Somewhat appropriately, given that this post is about food and weight gain, I am writing this while sitting in a cafe eating a banana, maple and chocolate muffin and sipping a latte.
Just over a year ago, I was looking at a couple of photos that had just been taken of me, and was frightened by what I saw. Despite having a lot of distance from anorexia, I felt I looked anorexic in these photos, even if I wasn’t behaving as such.
These photos frightened me so much that I decided I needed to gain a little weight so that I would look healthier. I had been taking a medication for a couple of years which seemed to speed up my metabolism. Soon after the photos were taken, I stopped taking that medication. I also started eating a bit more, keen to give my body all the fuel it needed.
Now, I have gained weight. Not a lot, but enough for me to notice it. I suspect it’s virtually invisible to everyone else.
Even though I wanted to gain weight, the realisation that I have has freaked me out a bit. Rationally, I know that this is stupid. I don’t actually think that how I look matters all that much – it’s not the most important thing about me. Also, my life now is going much better now than it was this time last year. And yet, I am freaking out. Or, rather, the disordered part of my brain is freaking out, because from its simplistic point of view, weight gain = bad.
There are moments, days even, where I feel fine within myself, where the weight gain doesn’t affect me at all. Then, there are moments or days when I look at myself and panic, when the voice starts telling me I’ve been enjoying myself too much, eating too much chocolate, that I need to exercise more, that I need to do something, anything, to reverse this weight gain and fix this problem.
Problem? What problem?
The problem of bending over and watching the fat squish out over my waistband, just a little. The problem of marginally larger thighs. The problem of my stomach no longer being flat, but slightly convex.
These are such little things, and they pale in comparison with the good things that are currently happening in my life. I’m doing an internship, I love my casual job, I have two volunteer roles which are constantly teaching me how to be a better human being, I have great friends and a supportive family and food on the table and so on and so on.
So, the solution to my feeling uncomfortable with my weight gain is not to ‘fix’ it by losing the weight again, the solution is to work through the swathe of emotions I’m feeling and come to peace with my body, once again.
This is unfortunately easier said than done. Actually coming to peace with my body again, and coming to peace with the way it changes and morphs over time, will require work. Work I am willing to do, but work that will at times be challenging and won’t sound like work to the uninitiated, because my work involves eating muffins and sometimes not exercising and doing things that are exactly the opposite of what health authorities will typically tell you to do. Things that other people find challenging not to do. But that’s eating disorders for you, they are perverse beasts and beating them requires you to go against the grain (not literally).
Sadly, the battle against my eating disorder isn’t completely over, but I’m getting there, bit(e) by bit(e) by bit(e).
Love, hope and peace from Emma.