Weight gain it’s one of the hardest but most necessary step in recovery. Why is it that we let a number define our worth? We are so much more than our weight, and yet when you are sick it feels like the only thing in the world that matters. I have always found weight gain one of the hardest things to personally accept in my own recovery journey. I know all the logic and research behind weight gain and body composition, yet I still struggle to accept that I must apply by nature’s rules. My weight has stayed relatively stable throughout my recovery this time, however a few weeks ago I gained more weight than usual. This shouldn’t and normally isn’t a problem for me to cope with because logically I know weight gain is a good thing and I also know how weight naturally varies depending on the time of day, water intake, stress levels and more. I walked out of that doctor appointment however, and spent the next hour in my car sobbing unable to function because I heard that dreaded phrase, ‘good news, you’ve gain weight this week.’ I know a number does not dictate my worth and yet sometimes it’s so easy to fall back into that trap, it’s so easy to let those numbers take control again. I went home that night and didn’t want to eat dinner, it was the last thing I felt like doing. It got later and later and eventually I felt that dull sensation of hunger but I couldn’t get that number out of my head that feeling of total disgust. Sitting there I could even feel myself expand and growing with the number, I knew I had been looking bigger and now all my fears had been confirmed.
But then I asked myself what exactly was I going to achieve by missing one dinner, what difference would it make? None. Logically I know missing one meal will make no difference to my weight overall and I certainty know no good can come of me skipping several meals. Yes temporarily skipping a meal, regaining that sense of control and power may feel good initially but then slowly and surely the pain will creeps back in as the eating disorder takes back over. You see hunger never truly makes you feel better it just helps you forget, helps you dull the pain and internal struggle of the mind. Missing this one meal would do nothing but make the voices louder. See if you let anorexia win once just for that temporary relief that anxiety release, what’s to stop you from letting it win again? And letting anorexia win only leads to two options hospitalisation or death.
There came a point in my recovery that I realised even anorexia wasn’t going to stop the endless pain I felt each day, that complete hopelessness, despair and self-hatred that was so often all consuming. Anorexia like some other mental illnesses is merely the weapon of choice I chose to use in my internal war against myself, and in anorexia’s case there is no victory without destroying myself in the process. Starving myself, cutting myself, binging and purging or exercising till I blacked out none of these things really stopped my pain. They just helped me cope, helped me survive the pain. But the truth is none of them last, because no one can spend the rest of their lives just coping, just avoiding themselves. The only way to stop the pain is to work through the pain, because by working through it, by accepting that pain that struggle it looses it’s strength. Pain doesn’t have to destroy us, in fact it can help create us. Stop running away from yourself, you can’t out run this war. Make the choice to be brave and face yourself and fight the war inside your mind. You are so much stronger than you realise and you are strong enough to win this war.
I’m the first too admit that weight gain still terrifies me and numbers occasionally still control me. But that’s okay because I know that, I accept that and am constantly working towards changing that. I no longer let the change of a number dictate whether I nurture myself with food I enjoy, because missing one meal will not make me happier nor will it make me loose weight. I also know that even though weight gain doesn’t make me happy, weight loss certainty doesn’t either. Think about it, like really think about it. What are you trying to achieve by loosing weight? What are you hoping you will gain by numbing the pain? Losing weight will do nothing but make sure you loose more of your life. Although weight gain doesn’t feel much better at least it helps you gain back some life, a choice of a future that doesn’t exist in hospital or a grave. You don’t have to be okay with weight gain but you do have to accept it and not let yourself react to it. You can cry and scream while holding yourself till the internal pain subsides whenever you see those number’s on the scale rise or spend too long staring into mirror, as long as you pick yourself up and eat your next meal. That is the most important decision you can make in recovery when faced with weight gain, you must decide to eat enough.
I know weight gain doesn’t feel like a win and I don’t even know personally if it ever will. But I do know that with weight gain comes life gain. Recovery doesn’t necessarily get easier but you definitely get stronger and you are all so much stronger than you know. Weight means nothing, and it definitely doesn’t ensure success or happiness. Stop using the focus of weight and your need for control as a way to avoid yourself. As terrifying as it seems and as difficult as it seems you need to face yourself, learn to be yourself. You are an incredible unique being that is capable of incredible things. Stop hiding behind your illness. Choose to wake up every day and decide to be better, to get better whatever that may mean for you at your stage of recovery. Stop thinking about weight gain and think about your health gain. Gain back your health and yourself in the process.
We need to learn how to sit and feel that discomfort and pain, just accepting it not reacting to it. There is no reason good enough to excuse you hurting yourself. Stop hurting yourself and stop hating yourself because trust me it wont take the pain away. Instead as impossible as it seems start by just observing the pain, noticing it to be there. Notice that you are separate from your pain, you don’t have to be your pain. Just as with weight gain, notice your body, feel your body and realise you are not your body. Do not let your body define your future. You don’t need to love your body, I know I certainty don’t yet, but you do need to love what it can do. So love what your body lets you do, love that it lets you live and breathe and be. You need to at least respect your body and what it allows you to do. Gaining weight in recovery is honouring that and respecting for your body. Give yourself permission to have a future because you all deserve a future.
So on those bad days, the days you have gained weight, the days where you look in the mirror and feel huge, on those days when you feel so overwhelmed with hate and disgust for yourself. On those days, remember it doesn’t matter how you feel in that moment what matters is how you react to that moment. Take a second and breathe just take 3 slow full breathes. Take a moment to be and feel the discomfort and hate for your body, then accept it, allow yourself to feel that because your allowed to feel that. There is nothing wrong with feeling that, but make the decision to respect your body anyway because you know the alternative will not bring you any relief either. So put on your favourite comfy pants, go outside and soak in the fresh air, do something to distract yourself from being in your body and avoid mirrors. Then make the decision to eat your next meal, make the decision to continue gaining your health back. Give yourself permission to gain back your life from your eating disorder, even though it’s a struggle. Most of all be proud of yourself for just being, for making that choice to not react to those thoughts , be proud of yourself for standing and fighting the war inside your head. And if you keep fighting eventually one day you won’t need to fight at all, one day you will win the war.
Weight gain is essentially irrelevant, what’s important is you making the choice to gain back your life. Be the observer of your own journey or your pain, let pain be your teacher and guide through your life. With each struggle and when we do we are given the opportunity to learn and grow. So stop hiding and avoiding life and starting living. I know it seems much easier said than done, but each of you are capable of making the decision to get better and take steps to constantly be improving your quality of life. You do not have to stay controlled and measured by your eating disorder or other mental illness. The steps necessary or the time it may take in your own recovery journey are irrelevant because all that matters is that you continue to keep taking those steps forward. You are worth so much more than you can imagine and don’t ever let a number define you. You are stronger than that. xx