I remember finding fat, cellulite, and stretch marks on my body during recovery. Dealing with weight gain wasn’t easy. My healthy, beautiful recovery body had knocked me down to the floor in an ocean of tears, fear, and utter disaster.
At this stage of recovery, the word “okay” became my flicker of light. I realized I needed to be blunt with myself in order to accept myself.
Rather than looking in the mirror and saying, “my body is so beautiful,” it is often more helpful to face the mirror and say, “I have a beautiful mind, heart, and spirit. And I’m okay the way I am.”
Sometimes we simply need to back away from the idea that our body is what makes us beautiful.
Of course, you have to get to the deeper root of your issues. Just saying this won’t fix everything- but it’s a start.
Once you understand some of the deeper roots to your body image distress and have had practice combatting your eating disorder’s thoughts, the ability to begin the acceptance process will come.
It takes time
But really, acceptance comes with time.
As time moved on for me, I found the strength inside to look in the mirror and say “okay.”
My eating disorder did not think my body was okay, of course, but this was a matter of me deciding I no longer wanted to be held down by denial.
So, I poured positive affirmations all over my body. My bathroom mirror became home to positive notes from my friends in treatment, and sooner or later I found moments I really did mean it when I said “okay.” The feeling of “okay” is beyond words. It is the waves settling, the deep exhale, the warm embrace of your own self, and stillness of a formally raging ocean.
To this day, 16 months into recovery, I scarcely feel at total peace with this body of mine. Weight gain has been a hard part of the process. But I can say with confidence that I feel far less disgust and loathing on a regular basis.
Day by day- this journey of recovery will turn your house (your body) into your home.
I have not yet arrived in a place of total acceptance, and quite frankly I wouldn’t wish immediate acceptance on myself. I have gained great amounts of strength through my weaknesses and therefore, I will honor my struggle by continuing to fight. You probably won’t immediately awake one day to a body you love and wish to embrace.
However, there will be days you can respect and admire your body. It is the vessel from which you view life, so begin treating it that way.
Here are some examples of ways you can remind yourself to respect your body regardless of its weight:
- It’s normal for your tummy to bulge after meals – it’s digesting your food. Thank it.
- Thighs just squish into a chair when you sit down. No big deal, they’re just getting comfortable. Thank them.
- Not having “perfectly toned” arms is fine. Your body’s fat is there to protect you. Thank it.
- It’s normal to have a butt. Why not embrace your booty being itself? Thank it.
- Not having a “thigh gap” is perfectly okay. Our bodies need to be at the weight they please. Your thighs help you walk and jump and keep you alive. Thank them.
- Periods are normal and a sign that you’re healthy. You need those cramps, hormones, and cravings to have children. Thank them.
Treat yourself as if you were a child. If it helps, keep a picture of the young, innocent you (who is still inside of you) and when urges are high ask, “would I do this to that child?”
8 practical ways to deal with weight gain
As I’ve said, accepting your body as it changes during recovery is hard. It probably won’t happen overnight, and it probably won’t be easy. However, there are some things that can help the process along. Here are 8 practical ways to handle weight gain.
1. Use affirmations
Get lit with those positive affirmations!
If you can’t think of any, doing a quick Google search can help. You can be as creative as you want, or as simple as you want. If you have time and want to use your creativity, try painting pieces of paper before writing your positive affirmations. Or, simply write them on notecards or post-it notes. Have fun posting them in places you’ll see them often!
2. Share the love
Make and exchange “coping cards” with kind messages on them with recovery friends. (This was an activity I did in art therapy.)
As with the affirmations, place your notes on mirrors, in journals, at tables, or wherever you find them useful. If you do not know anyone else in recovery, join a support group, and discuss the emotional aspects of this struggle.
3. Get new clothes
When you’re ready, buy clothes you feel comfortable in to express your personality and sense of fashion.
Buy clothes that fit you in a way you feel comfortable. I think it’s best to avoid buying extremely oversized clothes in an attempt to cover yourself up or buying smaller clothes with the intent of losing weight. Really try to buy what truly fits. Going shopping with someone can be helpful with this.
(Of course, be honest with yourself and know your limits. If wearing fitted jeans will risk you being unable to finish a meal, put your health first and wear something comfortable.)
4. Express yourself
Sing, draw, write, dance, act… do whatever you enjoy doing (or discover something new!) that allows you to express yourself and your emotions in a healthy way.
5. Work on honesty
If you were away from school or work for treatment tell people who are close to you what’s going on. Even if you weren’t away for treatment, it’s still helpful to tell people close to you about your recovery.
Being open about your recovery can reduce triggering comments, release shame, help hold you accountable for your recovery, and empower you.
6. Know your “reasons to recover”
Get a piece of paper and write a list of reasons to recover.
Don’t try to do this mentally or even on your phone or computer. Make an actual handwritten list. Really think through these. Keep the list somewhere you can refer to it often and revisit it in moments of doubt.
Feel free to make it a running list as well! You can never have too many reasons to recover.
7. Be mindful of what you’re looking at
DO NOT look at triggering photos (including old pictures of yourself in the eating disorder). If you do engage in this, be sure it is with a therapist for exposure therapy.
Also, consider what you’re looking at on social media. If people you follow trigger you (food-wise or body-wise) delete them. Be brutally honest with yourself on this one.
You and your well being have to come first.
8. Eliminate body checking
Work with your therapist to eliminate body checking. Constantly body-checking won’t help you reach a place of body acceptance.
Acceptance will not come right away. So keep telling yourself “okay, this is now my body and my new home” until you really mean it. After all, it’s the only one you have and it’s the only one you’ll receive a chance to love.
One day you will feel okay with your body and one day you will love your body.
Until then, trust the process of recovery. It knows what it’s doing.
(Last Updated: August 19, 2022)