- Sara Mann
The Overshoot Plateau.
Happy Saturday everyone!
This past week seemed to go by at the pace of a snail!
*******I want to start by giving a trigger warning! This blog will be talking about overshooting and weight loss and I use numbers.
If these subjects cause you to be triggered, I suggest you take care of yourself and pass on todays blog!
I’ve had a lot of readers ask about my overshoot and I want to address it over the next few weeks,
but also don’t want to cause others to stumble! When it comes to recovery, take care of yourself first!*****
Today I will continue sharing my journey of overshooting in recovery! If you are sick of this topic, sorry! I will be done with it in a few weeks, :) promise!
Last week I shared how much I overshot and my gaining experience. This week I’m going to talk about the years when my body had gained the weight and just kind of stayed there. I like to say this is the time I was living in Satans’ butt-crack. Yep, you read that right! Can you think of a worse place to be? I can’t!
You may have thought that overshooting by 80lbs would be the hardest part. For me, it wasn’t. While that was horrific, it was this period of time, a little over two years, that I felt stuck in a body that did not feel like my own. I was heavy, swollen, hungry, anxious and lost.
It was like groundhog day. I would wake up and within three minutes remember I was overweight, and then proceed to have anxiety and panic attacks all day. I would do all the CBT and DBT skills you can think of. I would rest, I would cry, I would go to my therapist and dietician. Then I would go to bed, just to do it all over again the next morning.
For two years that is basically how I lived life. My poor husband could not help me in any way. He would just have to watch me lay in bed and cry over and over again as I mourned my body, my circumstance and my feelings of being stuck.
To say I was depressed would be an understatement. I don’t want to get into it too much this blog, but I was extremely suicidal. I had suicidal ideations almost every single day. I thought life and my body would NEVER get better so why would life be worth living like this?
It was VERY VERY VERY (you get the idea) hard not to relapse during this period of recovery. I did have small slip ups of restriction here and there, but by God’s grace and honestly only by the strength He gave me and the support He gave me through my team, friends and family did I not fully relapse and was able to keep going.
I opted out of pretty much everything. Family parties, weddings, going to fun restaurants and I completely stopped traveling for fun. My husband and I used to go to Europe every summer. I refused because I was so depressed and felt like I couldn’t travel in the body I had at the time.
I always said I would do things again when, “I’m back to my normal weight.” When I’m back to my normal weight I’ll wear a bathing suit. When I’m back to my normal weight I’ll travel again. When I’m back to my normal weight I’ll be happier.
That hard part about saying, “When I’m back to my normal weight I’ll....., is that my weight at the moment was going nowhere! There was no end in site. So I just continued to be depressed, miss out on everything and sit in self-hatred. I didn’t look like myself. I didn’t feel like myself. I HATED myself.
No matter how or what I tried I couldn’t get these thoughts to get out of my head......
“Will I ever lose this overshoot weight?”
“Will I keep gaining forever?!”
“Will my body ever work normally again?”
“Why won’t my weight go back down?”
"Am I stuck like this?!"
My eating disorders answer to all of these questions was always negative. It convinced me that I will NEVER lose the overshoot weight. That I will have to diet and restrict to feel happy and get my body back to normal. That I had damaged my body so bad from previous starvation that it will in fact never work again and yes, I will be stuck like this forever.
I would sit in my therapists office and sob. I asked questions there just weren’t answers to at the moment. No one could tell me when it would come off or why I had gained so much, but they helped me every day to overcome my eating disorder thoughts and make the choice to keep going and trust the process. There were days that I just chose to do what I was told to do because I couldn’t find the reason to live or fight for health anymore myself. Those were the days that I know God carried me when I couldn't walk myself.
My weight eventually evened out on my body. I still had a bigger “stomach area” because of the gain, but now I looked a little bit more proportional. This was triggering. At least when I looked pregnant and swollen people could tell something was wrong! Now I just looked overweight and felt a huge amount of shame when I stepped outside my front door.
The swelling still wouldn’t stop. I continued to have to lay down a LOT. If I needed to go somewhere in the evening I would have to spend hours in bed during the day so I wasn’t too swollen at night. If I did something in the morning, I would be so swollen that I couldn’t do anything that evening.
I yelled at God all the time.
I know. I’m a Christian, I’m suppose to love God. I’ll be honest though, there were times I sat down and just went OFF on Him. How could He lead me to recover and then leave me overweight, swollen, in pain and like THIS?!?! There were times I thought I would lose my faith because I didn’t think a good God would let a person go through this much pain. I knew this pain was a consequence to years of starvation and beating my body up on the road, but for some reason I wanted God to wave His hand over me and make it all better. I didn’t want to go THROUGH this....I wanted it to END. Like yesterday.
I was filled with constant confusion as to what my body was doing. I had read all of the things and everyone said, keep eating and resting, DO NOT RESTRICT, and it will go back down in a month or two. Ya, well at two years and the weight not going back down I wanted to slap those articles and pretty much anyone who said that to me. I thought my body was different. My situation was different. I was convinced I was going to be the one person that never fully recovered, overshot and was now stuck that way.
