How to Deal with Weight Changes In Eating Disorder Recovery
Dealing with weight changes in eating disorder recovery is tough. I remember standing in the dressing room at the mall, staring at myself in the mirror. Tears slid quietly down my face so no one would hear, or ask if I was okay, or if something was wrong. How do you explain that your body doesn’t feel like it belongs to you? How do you tell them that your body used to be thin and clean but now bulges where it shouldn’t, collects and pockets, and juts out towards the walls, taking up space? How do you explain this when they think you look fine, good even, while the inside of your head is screeching, “You fat, disgusting pig?" You may want to read these tips about how to deal with weight changes in eating disorder recovery.
Accept the Reality of Eating Disorder Recovery, Including Weight Changes
With eating disorders, it’s common for negative body image (What is Body Image and How Do You Improve It?) to be the first to join the party and the last to leave during recovery. People ask me if it gets easier. Yes, it does, but it sucks until it doesn’t. We can’t escape the fact that we have a body and will continue to have one long after we recover from our eating disorder.
So how do we come to peace with that body, especially if the body that’s healthy for us isn’t the ideal image we’ve held in our heads?
In the dressing room years ago, I’d just vacillated from an anorexia/bulimic period to one where I’d been forcing myself to keep the food down. Yes, I’d gained a little weight.
Accept Temporary Weight Gain in Eating Disorder Recovery
For most of us, weight gain will be the first reality of recovery because our bodies, and often our digestive systems, are out of whack (Digestive Distress in Eating Disorder Recovery). It doesn’t mean that we’ll necessarily keep the weight. The body needs some time to find homeostasis and so it keeps weight around while it’s figuring us out.
Our body’s deciding if we’re safe to trust. It needs to trust that we’re going to give it nourishing food, consistently. It’s how a relationship works. Our body plays tug-o-war until trust is established (Body Changes in Eating Disorder Recovery).
Accept Imperfection in Eating Disorder Recovery
Today, years later, I’m in a dressing room trying on clothes. Even though I’m recovered, I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t like a magic wand to retouch a few things. As I watch my body and the unflattering dress it’s in, I notice my hair needing a shampoo and sticking out in broken pieces around my head. I notice my frown and my mind zooms back to me crying in front of the mirror, in the dressing room long ago.
Long ago, I might’ve bought this dress and exercised and dieted myself into a torturous, little frenzy so that it fit like a glove.
Today, I smirk at my reflection, pull the dress off over my head, and buy another one that actually fits my body.
Then, I go to Whole Foods, buy a delicious biscuit, and enjoy every flakey bite because I can, because I choose to enjoy my life.
Accept Your Progress in Eating Disorder Recovery
Long ago, that trip to the dressing room would’ve caused me to eat the biscuit out of depression (Depression Precedes Eating Disorders In Some Women). I would’ve thrown it up, or it would’ve catapulted me into a binge, into a night of disconnection from others, of solitude, sadness, and isolation. It would’ve ruined my week (Secrets in Eating Disorder Recovery).
Instead, I came home and put away groceries, played chase with the dog while dinner was cooking, and danced to music in the living room. It’s so nice not to be perfect. It leaves room for my heart to invite happiness.
Accept Your Strength in Eating Disorder Recovery
And to my past self, the girl crying in the mirror, I wish that you could see how much you love to laugh, how much love is in your life. I wish you could pull your eyes away from the mirror and open your heart to the big wide world. But don’t worry. You will. One day at a time.
Does it get easier? Yes. Every step towards your eating disorder recovery matters.
Zoccolante, Z. (2016, March 23). How to Deal with Weight Changes In Eating Disorder Recovery, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivinged/2016/03/how-to-deal-with-weight-changes-in-recovery
Author: Z Zoccolante
I can't look in mirror, when I do I don't see the me as I am now,just as I used to be,when I see a picture of myself now I just want to cry!
Hi Christine. That hurts my heart to hear that, and I also know that feeling. You mention that when you look in the mirror now you see the you that you are now, just as you used to be. I'm not exactly sure what that means? If it means that you see the same weight that you were before the eating disorder started, I know that can be a triggering feeling. Everyone has a different process for recovery and body acceptance and that's ok. It sounds like the place you're at right now is feeling as though mirrors are not a safe space for your body. That's ok. It's ok to cry and be sad about it. Letting go of the unhealthy old body is a part of the mourning process. It's okay. Perhaps right now, instead of looking in the mirror, you could begin to focus on the feelings in your body. I know there can be junk body image ones, but see if you can find any good ones. Maybe you have the energy to walk up the stairs, maybe you can go out to dinner or have coffee with a friend now (instead of restricting and isolating). There are many ways to love the body your in that don't have to do with seeing it in the mirror. I'm going to write a post about this too for you and all the others out there with this same concern.
And we are all so glad that you can still look in that mirror - and now see someone beautiful, someone who is very special, and someone who has found a real meaningful journey through life. I love you for that.
Thank you. The journey of having the person in the mirror be someone we love can be a serpentine path, but one with many interesting and ongoing lessons. May we be all be able to find, and love, our specialness in ourselves and in others.