Gaining weight is an important part of recovery but there is more to recovery than gaining weight. For me it also means finding joy again in hobbies and spending time with people.In this post I will also reflect on what I have gained over the past few weeks besides just weight.
Gaining weight is very important because I don’t believe you can recover from an eating disorder fully and remain at a low weight. Furthermore weight is a marker of physical health(of course it is not the only one and what is “healthy” is different for everyone).I think it’s important not to get caught up on certain numbers. I know a lot of websites for recovery may recommend gaining to a certain BMI,however I don’t really agree with this as everyone has a different set point where their body is healthy at.For some people this may be BMI 23 for someone else it may be lower down the range or even perhaps higher.After all some athletes have BMI’s that are considered overweight and yet they look lean and strong because they have a lot of muscle.Some people may naturally be of a small lighter build and have lower BMI’S but still be healthy.
From reading blogs and delving into recovery forums or communities some people claim to be recovered when they clearly look underweight and seem to eat very little.Which is why I mainly stay away from such forums. I believe mental recovery and physical recovery go hand in hand and you cannot have one without the other. Perhaps I am slightly hypocritical as I know when I recovered the first time I did want to remain at the lower end of the BMI spectrum and that is still something I struggle with.But on the otherhand perhaps that is also where my body may naturally be as I am fairly short and my mum is also petite.I dont think there is a “one size fits all” approach to recovery and just because someone still looks slim doesn’t mean they haven’t recovered.What I want to do eventually is let go of weighing myself,let go of binging/purging and restricting and see where my body naturally wants to be.If that is at the low end of the “healthy” Bmi then so be it but if I end up gaining a bit more than I would like to or what I consider “ok” I will try to accept it and not fight against it.Im tired of fighting against my body.
Ofcourse weight gain is crucial if you are underweight.It is only now when I have gained weight that I can look back and see how disordered some of my thougts and behaviours were.I am also beginning to see when I look at photos from the holidays that I was infact unwell.When at a low weight I just thought I looked fairly normal.That just goes to show how much the eating disorder distorts your perception and its often only when you are nourished that you can begin to think clearly and see things as they are.Therefore it can be hard to work on the mental/emotional side of recovery when you are in a undernourished state.
Furthermore I can now see that a lot of my behaiviours were a side effect of being undernourished for example thinking about food all the time.spending ages in a shop looking at food e.t.c. I don’t really feel compelled to do that anymore.With gaining weight a lot of my obsessive food thoughts and rigid thought patterns died down.I read about the Minnesota starvation experiment and it helped to explain to me a lot of the physical and psychological changes the body goes through when it I fed again.
Over the past few weeks I have gained more than weight.I have gained some valuable time with my mum.We went to the cinema to watch a film last week.This was a huge deal for me as I told myself for ages I cant watch films because I cant concentrate for that long,cant sit still,its lazy e.t.c but I actually enjoyed it going to the cinema with my mum.I know it meant a lot to my mum too to spend time together.We also went to the woods yesterday which was nice.Today we are ordering food from the restaurant I work at to have at home and we are having a nice chilled evening.In august/september I would have probably said no to that.I am gratefull to have the chance to do things like this with my mum now.My mum is incredibly important to me and I feel like the ED has taken me away from people I love and I often just want to be alone but at the same time I don’t.I cant explain it really.Its like I want to be with others but I cant sometimes.When I felt in the depths of the ED spending time with people felt more like a chore than an enjoyment or I simply didn’t have the energy/didn’t feel deserving of others time and that makes me so sad.I feel bad that I have neglected ceratin relationships in my life.
I cant change the past but in the future I hope to spend more time with others and enjoy it!Hopefully I am going up to Leicester to stay with a friend which is so exciting and I just realised now that I didn’t even think about things like “how will I eat,what will I eat,what will people think?”e.t.c and its great to not have those thoughts dominating my head.Instead I thought “how exciting, cant wait to go out and see my friend and have a good time!”. It is however important that I make sure to eat well. No longer will I use going away as an excuse to restrict.
