I want to start by saying that despite the title, I will not be sharing my current weight or previous weights or how much I’ve gained throughout recovery in this blog entry. I don’t want anyone comparing, triggering, stressing, judging or opinionating (I know that’s not a word, but I just made it one) about my weight or theirs :)
This past week the dreaded happened….I found out what I currently weigh. I didn't mean for it to happen. It just did. As expected I had a bit of a meltdown and came face to face with relapsing. Now that I have had a few days to reflect on it all I’ve decided to write about it….
I guess I should start by saying that for the past two years I have had ZERO idea of what I weigh. Since the day I started treatment I have always done blind weigh-ins. I walk in, take off my shoes, take off any coats or sweaters, turn around and step on the scale backwards. The nurse then writes it down, quickly moves the pegs from hell back to zero and off I step. No one ever tells me the number. I am weighed weekly by my dietician. These are all blind weigh-ins. Why? Well, that number on the scale is one of ED’s most prized weapons. It’s the one that is pretty deadly and can take me from recovery to relapse in a single moment. When I was actively anorexic I would weigh myself at least 15 times a day. At least. Right when I woke up, before the bathroom, after the bathroom, before the shower, after the shower, before “breakfast,” after “breakfast,” before a work out, after a workout, if I walk by the scale in the hall, you get the idea. The scale is a small torture device that ED uses and dang it if it doesn’t work. So, when I entered treatment, the first thing to go was the scale. I had to break the behavior and cycle of obsessively weighing myself. If there is not scale, I can’t weigh myself. Simple enough.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to being weighed throughout recovery. First, there are the blind weigh-ins like I talked about before, and second, open weigh-ins, aka, they show you your weight every single time you are weighed. Everyone is entitled to their opinion as to what is best, but for me (and most of the people I have met in recovery), seeing our weight go up and up and up is a cruel form of torture as we recover, so I cheer on and support the blind weigh-in camp. Some people can’t stand the idea of not knowing their weight, which is exactly why I also believe in blind weigh-ins in order to break the idea of control. There are many treatment centers and outpatient facilities that force the clients to know their weight, and I have seen first hand people relapse because of it. Why? I said it before, it’s torture. There is such an extreme amount of anxiety attached to being weighed as well as a very deep sense of identity and control when it comes to the number on the scale. Some say that knowing the weight is exposure and thus forcing us to face the anxiety and fear we have towards the weight gain and number on the scale. Personally, I’d rather work on my nutrition and mental state without the extreme anxiety of watching my weight go up THEN find out my weight when I am better able to cope with it and have a stronger sense of self outside of my current poundage.
Also, the number on the scale plays a MAJOR part in hunger cues. If I don’t know the number, I am more inclined to eat what sounds good, a higher calorie meal and listen to hunger and fullness cues then I am if I know the number. If I know the number I immediately start to make food choices based on calories, math and a diet mentality.
Anyway….back to the story….
I don’t want to come across like I am in complete denial. I know I have gained weight. A LOT of weight. You can’t go from eating nothing with a shut down metabolism to eating again and not gain a pound…..I just didn’t know the exact amount or the exact number. I know what size clothes I wear and how I feel but I had not yet had to face the number on the scale or B.S. BMI. Plus I suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, so I just have no clue how I look. I always thought I would just go through recovery, and when I FELT good and back to normal I would find out my weight and laughingly toss it to the side like an arrogant debutant. I didn’t expect to find out my weight in the middle of recovery, at my highest weight, when I am already struggling with relapsing, while sitting alone, at my computer. It was brutal..
Earlier that day I had gone to a new doctor. I have mentioned before that I have had a lot of swelling throughout recovery and it has been really hard to deal with. Lately it has made it even difficult to do my job because I feel waterlogged and exhausted. So, I decided to go get a bunch of tests done to see if anything is going on or if this is just my body still healing from chronic starvation. At the new doctors office all was going well. I had informed them that I am currently recovering from anorexia (which I am sure they couldn’t believe because of my current size) and that I would like to do a blind weigh-in. If they have concerns about my weight they can call my dietician and my current doctor. I met with the doctor, had a long talk and off I went. When I got home I received an email that said, “Notes from your visit at…” Thinking my doctor was trying to send me a note I opened it and right away I was faced with not only my current weight but also the word OBESE. I have never been obese in my entire life and my current weight was a number that was FAR FAR FAR beyond what I ever deemed acceptable for my body. I thought I was going to throw up and I felt like I could barely breathe. My initial thoughts were, “Holy &*#(@*#$&@*$#, how did this happen?!”
