Trigger warning: weight and bmi numbers
My slip into restricting a couple of months ago was triggered by seeing my weight for the first time in nearly a year. It was ten pounds higher than it had been the year before. And I was horrified. Mortified. Humiliated. Furious. And really really really confused. It had been two years since I stopped binging and purging and I had gained 30lbs – 20 in my first year of recovery and another 10 in my second year of recovery. And I was really fucking pissed off. Even the first twenty was seven more than the BMI 20 I had set as a target and five more than the target my nutritionist suggested. So that was hard enough. But to have gained even more? I was devastated. I thought I must be over-eating. That was the only way this could have happened right? So I cut back. But cutting back meant not eating when I was hungry or stopping before I was full and before I knew it I was completely overwhelmed with ED thoughts.
I managed to get back on track and ED has quieted down significantly (although still louder than before I slipped). But my feelings about my weight haven’t really changed. I am mortified, pissed off, confused. If I haven’t been overeating why oh why did my weight go up (I should mention that my weight had been stable at 10lbs less than my current weight for about eight months before I stopped weighing myself)? If I am eating when I am hungry, stopping when I am full, and leading a fairly active lifestyle (chasing babies and puppies but no formal exercise other than weekly soccer game) and this is where my weight has landed, does that mean this is where my body wants to be? In my most rational moments I can see that that might make sense. But most of the time I feel like that can’t be right and I clearly did recovery wrong to get to this weight.
I stopped binging and purging in october 2009 and for a long time I pinpointed that as my recovery start date so it seemed ridiculous for my weight not to have stabilized a year later. But if I am honest, I did not stop restricting and overexercising for many months after that and I did not really relax into “normal” eating until close to a year later. So maybe my body wasn’t done restoring weight at current weight minus ten lbs. Maybe it just hung out there for a while doing internal repairs and dealing with a raging metabolism and I (and my nutritionist) just assumed it was done.
See when I started gaining weight I set myself a target of BMI 20 because I read somewhere that that was the healthy minimum. It seemed so pro-recovery at the time because in previous recovery attempts I had set my target even lower. And when I read genetic set points I looked at my mom and my sisters and my mom’s sisters and they are all really thin people so the helathy minimum seemed like enough. Of course, I conveniently left out that part where my mom and one of her sisters had (have) diagnosable EDs and that my older sister has disordered eating and my younger sister is, well, younger and also a serious athlete. So maybe not the best points of reference.
Gaining to BMI 21.something was really hard but eventually I did come to accept it. It was like I all of a sudden remembered what the word minimum meant. Besides I had reached a BMI 20 in my previous recovery attempt and had relapsed so maybe that extra little cushion wasn’t such a bad idea. My BDD raged about my appearance but mentally I could handle the numbers. Plus I thought I was done gaining weight and there was a comfort in that – in just getting used to that weight as opposed to panicking about getting even bigger.
And then – about three months ago – I got on that scale and discovered that actually I had gained ten more pounds putting me at a BMI of 23 (holy crap putting that out there in the world is really really scary – no one but me knows my weight – trying not to panic – deep breathes). And OMG that meant that I was closer to an overweight BMI than an underweight BMI and clearly that was NOT OKAY (even though I know BMI is total crap and even if it wasn’t being slightly above the middle of the healthy range should not be a crisis).
So I am trying to come to terms with it. And not doing a great job. I thought about getting my childhood growth charts because I thought if I had proof that this was where my body wanted to be it would be easier. I scratched that idea after my boyfriend asked me what I would do if my charts indicated something else. He said that I should stop trying to “justify” weighing this much. That it is fundamentally OK. That I am physically healthy (mostly) and mentally healthy (mostly) and that if I need justification that should be good enough. Have I mentioned that I love this guy?
The idea that I had gained more than I needed to to be physically healthy was really bothering me but what good would it have been to be at a lower but physically healthy weight if I could not maintain it because my mind was still sick? And maybe I did overeat somewhat at some point to get to this weight (I went through a period of being very scared of being hungry because I was so terrified of relapsing again). But I am not overeating now. Or maybe my set point is higher that it would have been if my ED had not put my body through years of abuse. Who knows. Does it even matter how I got here?
Could I be physically healthy at a lower weight? Yes. Could I be mentally healthy at a lower weight? Maybe. Can I stay physically and mentally healthy if I put myself into a negative energy balance to reduce my weight? Absolutely not.
So as much as I am struggling with accepting my weight and BMI numbers, and as much as I hate my physical appearance right now, I am determined to tolerate them. Because you know what? I hate ED more.