Talking to my friends about weight gain.
(I changed their names to keep their privacy!)
I have gained and lost weight countless times since the age of 13. There were times in my recovery from anorexia where weight gain happened without trying, and times where no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t reach a healthy weight, even if I’d wanted to. This taught me that our bodies are extraordinary and complex, they fight every second of every day to keep us alive. There are many systems working at once so our bodies can function as they should, and we need proper nutrition to allow this to occur.
Diet culture tells us that there are good foods and bad foods, that we should avoid some foods and welcome others, eat certain amounts of this and of that, look a certain way to be attractive, and ultimately puts things in black and white. These ideas are very damaging and hinder recovery from an ED (eating disorder) or struggles with food and body image.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve been in a good place, better than I have been in so so long. But with that, it meant I was able to eat freer and carelessly. I conquered thoughts of restricting my diet because I got a taste of what life was like without restriction, and I loved it. I enjoyed meals out, tasty snacks, home cooking, and baking (thanks quarantine) and felt at ease. I once used to feel that, and I didn’t know I missed it.
However, eating disorders are not simple or easy to fight, and sometimes you do get bad thoughts entering your head no matter how hard you try to let them go. I saw older pictures of myself, I noticed my clothes were too tight or not fitting, and I realised I had gained weight. The rational side of me knew this was a positive thing– I finally got regular periods after going without for 7 years, I was no longer cold on a hot day, I had energy and felt alive!- but as a society, we are conditioned to believe that weight gain = bad, and this was a difficult thought to shift.
I am extremely lucky to have friends who have experienced similar feelings to me, and I was able to reach out and ask them for advice on dealing with weight gain, and their words were all my eating disorder needed to hear to shut up…
Crystal responded by saying, “It’s your life, you deserve to be healthy, you deserve to have a body that’s functioning… I don’t weigh myself and I’m probably never going to again, I don’t go to the gym anymore, I’m free from all of that. But I also know that I’m bigger, I know that I’ve gained weight, but I don’t think it makes me any less of a person. Actually it makes me feel strong now because I can fall over and it doesn’t actually hurt me, I can sit on a couch and feel like I have cushioning. My belly has rolls and I feel like I’m protected… This stage of recovery is really difficult and testing, it’s almost like you have a new home”.
Elsa added, “It’s so unfortunate that people comment on weight so much, but that part of our brains are always going to tell us that we looked ‘better’ before! It’s just the ED talking”. Elsa recommended getting rid of old clothes that no longer fit, “It was refreshing to open the wardrobe and not think about what fits and what doesn’t”. She also “deleted a lot of old pictures that could be triggering. It was difficult because some of them held sentimental value, but I realised that I still have the memories of those moments and the photos weren’t helpful”.
“Realise that part of you that’s annoyed or that struggles to see you now is not you, it’s the past coming up… Our bodies will reach a set point and they’ll be so happy because everything will be working. But I’ve gained weight too. And it’s hard. But I’m happier that I’m well. And when I see my friends who are healthy. I’m so happy because I realised I’ve never been in a women’s body. I was still in a kid’s body. And I thought this was normal.” – Crystal
Elsa gave some very kind words; “Honestly when I think about you it’s never what your body looks like that I would think about. It’s your incredible personality, your great sense of humour, your rawness and honesty, your passion for life, and your incredible kindness that comes to mind so don’t ever think that people value you based on how much weight you may gain or lose in life”. (Made me cry, I love my friends).
There is so much value placed on our bodies when that’s not what matters in life one bit. We’re all amazing humans and should never reduce ourselves to numbers/size/weight because we are more than this, a lot lot more! Think of all the things we can achieve when not focusing our attention on how our body looks. Part of growing is realising you don’t need to be the person you were when you were younger, that old self only made you tougher and stronger and you learn from it.
“We can live a happy life without caring about what we look like. Life is not about our size. I don’t wanna die being like ‘I spent all my energy thinking about weight, or food’… because it took away my teenage-hood and it destroyed my life for far too long”.
And we WON’T let it destroy anymore more of our lives. We are stronger than this. And even stronger together <3
If you have been affected in any way by this article, here are some helpful supports where you can reach out and ask for help💕 :
BODYWHYS: Online, phone and group support for eating disorders.
SPUN OUT: This is a one stop shop for all mental health issues. The articles are very matter of fact, helpful and all bases are covered.
SAMARITANS: This helpline is open 24 hours a day and completely confidential. Call 116 123.
CHILDLINE: Helpline and online support, offering advice and support to young people under 18.
YOURMENTALHEALTH: Lots of information about Mental Health in Ireland.