Ah the dreaded weight gain…A crucial part of recovery but difficult to come to terms with and difficult to accept. I remember when I first attempted recovery at 15 and thought “I’ll sort my head out first and then gain weight “It doesn’t work like that though. Mental and physical recovery go hand in hand. You cant be a mentally recovered person in a sick persons body.
After weeks,months, or years of being underweight it is hard to see and feel your body change. There will come a point when You no longer have hollowed out cheeks and a gaunt face, dark circles under eyes, Your bones are not visible, clothes become more snug, you start to look more alive, more bright and people may comment on it too.
As you gain weight it can feel as though you are losing. Losing what being underweight represented to you whether that be looking as small and insignificant as you feel, an illusions of control,a coping mechanism etc. It can feel as though you are being stripped of you identity.How do I accept this new healthy person?It may also be hard to accept gaining to a higher weight than you were before your ED.
You begin to acknowledge your good qualities, passions and talents that lie beyond the eating disorder.But just because you have committed yourself to weight gain does not mean it is easy to acceptDelete repeated word much as you may want to embrace it you may feel terrified by it,disgusted,saddened.What I have found helpful is always keeping my goals in sight.Weight loss is not compatible with them. One day when I am a nurse (hopefully!) and rushing round A&E I highly doubt my weight will matter.When I am hoisting an old lady out of bed I will need strength and not a weak anorexic body. When I will be responsible for other peoples lives I will have the responsibility of also making sure I am fit and healthy to take care of them.
THINK OF THE FUTURE! An ED only leads to misery and if you let it can lead to death.Recovery on the other hand creates the prospect of a brighter, happier healthier future. Recovery may be the harder, more difficult choice to make and relapse may be easier but is the ED really worth all the struggle it puts you and others through?
Mantras can also be helpful when gaining weight. There would be times I’d be stuffed after a binge but know I couldn’t skip a meal so I would repeat to myself “my stomach is full but my body needs fuel” (oh god it sounds so cheesy!).Wearing bracelets or even writing on my hands helped me to remember that weight gain is necessary!
A common thing ED sufferers struggle with is accepting they NEED to gain weight. You may not think you are “sick enough “or “bad enough” but the thing is you never will. Your ED will always say its not enough. Thinking I’ll recover when I get to X kg might not happen. Imagine if you had cancer, you would want to start treating it as soon as possible rather than wait until it had spread all over your body making it harder to treat.The longer you stay underweight and the more you lose the harder it will be to gain back the weight. I struggled with the “not sick enough” mentality. I felt like I had to validate the weight gain. Starting outpatient treatment helped as I felt like I could finally give myself the permission to gain.Sometimes you may think “I can never accept being at x kg”But then you get there and realise its not so bad and you CAN do it so you gain a bit more and a bit more and a bit more.When you are at a healthier weight you will probably start to realise looking back on photos that you did indeed look unwell underweight even though you could not see it then.
Something else which may be difficult is if people comment on your weight gain. Even something said as a joke like “be careful you don’t gain too much or you’ll get fat “Can feel crushing to an ED sufferer.Its hard enough to ignore the voices in your head that instil fear into you without others contributing.What you have to do is just ignore these comments and do what you gotta do or maybe explain to the person you don’t find them helpful. Most of the time people don’t mean to be hurtful they may just not think before speaking or not realise how much of an impact their words may have.Even positive comments can be hard to take.To some people “oh you look better” may translate to “you look fat” and make a person feel as though they have no will power,have lost control,fearfull e.t.cOn the other hand Validation from other people that the weight gain is a good thing really helped me to accept it.Surrounding yourself with people who support you can be a big confidence boost. Having a healthier,more womanly body can attract more male attention than you got previously which can feel kind of strange at first.I think its not just the changes in body but also in personality such as being more happy,energetic,chatty which can make you more attractive.
Patience is a big part of the weight gain process.Be patient with yourself and kind.It may take some time for your mind to catch up with your body.In the early weeks you may be bloated and gain very rapidly but things should slow down and even out over time. Its really hard to believe this. Reading about the science behind weight gain may help you understand the body better and how refeeding and regaining works.
What I am finding hard at the moment is accepting that I my still gain weight.I keep thinking “when will it stop?” “when can I maintain?” at times it is frustrating and I feel like all control is gone. There are various guidelines on what weight a person should gain too.Some books/websites say BMI 20 others say when you get your period you can stop gaining.There is no one size fits all.What is a healthy BMI for one person may not be for the next and just because you have your period does not mean you are should stop gaining.I got my period back when I was still underweight.I thought “that’s great I can stop gaining now” But your body may have other plans. I gained another 4-5 kg after getting my period.I also find it hard to accept going further into the healthy BMI range and not just maintaining a minimal healthy weight.I guess its the fear of unknown that terrifies me.I am trying to just roll with it and not supress it but I find that when my weight goes up now it is sometimes harder to accept than at the beginning of recovery as I am no longer underweight, have my period and am physically healthy so why can it not stop!?
Some things which may be helpful are:
1)THROW OUT THE OLD CLOTHES!!!
Really don’t hold on to them, donate them to a charity shop, sell them for 50p on amazon but just get rid of them!Some clothes which are stretchy such as leggings or skirts (literally live in these)may be fine to keep if they still fit but there’s no point keeping jeans which you have had for 3 years and no longer fit your recovered body or you have to squeeze into! For ages I held onto too small clothes thinking “I may need them one day”. The only reason you would wear them again is if you lost weight and that is NOT what you want to do! Wear things that are comfortable and make you feel good and don’t be tempted by small sizes if they don’t fit!Just cut of the size labels when you get home and don’t give it anymore thought!
2)TRY TO NOT MEASURE,WEIGHT,COMPARE E.TC
Easier said than done but weight gain may be easier to accept if you aren’t constantly tracking it and then you are less likely to get freaked out by fluctuations or the increasing number.
3)PRACTICE SELF CARE
If you feel like poo take a bath and put on some music, do some colouring, watch a film, make yourself some nice food,
4)REDISCOVER LIFE BEYOND THE EATING DISORDER
Maybe pick up hobbies you had before the ED or try something completely new! Maybe if you are in school find a part time job/volunteering (this helped me tonnes!!)
5)DON’T ISOLATE YOURSELF
There’s a difference between spending some time alone for respite and isolating yourself because you feel not good enough,embarrassed, “too big” e.t.c You deserve to spend time with people and I’m sure your family and friends still love you at a higher weight. Gaining weight can make you feel low and I am guilty of hiding in my room or staying in bed for ages but the thing is life is happening RIGHT NOW and you can start living now. You dont need to be a low weight to live it.Thinking you were better off x kg lighter is not true. To someone you matter and to someone your presence is important.
I know this is cliché and no you don’t need to be positive 24/7 and hide your true feelings but a positive “can do” mind-set can be helpful. Practice self love not self deprecation.
Look beyond the negetives.Focus on the evidence that you are a good person not a bad person.Focus on evidence of past success rather than that you cant do anything right. Focus on evidence that people care about you rather than they don’t. Focus on the good things and gratitude and maybe when you put things into perspective it will not seem as bad.
Remember with gaining weight you gain SO much more than just fat,muscle and bone. You gain better health,relationships,energy,a genuine smile and the opportunity for freedom from that nasty voice in your head and living the life YOU want.