This confusion led to many little relapses. Thankfully none of them stuck. My eating disorder would confuse me and convince me that if I ate less my weight would go back down. (I mean how many people have heard, calories in, calories out?!?!) I fell for this many many times. Let me tell you, it did not work. (another blog for another time, but please know our bodies are SO much more intricate and well designed then a simple calories in calories out mentality, don’t believe the hype..) In fact, every time I believed that evil thought, I would restrict and then GAIN more weight. My body was having none of that restriction. It would think I was starving again and then BAM, gained another pound. It was eat a lot and wait, or relapse and gain. It was draining and scary.
Meanwhile, the entire U.S. of A. decides to start Whole 30. Closely followed by the Keto diet. Let me tell you, there is a special place in hell for the diet industry. Selling everyone lies about “health,” “cleanses,” and “diets,” to make us thin. Diets that are nothing more tan short term excessive restriction. Trust me. I was anorexic, the queen of restriction and cleansing. Eventually the body adjusts and slows down and you get screwed. Just speaking truth here to anyone who needs that little reminder! (even myself sometimes!)
I’ll step off my soapbox now....
It WAS very hard to continue to eat in recovery, while being overweight, and watching people do whole 30 and keto, or whatever their version of “clean eating” was. ("I don't eat sugar," was another one.....ugh) I had to REALLY trust this process and stick to my values during this time. I reminded myself almost every day where restriction had gotten me, Satan’s butt-crack. Fool me once diet industry, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I was not going back to where I once was. Thankfully I had a recovery support group and amazing team that spoke truth into me anytime I doubted the process and thought cutting out carbs was a great idea for my body.
As I just mentioned, eating while stuck in the overshoot plateau was very hard. I couldn’t do it intuitively because I hated my body so much I would relapse. I tried it, it didn’t work. I just felt shame about everything I put in my body. I questioned every morsel. I eventually went back on a meal plan because my new dietician said I wasn’t eating enough again. Can you imagine? I overshot by 80 pounds and was being told to eat more?!?!?! WTH?! I think after being anorexic for so long it was and is easy for me to just slip back into not eating. It was my norm for a really long time, and here I was trying to create a new norm while being mentally attacked and physically drained.
I had to lean on FACTS to get through it.....here are some that helped....
I had no choice. When I ate less I gained. If I kept restricting my body would shut down and I would die and getting half way through recovery was not going to be how I go out.
My body needed fuel to heal. Remember my roof example in my last blog? My body can’t heal if I’m giving it just what it needs to function. It needs MORE, so it can function AND heal.
When I ate more, I actually did not gain anymore weight. It was weird and backwards, but it was the truth.
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (also the verse that inspired my blog name!!) I am a strong woman and God did not bring me to this point to fail. I committed to finding freedom from this and dang it I was going to do it while fixing my eyes towards a further goal!!
So I did it. Every meal. Every day. I reminded myself of these things, and I ate my meal plan, rested and hoped to God this would work.
The judgement from others was at an all time high during my time in the butt-crack. I would get comments like, “Don’t you think you are eating too much?” “Maybe you should start to exercise more?!” “You just need to get up and get moving!!” “You’re face is getting really full.” (because saying fat would be less rude???)
One of my breaking points was when I went to Safeway (at the time I lived in D.C.) to buy some wine because I was finally going to leave my house and be social. I hadn’t gotten a new ID and I already had anxiety anytime I went anywhere because I didn’t feel like I looked like myself. When I got carded for the wine, I kid you not, the clerk looked at me and said, “Nope, thats not you.....” She started laughing at me like I was some dumb young kid trying to use someone else's I.D. I wanted to die. My eating disorder immediately triggered and was saying, “See, you are so fat someone can’t even recognize you.” I cried in the car for 25 minutes before my eyes were clear enough to drive home. Don’t worry though, I still got the wine :)
People are brutal. Why does gaining weight have to be met with such disgust? Why would anyone want to recover from anorexia in a society where being anything other then “fit” is frowned upon? How can we possibly heal and gain how we need to while people act like being overweight is a moral sin that deems attention and immediate change.
Ummmmmm......I’m going to stop myself from another soap box moment :)
Alright, so the question is how did I get through those 2+ years of just sitting on the top of my highest weight mountain?
Something my sister once told me helped a lot! (Thanks Rach!) When you break your ankle, it happens in a second, yet it takes months to heal. When you get a paper-cut, it literally happens so fast, but a week later your finger still has a little pain if you touch something. I was anorexic for seven full years. On top of that I exercised myself into oblivion. Why I thought my body would heal in a year or two is almost laughable looking back at it! I finally had to accept that it would take me a long time to recover. I needed to give my body time and space to heal and trying to rush it or force it wouldn’t work.
I had to change perspectives.
Instead of calling my body fat I would try (key word try) to say it was healing. My sister (Hey Ab!) would constantly call me out if I said anything negative about my healing body. If I said I was gross, I would hear, “ THREE NICE THINGS!!!!!” and she would force me to say three nice things about myself instead. Eventually I started to believe these things and realized there was more to me then my healing overshoot gain.
