Because my eating disorder was predicated on starvation and restriction, I knew that when I started eating normally again I would gain weight. I just wasn’t sure how much or when it would stop.
Needless to say, when I stopped eating chia seeds at every meal and started eating normal, regular food (while still eating very clean and healthy), I gained necessary, needed weight. And my stomach felt great, my hair grew like crazy, my nails were stronger, I felt confident and powerful in my workouts, and I didn’t look constantly grey and drawn in the face. I also got some other, more pressing medical concerns figured out, which was fantastic.
And then I gained a little bit more that just feels a bit bleh on my body. And I know how to handle it in a way that is NOT damaging.
Right now I’m in Week 2 of Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer, available on bodybuilding.com, and it’s been a great program so far because it’s been re-teaching me how to lift weights, something I LOVED in college but stepped away from when I wanted to just lean out (read: get as skinny as possible). Now I want to feel strong, so I’ve been lifting and it’s awesome. I’m also eating meat and fish a LOT more now. Don’t worry, I won’t turn into one of those weirdos who eats nothing but chicken all day long, and there’s no way in hell I’ll ever be Paleo, but I do feel a lot better when animal proteins are in my diet. I also won’t lift super heavy, because if I lift too heavy I’ll turn into She-Hulk. It’s just the way my body is built.
Right now, I’m pretty sure I’m in the 140s. A few weeks ago I weighed myself at the gym and it was entirely off, but I’m blaming that on a variety of factors, so I won’t give you guys that number and I don’t look at that as a real number. Right now, I’m probably in the 140s, and that’s probably where I’m going to stay barring illness or I cut out everything yummy ever from my diet. I don’t know what my actual weight is.
A few years ago, my ‘happy weight’ was the 130s. But looking back at photos, I know that still wasn’t the weight for me. Sure, I could maintain that weight when I was eating the things I shouldn’t for my body’s health (gluten and lactose) and working out in ways that weren’t necessarily right for me such TONS of cardio, tons of hot yoga that kept me dehydrated, really small portions, etc.
That happy weight didn’t include nights when I drink lots of wine, eat cookies, and watch HBO with friends. Or order fried food at the casino when I go there for a concert. Or get up on a day after eating chocolate fondue at midnight and go for a long walk instead of trying to burn off all the ‘chocolate calories’. I eat healthfully and super clean with lots of fruits, vegetables, gluten-free grains, and eggs/fish proteins 5-6 days a week, and then I have margaritas and tortilla chips on Cinco de Mayo, dammit.
I’ve been thinking about the kinds of things that go into gaining weight after an eating disorder, and I’m going to just list them for you here.
1. If your eating disorder, like mine, was predicated on restriction and starvation, you are going to shock your body when you start eating normally. Will your body change a lot? Yeah. But think about all the stuff you gain! Strength, mental clarity, shiny hair, a menstrual cycle that doesn’t up and disappear like a Lost storyline…it’s all great stuff you’re getting with those extra lbs.
2. You will mess up.
I went from truly trying to take care of my body to completely falling apart when graduate school and other things in my life happened in October 2011, and there were a few months that I didn’t do the right things for my body. It’s the way of the beast and now I know better. Now I exercise and eat in a way that’s healthy but relatively normal. Well…I don’t know how normal it is to willingly bounce into the gym at 6:30 in the morning to lift heavy things. But hey that’s just how I roll. I have a family that taught me to love exercising hard. Even when I was really overweight I loved being outside and running around and working up a sweat.
3. You are going to have to throw out a lot of stuff. It’s an excuse to BUY NEW STUFF.
You will have pants you won’t fit into anymore. And that’s okay. DO NOT KEEP THEM. Throw them the hell out. If you have them in your closet you’ll be staring at them wondering how much you’ll have to do in order to fit into those pants/skirt/dress again and you won’t, and then you’ll be depressed that you can’t squeeze your newly healthy ass into jeans a Russian pre-teen couldn’t fit into. It will drive you bonkers until you get them out of the house. Think about all the new things you get to buy that will accent your beautiful frame (I’m really, really into dresses and skirts at the moment), and all the clothes you’re donating to contribute to someone else’s closet. Someone’s rolling in J.Crew matchstick jeans right now. Also, those teeny weeny Gap size 2’s I was so proud to squeeze myself into would be too tight if I ate anything bulky. I’d eat a salad and the zipper would squeeze my stomach. For real. I’d rather wear a dress than have to deal with that.
4. The weight you gain may not be all fat.
I know for a fact that I’ve put on muscle as well as fat, which is because I’m actually feeding myself the right things that contribute to a healthy muscle gain. I wasn’t eating any protein even when I was trying to find healthy vegan sources of it, and when I did find some, it wasn’t ever enough. I was constantly feeling like I had to keep eating because I never felt satisfied. Now that I’ve reincorporated animal proteins in my diet, I’m actually seeing results from my lifting and yoga programs. Also, for whatever reason, the weight I’ve gained seems to have gone straight to my ass. Which probably is the best thing ever. Not only because weight gained in your rear and thighs tends to be less dangerous than if you gain visceral weight in your abdomen, but because BADONK.
5. Your ‘happy weight’ might not be the weight you want it to be.
Trust me I’ve had my share of freakouts when my body started changing, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been. Ever. That’s the trump card I throw when I have to throw out those tiny pants.
Because this is a life that is absolutely freaking crazy. Huge, and expansive, and full of things I don’t want to miss out on by feeling like I want to diminish myself into a tiny, fragile weight. I feel strong, and capable, and healthy, and that’s worth everything. Also, I know that the people in my life who love me love me for more than the tag on my pants.
Was my life safer two years ago? More controlled? More allowing of a body frame that is very thin? Of course.
I wouldn’t want that back.