In praise of the buffer (thoughts on weight ranges)

So the point of a weight range is to identify a healthy weight. Now I have issues with making it a range and not just setting a minimum because why do we set a maximum healthy weight anyways? And is the difference between a minimum and maximum healthy weight really only five or ten pounds because that seems like awfully narrow. If we are at the top of our range are we somehow in danger of weighing too much? But for the moment lets just talk about how we set the number at the bottom end of the range. See I hear people talk about struggling at the bottom of their (or their loved one’s range). Or having been at a healthy weight but losing two lbs and struggling.

PSA alert: If you are two pounds or even five pounds away from a decent into the rabbit hole, you are NOT at a healthy weight. Or maybe I should say it is not a SAFE weight. Just like if you are standing right next to an actual cliff. Sure you are safe at the moment and might stay safe if you stand absolutely still and maybe even if you walk very slowly. But what if you want to run or jump or dance? What if someone bumps into you? What if there is a strong gust of wind or a heavy rain and the cliff erodes a little bit? Most people would agree that standing right next to the cliff is not actually a very good idea. Likewise, being at a weight that is one wobble away from the edge of your eating disorder is NOT safe. A safe weight is being five lbs above five lbs from the edge of the abyss.


Cause here’s the thing. There is no way you are going to go through life without any of that shit happening. You will have to navigate periods of high stress. You will deal with physical illness and injury. And you will lose weight at some point. That is a given whether it be intentional or unintentional, because of a physical stress or an emotional one. And you will need to have enough mental clarity be able to recognize that you are falling and do what it takes to get back to safety.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the single most important factor in avoiding relapse for me has been the buffer I have between my minimum acceptable weight and the weight at which my brain turns to mush. In the past six year I have made two long distance moves to cities where I knew no one other than my partner, worked in high stress jobs, gone back to school, planned a wedding, had a very difficult pregnancy, and survived the first year of motherhood. I have dealt with fluctuations in the intensity of my bipolar symptoms. I have the stomach flu multiple times. I have supported friends and family through their own struggles and difficulties. Hell, in just the last two months I have dealt with (1) having bed bugs in my apartment (2) my car breaking down (3) the loss of a very beloved pet (4) visits with in-laws and my parents (5) my own physical illness and chronic pain issues (6) my toddler being sick for about a month straight (7) applying to and starting graduate school and (8) navigating health insurance issues and finding a new psychiatrist. And that doesn’t include supporting my husband through the stress of his PhD program and, oh yeah, the fact that the our country is going to hell.

And I have struggled. And I have lost some weight. But I have not relapsed and I am in a healthy enough place mentally that I can ask for support and get back to where I need to be. Because even at the bottom of my range I have a buffer against insanity. I know that I am unlikely to be able to pull myself back up if I hit 1XY lbs. And it is a given for me that I will slip at times. So I don’t let myself sit at 1XY + 5. I know I need to be at 1XY +10 so that when I do slip it is down a gentle slope that I can climb back up and not right off a fucking cliff.

And yeah I don’t like it. I am more comfortable with my body at 1XY +5. By society’s standards I “look better” at 1XY +5. But you know what else is more comfortable and looks better? Not fucking around on the edge of a potentially deadly illness.



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