If eating disordered thoughts trigger you, today’s post isn’t for you. But if you’re willing to understand my muddled, racing thoughts, stick around.
As the title says, I’ve gained weight. The funny thing is, most people wouldn’t likely notice. They might say I look no different. It’s minuscule enough that it might not even bump up the number on the scale much (luckily not something I’m looking at). I probably needed it: I had rampant IBS last year that really threw off my health, weight included.
Even if it’s good for me and not too obvious, I notice that weight gain. It feels like it’s grabbing hold of me, weighing me down. My mind immediately jumps to thoughts like, “You’re losing control.” “You’re failing.” “This isn’t you.” “You need to fix this ASAP.”
I know I’m not alone, so rather than pretending these thoughts aren’t happening, we’re putting them in the spotlight. I’ve gained weight, and here are the vulnerable, raw details, along with how you can approach this situation if you too struggle.
realities of recovery.
For some people, eating disorder recovery is a painful but definite process. They can return to a state of health, a better relationship with food, and might never have disordered eating again.
Other people might have those thoughts for the rest of their lives, sometimes quiet, sometimes loud and obnoxious. I’m in that boat. I can understand which thoughts are disordered or not, but I cannot completely separate it from my mind. It’s not me, but it’s a part of me. My type-A personality can’t help it.
When I say I’m in “eating disorder recovery,” that means that I’m not continually acting upon any of those disordered thoughts. I can still live a full, balanced life. Even if I slip up once or twice, that doesn’t completely spiral into full-blown restriction and obsession. I’m a work in progress, taking each day as it comes.
Whether I like it or not, I’m hyper-aware of my body. I can recognize any subtle change. I’ve been around the block enough times in my recovery that I can recognize the cyclical nature of my thoughts and how closely entwined they are to my body. The obsessive nature of eating disorders then transforms into a milder obsession with “where I’m at”: do I weigh more or less now than before? How do my clothes fit? How is my self-esteem and confidence?
Now that I have noticed a change, a wave of realization and almost despair over my current state, the disordered thoughts get louder. They become harder to brush off. You start to miss weighing less, miss that stable place you’ve been at and have gotten accustomed to. Your mind exaggerates the change until a single pound feels like a single ton.
affirmations don’t really work.
Recovery is choosing to not dwell and live in those disordered perceptions. You cannot convince yourself to not think those thoughts. They are what they are. You can chant as many affirmations and truths as you want, but it won’t stop you from seeing the elephant in the room (your mind).
Logically, weight is an arbitrary relationship with gravity, and the number varies so much among people, it’s little to no representation of health or value. Fluctuations in weight over your life are inevitable. Loved ones don’t love you for your body or weight.
This is all true, but let me guess…you’re still thinking about that eensy bit of weight gain, right?
Thoughts will always continuously stream through our minds, but we can choose what to focus on. This doesn’t mean completely distracting yourself or pretending you aren’t thinking disordered things whatsoever; instead, you acknowledge how you feel, know it’s valid, but not let it outweigh all the better, healthier thoughts present.
set your values.
We can’t control our thoughts, but we can control our actions and behaviors. They’re the tangible decisions we make each day that can work toward and against our values. When we set priorities for how we want to live and person we want to be, we set the direction our actions go.
Do you want to be a loving person that focuses on family and faith? A person who’s patient and kind with others? A person who has personal and/or professional aspirations to work toward? Fill in the blanks for yourself, and start with five to six values you want to stand behind right now. They’ll likely change, but start somewhere.
An interesting thing about choosing values is that nowhere does your weight or size fit into your values. You can try to think of words that could convey “staying skinny/a size zero forever,” but notice how there’s no single value you can stick to regarding those disordered goals.
Disordered thoughts don’t fit into your values at all. Never will choosing to follow through with disordered behaviors draw you closer to being someone with your values.
When you approach a situation where you could binge, restrict, or whatever else, slow yourself down and ask, “What action embodies my values?” Even if the thoughts behind the “right” action conflict, the urge for disordered eating still fights for control, you have the power to decide health.
It’s not easy. Not in the slightest. For me, it’s something I mentally struggle with every day. One time seeing my weight or feeling “fat” could dive into relapse. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing on the edge of the cliff, and boy is it tempting to jump.
But I value the years of hard work I’ve put into my anorexia recovery. I value the relationships I’ve rebuilt since completely isolating myself in disordered thoughts. I value the opportunities and adventures I’ve embarked on since recognizing my mental illness. I value the health and insight and passion and empathy and hope I’ve gained. That’s the person I want to be.
You can achieve what you truly value. It has nothing to do with weight at all. You possess the necessary strength and perseverance to do it. You’ll have weight-related thoughts trying to grab your attention, but you have the power to decide and act as the person you (not your disorder) want to be.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie