After a little more than 2 years in anorexia nervosa recovery, finally last week something happened that marked a milestone. I hopped on the scale and saw I’d reached my target weight. A weight at the low end of what can be considered as healthy. More than I’ve ever weighed. And something that had never happened since I started with my eating disorder at the age of 9.
It’s a new and unknown situation for me. Although it’s what I’ve been walking towards for the last 2 years, what I new I had to arrive to and what I’ve been preparing myself for… seeing the number on the scale is such a shock. It’s provoked in me a series of reactions and emotions that I want to share in this post, especially for those of you who are worried about what will it be like when you are weight restored.
It’s not that bad
At the beginning of recovery, I thought this would be something totally horrible and unbearable. In fact, I didn’t even dare to think I could ever get here, I thought I was going to stop before. Weighing so much wasn’t a possibility for me, I believed that either I’d be allowed to stop at a lower weight or the Lord would take me with Him before that happened. But reaching that weight was something I couldn’t fathom, because I thought I’d be absolutely miserable, hating myself and hating my body, living with self-disgust every day.
As time went by, I started to accept that yes, I was going to get there. There were other girls who had reached a healthy weight and were fine. That, after all, I was better and better as I gained weight, so it was not absurd to think that a higher weight could be even better. But, despite everything, I was in panic when I thought about it, it freaked me out so much. Yes, certainly each time I had to take one more step I received the grace needed in order to do so… but that was going to be just too much. It was hard for me to trust.
Obviously, it hasn’t been such a big deal. As I’ll comment later, it’s been a difficult moment. But truth is I feel good. I don’t see myself fat (although sometimes I feel like it). I don’t feel disgusted about myself. I don’t hate myself. My life hasn’t even changed that much. It’s not the center of my thoughts. It’s ok. Really, I shouldn’t have worried, I’ve suffered so much more when thinking about it beforehand than when it’s happened. The person who used to think about it is different from the person who has arrived there. A person who’s been transformed by the Lord.
It’s not that good
On the other hand, during the last couple of months I’d been hovering around the same half a kilo up and down, and I was eager to put an end to that quasi-recovery state and reach the goal once and for all. Of rounding off that agonizing ending. And sometimes I’d joke with my mother and my personal trainer about how we were going to throw a party when I reached a healthy weight and things like that. I myself used to think that I’d be so excited to share it with my readers, post transformation photos, etc.
But no, I didn’t feel like celebrating either. I cried a little, in fact. And I got overwhelmed. I felt like I wasn’t ready, I’d have needed more time, more planning, more awareness. It’s normal. At the end of the day, the mind always recovers more slowly than the body.
Many doubts have assaulted me when I’ve reached a healthy weight, that in fact have always been there, at the back of my mind, but now come to the forefront. How should I eat? Do I have to keep eating the same and assume the weight’s going to stabilize? Do I have to reduce a little, and in that case how much? Do I have to try to start eating intuitively? But how does one do that? And now, what happens when I go to eat outside? When there come days when I can’t work out? I no longer have the “excuse” that, since I need to gain weight, I can afford to treat myself…
In brief, many questions in the air. It helps me to think that people who’re at a normal weight and are able to maintain it don’t spend their days worrying about these things. So it mustn’t be so hard. I still need to eat, I still need to rest, and I still have a body I can trust not to overshoot overnight. I don’t need excuses or justifications to enjoy and to relax a little in this life. I know how moderation and balance work. I’m going to be fine. This is still a problem, yes, but mainly an imaginary problem, not a real one.
Relieved to have a margin
I went to see my nutritionist and she told me that, although it was great that I’d reached that weight, it’s not my set point. I should gain a bit more. I still need to get my period back. In addition, since I’m very sporty a significant amount of my weight is muscle mass, not fat; since muscle weighs more than fat, my BMI has to be higher than that of a non-sporty person.
On the one hand, this stresses me out, because it means I still need to get to a higher weight, which is so scary, but on the other hand it’s a relief. I feel like I have a margin, like I can postpone a little my panic about the doubts I’ve mentioned previously because it’s actually ok if I go up a little. That I haven’t reached a roof from which I can’t move a single gram. I’m not saying that this mindset is healthy, because it’s not. The obsession for the “margin” is an ember of my eating disorder. But it’s something that allows me to breath for now.
