Trigger Warning: eating disorder behaviors, weight loss, weight gain, body dysmorphia
As I have mentioned in previous posts, right now I am actually in a really stable place with my eating disorder. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, I haven’t engaged in an eating disorder behavior in five and a half months so that’s a big part of it. But the reason I’ve been able to do that is that I have found new outlets for my stress and emotions. Instead of relying on food and using my eating disorder as my go-to coping skill I have discovered more effective methods. For example, in the past, if I was feeling really depressed I would binge and make myself feel numb with food. That didn’t actually solve the problem of my depression, it was just a way of avoiding it. Whereas now a lot of times I will journal or blog and because I love to write that’s a genuinely helpful way for me to cope. At the very least it just gets all my thoughts out of my head to a certain extent. Best case scenario I have some sort of revelation and realize “Oh! So that’s where this is coming from. That’s why I’m feeling that way” and then I can figure out how to deal with it or cope with it long term.
That being said, the title of this post is “Mentally Free, Physically Stuck” so let’s get to the physically stuck piece. As I mentioned in my post “Double Standard” I have noticed two very different treatment approaches depending on what your diagnosis is. Towards the beginning of my journey I was in treatment for restricting, purging, and an exercise obsession. A big part of my treatment plan was to be weight restored, which is common in eating disorder treatment. But then years passed and I went back to treatment for bingeing and a fear of exercise. I assumed that because I had gained weight from my eating disorder to what our society considers unhealthy or overweight that part of my treatment plan would be to lose weight to get back to that healthy weight I was at before. But I was told if I stopped bingeing and developed a healthy relationship with exercise that my body would just magically fall into place.
So now I find myself in a very uncomfortable position. Mentally I feel in control, free. But every time I look in the mirror I notice that I look no different from when I was engaging in eating disorder behaviors. I know that the weight I have gained over the last couple of years is a direct result of having binged and not exercised for so long. So I feel as though my reflection is not fitting for where I am at mentally. I don’t feel free when I look at myself in a mirror. I feel trapped in the body that formed because of my eating disorder. I am not at all saying that I plan to diet or focus on losing weight because I would never do that again given my history. But at the same time… how or will I ever look in the mirror and feel as though my inner and outer self-represent the same person?
For several months now I have tried to get back into any sort of exercise and have just been too scared of becoming obsessive again or of my harsh judgments about my body. As I mentioned yesterday, I did just recently get back into dance which was a HUGE step and one I am very proud of. That has shown me that I can in fact dance at a very different size than I did in the past and still absolutely love it. So I will say that I have felt an increased motivation with that. Not to start an intense workout plan but just to dance because I love it and it makes me feel happy. So finally I feel as though I am at least making progress on actually developing a relationship with exercise again and since I have stopped bingeing who knows maybe now my body will just sort itself out. I don’t know and I really wish I didn’t care but I do.
I wake up everyday working on radical acceptance around my body and I encourage everyone to do the same. I know that no matter what my body looks like if I don’t mentally believe I am good enough and beautiful as is that I will never be happy. I know that some ideal body won’t change my life and make it all better. I tried that and it was never enough because the ideal kept changing. So knowing all of this WHY is part of me still so hung up on thinking this isn’t the real me, this is what my eating disorder did. If I were at the other end of the spectrum and were considered thinner or underweight and nobody was forcing me to be weight restored, would I still feel the strong desire to be at what is considered a healthy weight? I honestly don’t know.
This double standard is so frustrating and complicated and clearly, I don’t have all of the answers to it. I’m just trying to be someone who talks about it. Who doesn’t listen to the people that say I’m not allowed to feel that way and need to just love my body for what it is because that’s easier said than done. I want to radically accept my body I really do, I will always strive for that. But trying to do that while feeling stuck in a body that is a result of my eating disorder is really difficult. I want to feel completely free from the power of my eating disorder, I’m just not quite sure how to do that.