At the beginning of my anorexia nervosa recovery, I did the exercise of writing on little scraps of paper all my fears related to that process and placing them into a box. Then, I put that box at the Lord’s feet, offering to Him all those fears and granting Him sovereignty over them. It was an act of trust, meaning that I was going to do what I had to do, and the result depended on Him. I was going to work on my recovery for Him, in spite of all the fears that overwhelmed me, and He’d take care of me and protect me from all those consequences.
Today I’ve decided to open that box and I’ve found just what I had imagined: many of those fears haven’t become real at all; others have, but now it doesn’t affect me anymore: I can see it’s a good thing.
Let’s see 8 of them, and I will do another post to talk about 7 more:
“That my bones won’t poke out anymore”
I used to find some kind of morbid pleasure in passing my hand through my body and feeling all the prominent bones. Now I see that was something degenerated in my mind: it’s not beautiful.
My bones haven’t either disappeared towards the depths as I feared: the collarbone is still visible, and I can feel all of them if I want to touch them. But they’re rightly covered by fat (yes, a small layer that is good, healthy, and doesn’t make you look fat at all) and, better yet, by muscles! When we think of gaining weight, we usually visualize it as gaining only fat, but it doesn’t have to be like that at all.
VERDICT: partially fulfilled, but I’m ok with it. Things are better when they’re in their right place.
“Being unfaithful to God’s will”
The main motivation of my anorexia was believing that it was a holy fast, a special calling from the Lord. The meaning of my life. Although, obviously, I’d chosen recovery because I’d suspected that it wasn’t like that, there was something inside me that kept chewing on it, thinking that maybe I was making a huge mistake, or that maybe I had actually given up on that path because I was weak and wanted to look for an excuse to give in to earthly pleasures.
Thanks to the constant guidance of my spiritual director, I was able to little by little get rid of that idea and embrace the truth that recovery was God’s will for me. And now, seeing its fruits, it’s obvious that it was.
Now I can be a light for others who are still trapped in the claws of the evil one, who’s behind eating disorders. Now I understand that starvation is a grave sin against the fifth commandment, thou shall not kill. And that my body is a precious piece of Creation that I must treat with respect, care and dedication as a good steward.
VERDICT: proven 100% wrong.
“Being forced to reach a weight that is too high”
That is, that the doctors wouldn’t let me stop at a comfortable weight, or at the minimum healthy weight, but would force me to keep gaining.
This is happening: I’m at the minimum healthy weight, and I’ve already been told that I need to gain a bit more, because it’s not the optimal point for my body: for example, I have yet to get my period back. And truth is, that scares me. But I’m taking it with peace. I have good body image, and I can even see I’m still thin and gaining a bit more isn’t going to suddenly make me look fat, but can in fact be good for me.
VERDICT: partially fulfilled, but now I don’t really care.
“Having to restrict / knock myself out with exercise”
I thought that, in order to stop gaining weight when the moment came, I’d have to take drastic measures and control everything to the millimeter to prevent my body from overshooting.
But it’s found its balance point. In fact, I struggle with gaining, and when I don’t make the effort, or gain a lot overnight and then I want to reduce my intake a little, I lose a bunch of weight. My body has stabilized and yours will too. Have trust.
VERDICT: proven wrong.
I wasn’t really scared of getting fat in the sense of being overweight or even plump. But I was scared of not getting my ideal point right and ending up looking skinny fat, soft, mediocre. Perhaps I’d get to that point but the weight wouldn’t be enough and I’d have to keep gaining past it, or perhaps that point wouldn’t exist for me and I’d have to choose between being extremely thin or “normal”.
That’s all false. Everyone has that point, which by the way isn’t a point, but a range, and that range isn’t going to happen in a weight that isn’t healthy, because that would naturally be contradictory. The Lord has created us in a way that maximum health and maximum beauty coincide.
Thanks to following a healthy and balanced diet and working out (especially strength training), my body has got in shape as I’ve gained in volume and the result is being positive.
VERDICT: proven wrong.
“Being fatter than others”
I was used to being the thinnest of any group I was in, and that gave me a feeling of relief and confidence. As I started to gain weight, since I saw myself much bigger than I was, I thought that I was already getting fatter than others. But ok, I could accept that it was false, that my body image was distorted. And that if they were indeed thinner, it was their problem because that would mean they were sick.
However, I knew that once I got to a healthy weight, I was likely going to meet girls with lower weights and therefore thinner than me, without them necessarily looking sick because they could be “almost” at a healthy weight.
Now that has largely ceased to affect me, because I feel much more confident in my own body. Yes, perhaps another girl is thinner, so what? I’m fine. Her loss. Because it’s not about weighing the bare minimum not to look sick, but to reach your maximum splendor.
VERDICT: partially true, but I don’t care anymore.
“Not doing as much mortification as I should”
I used to see the things I did because of anorexia as mortifications and sacrifices: food restriction, hours and hours of exercise, tightening my belts as if they were corsets, etc. I believed I was behaving just like the great saints. And I was afraid of becoming weak, or falling into the error of modernist Christian laxity.
To start with, recovery has clearly been a much greater sacrifice, it’s been much harder, I’ve suffered horribly, it’s been a torture, a nonstop exhausting battle that has left me empty of any strength so many times.
But, in addition, offering up something difficult to God doesn’t automatically make it good. If it’s bad, it’s bad, and your intention doesn’t change the nature of the act.
If you’d struggle to kill your family but you do it because you think God’s commanding that from you, I don’t care about your intention, your guilt might be reduced, but you’ve made a huge mistake and God hasn’t received that as a pleasing offering. Well, the same applies if you kill yourself, even if for some reason that’s regarded as good and praised by many Christians.
VERDICT: very, very, very wrong.
“Not having a margin so I can afford to gain weight if something in case of an unexpected event”
The concept of a margin had always obsessed me. I was worried that at some point something unexpected might happen that could make me gain weight, and therefore I should always maintain a weight below the one I’d like to have, so if I gained it wouldn’t be a problem because I’d only get to that weight.
That obsession was one of the main causes for me to end up weighing only 33’5 kg. Because, what a coincidence, all the unexpected events (such as trips) always lead me to lose and not gain weight. And when things went back to normal, I didn’t make an effort to regain what I’d lost, because well, that way I had even more margin.
Why the margin theory fails
I was scared then that, once I got to a healthy weight, I was not going to have any margin. That’s false because its stems from two wrong ideas: a BMI of 18 is not the maximum allowed, but the minimum; and your ideal weight, where you feel and look good, is not a point but a range as I’ve already said.
The best approach is to try to be at each moment within the optimal range, and make an extra effort when there come situations that make this more difficult. It makes no sense to stay 99% of the time at a worse weight because of the 1% of the time when unexpected events might happen and make you gain weight. Or lose weight, which is in fact what usually happens to me.
It makes no sense either to think about it long term, like: “but when I have children”, “but when I’m old”… At each moment you’ll be able to be within your ideal weight range, which by the way will vary as well. But the good range at each moment will also be the range of more beauty for each moment, remember that.
VERDICT: it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
I hope I’ve been able to give an answer to some of the fears that are keeping you undecided. Now they’ve been debunked, what are you waiting for to start recovery? You’re not going to lose anything. And you’re going to gain everything. Gaining weight is gaining happiness, light, peace, beauty, energy and life.