ED wanted me to immediately believe that I am this weight because I am eating, not because a starving body has to heal and recover it’s metabolism, hormones, bone density and so on. ED says, if I didn’t start eating again, this wouldn’t have happened. Let me tell you, ED IS CONVINCING, and for a moment there I decided I would never eat again…
There are a few problems with my decision to stop eating after I saw my weight.
1. I’m hungry. When I was anorexic I was never hungry. There is all types of science behind why a person stops feeling hunger cues while anorexic, but now that I’m in recovery and have been eating, I am hungry! Like I get HANGRY…. It no longer feels good to not eat. It feel terrible and I can’t do it.
2. Starving myself will not make it better, it will make it worse. If I decide to restrict again, my body will again go into starvation mode and after losing a little weight, the weight loss will stop. This would leave me not eating and heavier, which is just not an option.
3. I’ve decided to recover and when I set my mind to something I do it, so relapsing is simply not an option.
4. I will die. I was one run away from a heart attack when I entered treatment. I had bone density issues and organ issues and intestinal issues…I mean you name it. I can’t afford to relapse. My body will shut down.
So how did I keep myself from relapsing?
1. The first thing I did was I ate dinner with my sister-in-law. My husband was out with friends and I was over her house to hang out. I knew if I went home alone I would not eat dinner, so I asked if I could eat dinner there. This way I ate at least something with someone I felt comfortable with.
2. I reached out to my support group, a close friend, my bible study leader and some family for support. I shared what had happened and how I was feeling. I asked for prayers against my ED thoughts and against relapse. When I felt weak, they fought for me. They reminded me of my worth, how strong I am, how terrible ED is, how loved I am even at this weight. They encouraged me to keep eating and keep fighting.
3. I was reminded by two of my mentors about what is actually going on with my body. My current weight is a result of chronic starvation, not a result of over eating. This is something very very difficult for me, as well as others that see me, to believe as I recover. I didn’t eat myself to this size, I actually STARVED myself to this size. Sounds backwards, but it’s the truth. How much I have gained actually shows how sick I was! The only problem is ED doesn’t want me to remember this and trust this when these things happen. They also reminded me that if I relapse I will most assuredly die. My body, organs, heart and bones were in bad shape when I started. Relapse is not an option if I want to live and be healthy. They encouraged me to feel my feelings and not stuff them down with starvation. Lastly they encouraged me to write to the doctor and let them know what a mistake they had made. I don’t have to be some irate patient about it, but I can encourage them to seek further training and education on eating disorders and how to manage a patient currently with or recovering from one.
4. I reached out immediately to my therapist and dietician. My therapist reminded me of ways to calm my anxiety down and get my body to get out of panic mode and into a wise mind again. My dietician reminded me that she has known my weight all along and the plan and trajectory has not changed. She challenged me to ask myself what had changed between the day before and the day I found out my weight. The answer is, basically nothing, now I just know the number. The number doesn’t change how much I need to eat or exercise. It doesn’t change my body healing and recovering and it doesn’t change that all the professionals say that over time the weight will go back down if I keep eating.
5. I prayed and looked at my values. I just wrote a blog about how something inside me does what I don’t want it to do and how I know what I need to do but I feel powerless against it. So I prayed that God would help me through this. I confessed that I couldn’t do it on my own, that I was overwhelmed by my situation and that I need his help to get through it. I need a peace that surpasses all understanding and I needed him to fight for me as I stayed still.
6. A friend checked in on me to make sure I was eating. I welcomed the accountability and it was helpful to know someone else was not going to let it slide.
7. I got angry. Sounds a little weird, but after doing all of the above I found myself actually getting MAD at my eating disorder. How dare it make me feel like I don’t deserve to eat because of a number that has nothing to do with my worth and who I am as a person?! Not to mention that this number is temporary and is probably made up of major water retention from healing, muscles, organs, and fat that is currently protecting my body as it heals from the disastrous road that ED led me down. Instead of not wanting to eat I felt empowered to eat because dang it if I let some stupid eating disorder get in my way again. I’ve worked WAY too hard for the past two years to lose it all over a number on the scale. I NEVER want to go through re-feeding again. I never want to feel foggy and terrible and insecure like I did while anorexic. I never want to be a slave to my body image or a diet again. NEVER.
So, I’m eating.
I’m fighting the thoughts.
When I feel like I shouldn’t have a cookie, I have it anyway. (screw you ED)
When I consider restricting, I remember how my body needs fuel to heal.
When that number pops up over and over and over again in my head, I tell it to take a hike, I’m healing here!
ED will eventually learn that it has no place in my mind or life.
I am going to recover.
- Sara -