At social situations, where it’s unavoidable for me to compare with the other girls, this new circumstance creates an insecurity in me. Before, I could always take for granted that I was the thinnest girl in the room. Well, and if I wasn’t, it was because the other person was so bad. Now it’s not like that. I look at all the other girls around me and I wonder if they’re thinner than me. And if others think they look better for being thinner. And if everyone already thinks I’m fine. If they’ve actually been thinking I’m fine for a while now and they think I shouldn’t gain any more weight. That I’m going too far. That I’d look better if I weighed a little less, like others.
I know this is very conditioned by the fact that my body image is still distorted and I’m not able to judge with objectivity my own or others’ body. I always try to remind myself that health and beauty are both goods from above, that they can’t contradict each other. That the optimal point of health is equivalent to the optimal point of beauty, and moreover, that this point is different for each person and looks different on each person, but all those different points are good and fitting for each person. Just as each flower is different and beautiful, and a flower wouldn’t be more beautiful, but the opposite, if it decided to wither in order to be the same size as other.
Looking back at my whole story, all I’ve been through, the sufferings and hardships… I can’t but be invaded by gratitude. It’s a miracle that I’m here, that I’ve been able to stand what I’ve had to stand and that I’ve had enough fortitude to reach this point. And I’ve gained so much in my life: I’ve gained strength, energy, vitality; light, truth, grace; joy, peace, balance. In fact, I’ve gained life. A popular quote in recovery communities says that you can’t live a full life on an empty stomach. And it’s true. Like night and day.
Have I lost something? Well, I’ve lost feeling so ascetic and elevated with my fasts and so perfect and mortified. Believing I’m special and enlightened. The pride of subduing my body. The morbidity of feeling all my bones. The high caused by starvation (in a desperate attempt of your body to keep you alive). Honestly, let others keep all of this if they want. I’m immensely grateful to have found a better, more beautiful, more fulfilling and happier way.
Closing a stage
Although objectively 100 grams up or down don’t change anything, psychologically I needed to see the number of a healthy weight on the scale so as to be able to bring a chapter of my life to an end. It’s not that I’m already recovered. I’m not even done gaining weight yet, as I’ve said. But in some way this achievement crowns the work I’ve devoted myself to and suffered so much for during the last 2 years. It’s like if I had been placing small daily achievements into a box, and now finally I was able to close it, wrap it and put a ribbon to it so I can give it to the Lord as a present.
And I can also turn over a new leaf when it comes to my identity. Anorexia doesn’t define me anymore, it’s not the center of my life anymore —because in recovery, at the end of the day, it still is—, to which I devote most of my thoughts and actions. I’m not the sick one anymore either. Or the girl whose thinness draws others’ attention. I need to get rid of all those labels. Fortunately, I’ve grown so much as a person during this process and I’ve been discovering who I am beyond all that. Although I need to mourn a little for those parts of me that are gone.
Up until now, my actions have been very mechanical. I had to get my body out of a critical situation, and it was urgent. And I couldn’t trust myself because my body signs were all over the place after so many years suppressing them, and my mind was so controlled by my eating disorder that it could easily deceive me.
But now there’s come the ideal moment to stop, listen and learn. To know my body, see what it asks me and how it reacts to what I give to it. To come into contact with it, with its needs and preferences. To be in harmony with its signs and honor them. To let it have a voice, so my nutritional and exercise habits aren’t something I establish purely with my mind, but in collaboration.
I need to apply this experience to many other things in my life. To know that trusting in God, surrendering my whole being to Him and letting Him carry me turns out well. Even if it isn’t exactly how you’d have imagined it. Even if He leads you through unknown ways. He is omnipotent and loves me infinitely, so, if I walk through His way, He isn’t going to permit that I arrive to something bad, and neither is He going to lead me to something bad. He wants my greater good, and nothing can make this plan fail. And He has shown this to me. After He has proven to me His love and His power in something as huge as this, I can’t doubt Him in anything else.
I encourage you not to stay at quasi-recovery and go all out! Weight restoration might seem super scary right now, but it’s the only way to unlock all the gifts and graces that come with full recovery. Trust the process, trust your body and, above all, trust God. Trust me too, I’ve been there, now I’m here, and I can tell you that it’s not perfect, but it’s needed and worth it <3