"Do I Really Look Like That?!": The Intricacies of Weight and Recovery
We finally unpacked some boxes that had been lying around from our recent move. In this box, we found our bathroom scale. I usually never weight myself because I know that focusing on weight is not conducive to recovery from an eating disorder. However, I had also seen a recent photo of myself (above) where I had that moment where I asked myself- “Do I really look like that?” So, I gave in, and I weighed myself, and I am bigger than I was three months ago. I was very upset.
Then I woke up to this great post by Glennon Doyle Melton where she writes about seeing a photo of her self and asking the same question- “Do I really look like that?” The difference was that she found herself to be too thin in her photo.
For both of us, our weight is an indicator of how we are doing and how our recovery from mental illness is going. For Glennon, she is in recovery from co-occuring disorders, one of them being anorexia and bulimia. For me, I am recovering from co-occuring disorders, one of them being binge eating disorder.
Her post was lovely and not only because she shared her story and it was relatable and helpful to those of us in a similar situation. It was also wonderful because it had NO body shaming in it whatsoever. I, as an obese woman, could read the post of a thin woman and feel a deep connection- a connection of our humanity even though the world would see us as so different and judges our worth differently based on our size.
Glennon’s post led me to NOT collapse into my mental illness and make it worse.
I firmly believed, after my weigh-in last night, that I had to not eat all day today. That is often the start of a binge cycle in binge eating disorder. You try to punish yourself by not eating and then you overeat because you are so hungry, but also because your size and what you eat are not the real problem. The real problem is that your brain is not doing well and you are not keeping up with your recovery process. Glennon noted that she had been excessively using the elliptical to ease her anxiety, whereas I have stopped working out because I am too depressed to do so. Glennon mentions that she had stopped eating, whereas I end up binge eating.
When we look at weight and size, any weight and size, and judge it as positive or negative, we end up hurting ourselves because we do not see that it is simply an indicator. Weight, for many of us, is just another sign of how we are doing. We can shame ourselves for what it is, or see it as a message from our own body, telling us what we need. Every one of us will have a different weight that works for our body. When we notice that our weight or size is not at our bodies’ peaceful place, we can take that message and start over- without judgment.
I went for a walk with my husband today. I will actually wear what I like rather than dressing in a way I hate because I am ashamed of my body. I will NOT weight myself again. I will thank my body for the way it is now, and for letting me know I was not doing well. I will eat in a way that is helpful to my body, rather than punishing it with too little or too much food. I will find my spiritual practice again and focus on balancing all three parts of my life- body, mind, and spirit.
It is futile to judge and punish ourselves. Rather, we can thank our body and brain for letting us know we needed help, and start over.