Why is weight gain so hard for someone struggling with Anorexia Nervosa?
When it comes to recovering from anorexia nervosa, weight gain is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome. But what goes through our heads when we know it’s unavoidable in order to recover? In this blog post, first written in twenty nineteen when I was going through the early stages of recovery, I take the time to explore my own issues with weight gain. And why, in a society soaked in diet culture, it can feel like the end of the world.
I can’t understand or cope with myself today. After a week off from therapy, I dragged myself into her office and stepped onto the scales. The number flashed up, my stomach felt sick, I felt dizzy and a distinct fear rose from my feet, right up to my skull.
That little mechanical box holds so much power over me. Its digital numbers scream in my ears and pull me apart from the inside out. They cook on the anorexic fire burning within me.
“Weight gain is necessary for recovery!”
I’ve written about it all before; This is why we hate weight gain, this is why we need it, and this is how we deal with it. But it’s always easier said than done.
In theory, I know how to cope with weight gain. I know why it’s happening and I know its role within the parameters of my recovery. This is not my first rodeo and despite what my mind would have me think, I’m not stupid.
So why can’t I override the anorexic mindset, and replace it with my logical brain?
Here’s the thing; I’ve been living with anorexia, or some form of disordered eating, for over twenty-three years of my life. I overeat, I restrict or I purge. There is no sweet spot just one big psychological mess.
I restrict myself on a daily basis. My metabolism is well and truly broken, and when I go outside that restriction it’s not able to cope. Unlike a healthy person who has never denied their body (there aren’t many of us) my metabolism can’t handle [redacted] calories a day. It can barely handle eating an extra apple, never mind something of more calorific significance.
So I eat the bare minimum to pass myself at the clinic and yet I still gain weight faster than expected. I overshoot! Possibly an anorexic patient’s worst nightmare.
Cue emotional breakdown.
I end up crying more about weight gain than anything else during therapy. So many things spill from my mouth. I’ve barely any support, I’m unbearably lonely, I’m distracting myself by writing, and my family doesn’t get me. On and on until I’m sure the session is over.
But it’s not.
My therapist has some truth bombs to give me, and we discuss the often avoided topic of ‘goal weight.’ Here’s the shocker; It’s higher than I had anticipated. In fact, it’s far higher than I am even remotely comfortable with.
So here I am, trying to sit with this feeling and the knowledge of my inevitable weight. It’s sitting in my stomach like a bag of stones, it’s pulling apart all the hard work I’ve done.
But how do I stop it from dragging me backwards?
Is there anything I can do to stop it from holding me tightly? How can I ask it to leave when I need it’s comfort so badly? And how do you start your life over when it’s constantly falling apart?
I don’t have anything now. I’m unemployed, my grandparents are sick and dying, my parents are grieving, my partner doesn’t get it and I don’t bring this up with my best friends because, why bother? It won’t change anything.
Weight Gain; A Reality Check.
Just because I write about mental health and recovery, does not mean I am in a good place with my own. I have the desire to help others by using my own experiences, and sadly those experiences are often repeated in a cycle for me. This fuels my impostor syndrome and leads me to believe that, because I’m not living my perfect ‘recovering life‘, I have no right to preach.
But mental illness recovery isn’t an easy street.
It’s full of hidden turns, potholes, diversions and life lessons. There are so many forks thrown into the road that the map doesn’t add up anymore, and I’m left standing with a compass that I have no idea how to use.