Over the past few weeks I have also gained emotions. In august I cant say I felt much really. Occasionally sad or happy but no intense emotions.It can be quite scary I think during recovery to feel again.I kind of went from feeling nothing to feeling everything at once. Sometimes it feels like emotions are out of control and I could be so happy in the morning then very very low in the afternoon.Its also strange to cry and let emotions out and let them show.But its part of being human.I think in a way the eating disorder helped me deal with emotions because it took them away. Not sure if that makes sense. Its hard to learn new ways to deal with them that are not binging/purging/restricting/self harming e.t.c so maybe that’s why when you stop using ED behaviours you can feel more depressed. I don’t know.
Sometimes I tell myself that gaining weight has just made me even more sad and I feel lower than ever.Other times such as now I can be rational and think its not the weight gain that has made me sad its the eating disorder which convinces me weight gain is a bad thing which is making me sad.Right now in this moment I have come to the conclusion that it is the eating disorder which makes me feel rubbish and not recovery.Therefore I should not give up on recovery.I don’t even know if this makes sense.Like I cant put it into words.My weight is not “bad” or “wrong” it is the ED that is wrong for trying to convince me of that.Infact it is scary to say/think that as my head tells me otherwise most of the time.
Over the past few weeks I have also began to find joy again in hobbies such as drawing and just art in general.I have also read two books (ok I skim-read some it!)since the beggining of September after not reading a book for two years.I have also started playing piano once again.
At first it felt like these hobbies were just distractions from binging and purging and i’d be watching the clock.But now I am beginning to actually enjoy them.My number 1 hobby will probably still be running but I wanted to dedicate myself to having interests outside of food and exercise.I want running to be something I enjoy and not because the ED tells me I have to do it.So I am introducing it back into my life but not letting it take over my life if that makes sense.
When you first start doing things like art and other activities it may feel forced and your mind is still dominated by ED/food thoughts but it does get better over time as you gain weight.Welll it did for me anyway and from what I have read online it is true for others too.I think the same thing goes with being social.You may have to feel like you force yourself to meet people/spend time with people at first but overtime you may actually have more of a desire to make plans and meet up with others.Thats not to say its not ok to spend time alone if that’s what you really want. You shouldn’t force yourself to go out just to please others but sometimes you may need to try going out even if you don’t feel like it. I know sometimes I wouldn’t want to go out but I would go anyway and i’d actually end up having a great time and being glad I did.It can make you realise that others enjoy you being there even if you have thoughts like “no one likes me,they are better off without me” etc.When I attempted recovery the first time friends at school would say that its like the old Ula is coming back and I am more present when they talk to me.
Which proves that during recovery you gain so much more than weight!The past week has been difficult and probably the lowest I have felt in such a long time.But today I am trying to remind myself recovery is worth it by thinking about all the things I have gained over the past few weeks.It may not feel like it all the time and sometimes I feel like I am just doing it because of others and not because I really want to.I actually feel so bad for saying that.But the truth is no one is 100% motivated all the time.Its important to be honest with yourself.I also know that I wont give up if I have lost some motivation. Recovery is not something you choose once, its something you choose everyday. Every time I eat,everytime I don’t binge/purge, every time I meet a friend rather then spending the day binging. Every time me and my mum spend time together,every time I allow myself to rest rather than run that to me is choosing recovery.
Recovery means different things for different people.I’m not sure when I will know I am recovered from the eating disorder. Sometimes I am not sure it will ever go away.I worry that even if I never binge/purge again and stay a healthy weight it will always be there.Its a fear but I wont let that fear stop me from trying to be 100% free. I think I will also do a post later on about what I think stops me from letting go off the eating disorder.Then maybe I can think about how I can overcome that.
“Learn to rest, not to quit”
I am so awful at writing in a coherent way and most of what I write is a babble of thoughts but I hope to look back at these posts one day and see how far I’ve come and be glad I didn’t just give up because it was hard.