life that’s resulted in a bit of weight gain, I’ve been able to write more, spend time with amazing people, listen to all the music, and so much more.
My life now defines itself based upon my passions rather than the manipulation of my body.
- Love for Food
- Food. Is. Awesome. It tastes phenomenal, literally keeps us alive, and much more. When you allow yourself to see the functionality of food, you also become aware of the fun in it as well. It’s not an enemy, it’s a fundamental component of life that we have the benefit of enjoying. Cooking, eating, and being around food no longer stresses me. It’s all fun and all an opportunity to triumph over ED.
- Seeing Others’ Beauty
- We project our own insecurities onto others. When we start loving ourselves, we appreciate the characteristics of those around us too.
If you’re struggling right now, you are not alone. Everyone fights their own battles but that doesn’t mean you need to do it on your own. How you look, what you weight, and the foods you eat don’t dictate your worth in any facet. Retraining your brain to know this isn’t an easy task but it’s so worth it.
Recovery is possible and regardless of how much or how little weight you gain during the process, I guarantee the freedom you gain alongside it will mean so much more.
Cover image via Self Love Mafia
Also published on Medium.