I am so sorry that you’re having such a hard time right now :[
I definitely used to struggle with the “I would rather be thin and miserable than living in a bigger body and miserable” mentality.
That said, as someone who does live in a bigger body than the one I had when I was anorexic, I can promise you that the happiness and inner-peace I feel now is not something I could have found had I continued to pursue thinness.
I know how much you’re hurting right now though :[ I’ve been there and I really do get it. So I have a lot of things to say:
1. The hatred you feel towards your body is not actually about your body.
I know that it can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around when you’re feeling so awful, but the truth is that how you feel about your body has a lot less to do with how much you weight and a lot more to do with how you feel about who you are as a person. Your body becomes the focus, but it’s not the source of the pain you feel.
Whatever is causing you to hurt and hate yourself is the result of some serious underlying issues. For me it was a combination of having an abusive father, emotional neglect from my parents, the pressure to be a perfect student and basketball player, and the belief — taught to me by my parents — that my sensitivity and need for affection made me weak, inadequate, and a burden.
I don’t know what your underlying issues are, but I know that there is more to your pain than simply being unhappy with your weight. And that’s why living in a smaller body will not bring you the peace you’re looking for :[ In order to make peace with your body, you have to make peace with who you are as a person. You have to identify the underlying issues and negative beliefs you have about yourself, challenge them with positive self-loving and accepting truths, talk about your feelings as they come up, and find new ways of coping with the pain you feel that are conducive to your recovery. It’s difficult as hell, but I promise that it is possible. And more than that, I promise that you don’t have to do it alone.
2. The beginning of recovery is really difficult — for everyone.
I still remember going through the re-feeding process when I was in treatment for my anorexia back in 2008. Apart from breaking my addiction to binging and purging, it was probably the most difficult and physically painful thing I’ve ever done. The harsh reality is that the start of recovery is really fucking awful. And there is no getting around that :[
When being “thin” has been a part of your identity for so long and using behaviors has been your only way to cope and survive, it’s terrifying to let go. So know that it’s okay to feel this way. It’s okay to feel angry and frustrated with your body. It’s okay to feel terrified. It’s okay to feel like you’re losing control. It’s okay to hurt and scream and cry. It’s okay to throw a fit on the ground. It’s okay to feel like you want to go back to your lowest weight. It’s all okay and it’s normal.
And more importantly, it won’t last forever. The weight gain and re-feeding is only temporary. It’s so difficult, but it will pass. Just keep reminding yourself of that, again and again. It’s terrifying and painful, but it’s worth it. Your happiness, recovery, and wellbeing are worth it.
3. Try to redefine the weight gain.
Instead of seeing it as losing a body you worked so hard to attain, try to see it as acquiring a new body that will allow you to participate in life. Because the truth is that eating disorders prevent you from truly living. You’re alive, but you aren’t really able to engage in life. You’re numb and withdrawn. You aren’t able to be present and enjoy the moment. You’re time and energy are so consumed by eating disorder thoughts and behaviors that you have no time and energy for friendship, family, love, or fun. You lose everything for the sake of maintaining your thinness. And that is not really living.
Something I often have to remind myself of — because I still have days where I wish I was at a lower weight — is that living in my anorexic body forced me to live a very small life. I was thin, but that was all I had. I lost most of my friends. I lost my ability to play basketball and had to quit my high school team. I barely had any energy to get out of bed in the morning, engage in conversations with my peers, or walk up the stairs to class. My self-hatred and fears surrounding food prevented me from going to fun school activities, hanging out with friends, and connecting with others. I was lonely, withdrawn, depressed, and miserable — never happy, and never at peace with my body.
I live in a bigger body now, but I also have a much bigger life. I have so many more friendships and opportunities to connect with people. I’m at college and taking steps towards becoming a therapist. I’ve found my voice, the confidence to stand up for myself, and the courage to speak my truth. I have the time and energy to do things I’m passionate about and be there for people I love. I’m able to swim at the beach, go to water parks, enjoy myself at holidays and family gatherings that revolve around food, go out to eat with friends, indulge on vacation, and go on adventures without being crippled by food fears and self-hatred. By making peace with the fact that I needed to live in a bigger body, my life has become so much larger, happier, and fulfilling.
Living in a bigger body is going to be scary and uncomfortable in the beginning, and that’s okay. Just keep reminding yourself that by having a bigger body, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to have a bigger life. A life filled with new friends, opportunities, experiences, adventures, passions, energy, and freedom. I know that being thin feels so important right now, but you need to remember all the things you give up when being thin becomes your priority. Because you deserve a bigger life. You deserve to take up space. And more than anything, you deserve to be happy.
4. Start challenging your negative body thoughts
When I was re-feeding my body and had to gain weight, my eating disorder was constantly screaming insults at me. I would fixate on those thoughts and allow them to play on repeat in my head. What has helped me quiet that voice more than anything is talking back to it. It seems silly, and at first, you aren’t going to believe the things you say to counter the negative thoughts, but it’s still really important to challenge them. It’s something I still do when my body image gets bad.
On my road trip this weekend, I was feeling really uncomfortable in my body. Here’s an example of a dialogue I had with my eating disorder voice:
ED: You would be so much prettier and happier if you lost weight.
Healthy voice: Being thin has never made me feel pretty or happy, and neither has listening to you. That aside, it’s not my responsibility to be thin or pretty. I don’t owe that to anyone.
ED: But people will like you better if you’re thinner.
Healthy voice: Anyone who bases my worth as a person off of how much I weigh is not someone I want in my life anyway. I’m valuable and worthwhile, regardless of my weight.
ED: But you are so much bigger than her.
Healthy voice: I’m not going to play the comparison game with you. It goes nowhere and only makes me feel miserable. There will always be someone bigger than me and someone smaller than me. And that’s okay. Other women’s bodies don’t have the power to discount or add to my worth, because my worth isn’t contingent upon my weight or how it compares with other people’s weights. All bodies are good bodies — mine included. So shut up and leave me alone.
These are just some examples, but hopefully they can give you an idea of how to challenge your negative body thoughts as they come up. If you have a difficult time saying nice countering them, try to think of what you would say to a friend who was struggling with the same negative thoughts, and apply those things to yourself.
When you’re sitting with the fullness and discomfort; when you see your body getting bigger and the voice in your head starts screaming at you; you have to breathe. Again and again. Breathe and remind yourself that this is temporary. Remind yourself of all the people who have been in your position and made it through. Breathe and trust that you’re going to make it through too. Remind yourself of all the times you’ve felt this uncomfortable and out of control and terrified, and how each time, you survived. Breathe and trust that you can survive this too.
And most importantly, you have to breathe and remind yourself why you chose recovery in the first place. Because it’s easy to forget, I definitely suggest making your own personalized list of reasons to recover to look at in the moment when you’re struggling.
I know all of this is easier said than done, but as someone who has been there, I promise it’s possible. It takes time though, so be patient with yourself and your process.
In the meantime, here are some other things I’ve written that I think might be able to help:
- How to take care of yourself during a bad body image day
- Coping skills to use in the moment when you’re struggling
- Reasons to be thin and why they aren’t true
Thinking of you and sending a ton of love and positive energy your way,