What happens when someone in recovery is terrified of gaining weight and sees someone who recovered and did just that?
You get me.
There is something with which I’ve been grappling for several months now, this idea that people in recovery do not want to hear what I have to say because I am their worst nightmare. I am the woman who entered recovery and has gained a solid amount of weight as a result. My natural set point is much heavier than what is remotely deemed acceptable by society; to the point where even I wouldn’t have listened to what someone my size had to say about recovery when I was in the disease. Why? I wouldn’t have been able to see beyond the body size to listen to his/her story.
When I was in the disease my goal was to eat as few calories as remotely possible to sustain life. As a result, I went through periods where my body weight and size were much smaller than they are now, and yet I never “looked” like I was ill. Well, except for two truly memorable times when, looking back, I’m amazed and grateful my body didn’t give out on me. My body, my set point, were always heavier than a “normal” or an “average” woman for my age and height. That was invariably how God designed me…and I loathed it. I would be lying if I said I didn’t still struggle to accept this fact every now and again.
In fact, just today I was reflecting on this, as I recounted why I haven’t bothered finding a medical doctor in Charleston. When we moved from Ohio last year, I had an excellent eating disorder treatment team that I knew I could lean on to not judge me for my body weight or size. My doctor never belittled me because I am technically obese, she knew the struggle through which I walked and understood my body was trying to find its way. I fear the judgement of others. I can speak to myself in very realistic terms: I starved myself, purged, and overexercised for 16 years; wreaking havoc on my metabolism and body. Knowing this began when I was barely a teenager, my body never had a chance to mature and grow, or figure out the true weight and size it was meant to be. I jumped in and tried to hijack my body to manipulate it into what I wanted it to be. Ultimately, I sacrificed my body and my mind in order to live in fear of the judgement of others and living to please people.
Often, the eating disordered part of my brain still speaks to me and tries to tell me that no one can see beyond my body. What I have to say about my 16-year struggle, and the never ending road of recovery on which I walk, will fall on deaf ears because of my size. When someone with anorexia or bulimia sees me, s/he sees a nightmare: a woman who is overweight as a result of recovery. The positive is, I recognize that is my eating disorder speaking and not me. My reality lies with those who never fit the strict diagnostic criteria of anorexia or bulimia, according to the old DSM, but still struggled and felt unworthy of treatment because of weight and size. Just like I had to convince myself (with some help from TJ) that my life and body were falling apart and I needed help, I learned that I was worthy of love, respect, and self-acceptance.
My body might be someone’s worst nightmare, but it is my greatest reality.
Every day I wake up I am reminded that I am this size because I chose life.
I chose to fight for my life by choosing recovery.
Walking in recovery means walking in this body, at this size, knowing I am healthy despite what society says. No, you won’t catch me romping around in a bikini at Folly Beach this summer, but more power to the women society labels as “plus size” who are comfortable enough to do so. Sometimes, I am just grateful to be walking around without a stress fractured pelvis, heart palpitations, and an extreme dissatisfaction with life. Other days, I rock this thing called life and love the body in which I am living.
So, sometimes I see myself as a nightmare and other times, I see the reality of a life being lived in recovery–an ever-present struggle between fear of judgement and a disease, and being who I was meant to be–regardless of size.
With Body Love,