I had people I could trust to be honest with me. My other sister, (GEEGE!!!) would speak truth into me non-stop. I would call, tell her what I ate and she would reassure me I was normal, keep going.
I had a team that wouldn't let me fail. They kept at me and guided me through this awful stage of recovery. If you don't have a team....get one! I know its expensive, but we are talking about life and death here and there are so many non-profits that help people like us!
I threw myself into service. I didn’t like being social because it was just too dang hard at the time, but serving others gave me purpose. I continued to work with our youth group (they all knew my story and circumstance) and it was the one thing that got me out of the house, swollen or not. I was asked to go on a missions trip to Guatemala during this time. I don’t know why, but I said yes! I was swollen the whole time and wore mens t-shirts and leggings, but it was life-altering. We led a VBS in Guatemala one day and let me tell you, you can’t teach little kids that God is in that burning fire with Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego (Read Chapter 3 in the book of Daniel in the Bible) without applying it to your own situation. I was in the middle of walking through a fire. Healing was hard. Overshooting was worse then hard. But I knew God was with me and look, God was using me in Guatemala, overshoot, swelling and all! Looking at these kids who had WAY less then I did, reminded me how grateful I was to be alive and healing, even if I was a bit thicker :)
I started hiking! I was not allowed to run anymore, and to be real, I couldn’t anyway. I had gained weight and lost muscle. Walking was the pace my body could handle. Going to the gym was too triggering and I was under very strict orders as to how and how much I was allowed to exercise. Hiking was great because only an hour outside of DC you can find gorgeous hikes in the Shenandoah National Park. (Not to mention amazing wineries too!) Hiking was great because you are just walking, slowly, up a hill. There is no competition. You got to the top when you got to the top, and usually the top was BEAUTIFUL! Hiking was outside in nature with no mirrors and no judgement. I fell in love with it and still do it a LOT to this day!
Ok, another blog that is getting way too long! Sorry!
I’ll leave you with this....
While overshooting and plateauing was one of the hardest parts of my recovery I wouldn’t go back and change it if I could.
I know...crazy! This proves to you that REAL recovery has happened in my life.
Honestly, those two plus years gave me time to find myself outside of my eating disorder and weight. I found that even though I was 80 pounds overweight, people still liked me! I could serve God in another COUNTRY! I could still take gorgeous photos for my clients. I could mentor high school girls and teach them their worth using the failures of my past. I could still play keys and worship in church. I could take an ugly 60s house and turn it into something beautiful. I had so much more to offer then my weight.
As my body sat at it’s highest, I was able to dig in DEEP at each therapy session. Why did I become anorexic? How can I reframe my thoughts and fight my triggers? How can I respond to anxiety or hurtful people without restricting food or running off the emotions? How can I practice acceptance during this time and love myself? I fought to look at food and bodies differently. I grew in compassion and self-care. I learned how to extend myself grace and through therapy I was able to forgive others that had caused me pain and even forgive myself for going down the road of anorexia.
I spent hours with God. Yes, sometimes telling Him off, but others times soaking in the unconditional love He had for me. He was not going to stop chasing me until I was free from the control of my anorexia. If you are looking for a study I strongly recommend “Hosea, Unchanging Love Changes Everything.” By Jennifer Rothschild. I found my worth again in that study.
If you are in this tricky time where you have overshot in recovery and your weight hasn’t gone down yet, LEAN IN. Do the work. Renew and reframe the mind. Find yourself again. Do things you love. Challenge yourself. Get out there. Keep. Eating. Your. Meal Plan. It is worth it, I promise. God thinks you are awesome and has a life for you that is full of joy!
My next blog will be about losing the overshoot weight! Do I have to watch what I eat? Do I work out a lot? Is the weight just coming off like the articles promised?! Was my eating disorder right and I've just been stuck in the butt-crack?
aaaaaand as always during my overshoot blogs I want to say these few things....
1. This is MY story. I said it in my last blog and I’m going to say it again. My recovery is not your recovery. Yes, I was stuck at my highest weight for over two years. That does not mean you will be too! Lets support one another as we go through it. Let’s reframe how we view it, not as being fat and gross, but as healing and learning! Yes, it is VERY hard and if you are going through it right now, I FEEL YOUR PAIN! Keep going anyway!
2. This blog may have placed a lot of fear in your mind about recovery so I want to reassure you and give you hope and strength to keep going. Spoiler alert!!!! My body IS losing the overshoot weight. I’ve already lost almost half of it. I will blog about that in the coming weeks. It is a long and painful process but it is 100% worth it.
p.s. again, I ask for prayer for myself and my readers as I blog about my overshoot experience. This is a VERY triggering subject for those in recovery or contemplating recovery. My intentions are to share my story with the hope that it encourages others to keep going and fully recover to live fulfilling lives free from an ED, NOT to trigger them. I’m praying for each person that reads this blog too. If you need support or want to chat, just message me! I’d love to talk to you! If you have any questions about what I wrote or my overshoot experience, send them my way! I’m happy to answer them!!
2 Corinthians 4:16-18