When in recovery from an eating disorder, the fear of gaining weight can feel overwhelming.
Part of you may really want to recover and another part of you is trapped in feeling incredibly critical and scared of your changing body.
For many of my clients, this aspect of recovery is immensely confronting.
Some of the comments I have heard in my therapy room about accepting weight gain are:
“I worry my body will never stop growing.”
“These pants used to be too big and now they’re too tight.”
“I’ve used being skinny as a way to feel good about myself for so long, that I don’t know how to feel good in this body.”
“It feels scary to not be in control of my body size.”
“I believe in body positivity and HAES, but I still feel gross in this growing body.”
“I believe in body positivity and HAES, but the rest of society doesn’t and I don’t want to be stigmatised.”
Following are a number of articles and books that address the fear of gaining weight in eating disorder recovery.
3 Practices for Coping with Body Image Distress in Recovery – an article by Sarah Rzemieniak
1. Embrace Your Suffering
“For the first long while in my recovery every time I sat down in tight pants, every time I put on clothes or looked in a mirror or reflective window a feeling of panic would come over me, like I was having a phobic reaction to my changing, gaining body.”
Sarah says, that recovery and gaining weight, is going against what you’ve done for so long. It is a completely new experience. Sarah suggests it can help to understand that many new things feel weird and uncomfortable to begin with, “…my discomfort with my body just meant it was new, not that it was inherently wrong.”
This feeling wont last, Sarah says, it is a part of the recovery journey.
Another powerful practice is to allow yourself to cry.
Crying is a physical and emotional release. In combination with self-compassion, it can be part of your healing process.
2. Start the Gradual Process of Unlearning
• Question your beauty ideals.
• Look at beautiful artworks of women with diverse bodies.
• Expose yourself to positive images and stories of success, large women.
• Cull out social media that actively encourages weight loss and the beauty myth.
• Learn about Health At Every Size® (HAES®) and Intuitive Eating.
3. Don’t Just Tell Yourself, But Experience, How You Are So Much More
• It’s hard to accept the ‘flaws’ in yourself when you feel that is where your worth lies.
• Connect to other aspects of yourself – your soul, heart, higher self. This is the essence of who you are and is bigger than your personality.
• Do things to connect to that part of you – such as meditation, walking in nature, what ever works for you.
This part of you, is the part that will get you through your recovery.
Sarah emphasises the importance of having faith you can get through this. That you can find other ways to feel good about yourself and other ways to cope with your pain.
Sarah Rzemieniak is an Eating Disorder Recovery Coach, at The Eating Disorder Centre.
Yes, Weight Gain Is Hard. Thankfully, We Have 8 Ways To Cope With Weight Gain For You – an article by Demi Chowen, for Recovery Warriors.
“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.”
Demi states that it is important to look at the deeper roots of what caused your eating disorder and that acceptance takes time. Following, Demi suggests some ways to cope.
8 Ways to Cope:
2. Make and share Coping Cards.
3. Buy clothes that fit.
4. Express yourself – draw, write, dance.
5. Be honest with the people you trust (about what you’re going through).
6. Know your reasons to recover.
7. Be mindful of what you look at – don’t look at old photos of yourself, or social media that makes you feel bad.
8. Support yourself (or get support) to stop body checking.
No, Fat Isn’t A Feeling. Here’s How To Find What You’re Really Feeling – an article by Tracy Durkan, for Recovery Warriors.
Tracy suggests using those ‘feeling fat’ moments, to work out what you’re really feeling.
To do this,
F – Find the Function
• What challenges am I dealing with?
• Am I anxious? About what?
A – Access Your Values
• Who am I?
• What do I care about?
• How am I showing up in the world?
• What do I believe in?
• How would my values have me cope at the moment?
T – Take a Pause
• Give yourself some space to slow down – meditation, breathe, phone a friend, journal writing.
Resources for Living with an Imperfect Body – an article by Toni Jackson
To read the full article, click on the link above.
Kick Arse Books on Weight Stigma
• You Have the Right to Remain Fat – Virgie Tovar
• Land Whale – Jes Baker
• The Body is Not an Apology – Sonya Renee Taylor
• Self-Compassion – Kristin Neff
• Tara Brach
• 3 Self Compassion Activities to do when You Feel Unworthy – Toni Jackson
Do you need Eating Disorder or Body Image support in Perth, Western Australia or online?
If you need support with your eating disorder or body image, contact Toni Jackson for enquiries and appointments via the contact form below.
For a free 15 minute phone consultation, to discuss your situation and see how Toni can support you, please phone 0439 995 302.
Toni Jackson is a Psychotherapist, specialising in trauma, body image and eating disorders. She is a Gestalt Therapist, body-centred psychotherapist, creative (art) therapist and HAES practitioner. Toni works in Fremantle and Mundaring, Perth, Western Australia, and also provides online counselling.
Photo credit: Sidney Perry – Unsplash