Today I went to the gym for the first time in seven months. I had an ok workout, and at the end of it I thought I would weigh myself, just out of curiosity since I don’t have a scale at home and I’m totally oblivious to my own heaviness. Turns out, I put on 4kg.
My first reaction was, Well, this explains why I can’t zip up my jeans anymore – a thought shortly followed by: I better run for longer than 20 minutes next time. I immediately felt bad. Why should gaining weight be associated to something negative? Is it ok for me to want to lose weight?
What does it mean to want to lose weight from the perspective of someone who has suffered from an eating disorder?
This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, so today’s episode is the perfect occasion to finally talk about it.
Disclaimer: YOU ARE NOT DEFINED BY YOUR WEIGHT. The number on the scale is not representative of what you are as a person. You are beautiful and worthy regardless of your weight. (Also, I’m not going to talk numbers as I know that it can be triggering, plus everybody is different and the same weight will not look the same on different body types. Also, it doesn’t freaking matter. All I’m going to say is that I am currently 4kg heavier than I was seven months ago.)
If you know me in real life you’ll know that I’m a very short person, and any weight I put on or lose I can feel, and you can see. Now, I’m not too concerned about what I look like so much as how I feel. When I saw that number on the scale, I realised it wasn’t much of a surprise after all: I’ve been feeling that I’d gotten a bit heavier in the past months.
My weight has fluctuated a bit in the first couple of years after recovering from anorexia. I was at my heaviest during my Masters in London, when the majority of my diet consisted of beer and cheese. Back then, I had a nice fat roll around my stomach, a considerable bum, and a chubby round face. Interestingly, that was also the happiest I’ve ever been, as I was surrounded by mega supportive people who couldn't care less about how big my behind was, and it was the perfect environment to be after recovering from an eating disorder. I was also at my fittest: I was playing basketball every day multiple times a day, I could do 93 push-ups in one minute and I would run like the wind. But in spite as being happy and fit as fuck, I knew that was not my ideal body weight. Most importantly, I knew I was eating a terrible, unhealthy diet. When moved back to Italy after graduation, I effortlessly shed all the excess weight just by eating regular meals at regular times (and drastically reducing my consumption of beer and cheese). That was the first time I realised how important it is to eat well. I learned how to fuel my body so it can work at its best, and since then my weight has stayed pretty much the same. I never felt like I wanted to get thinner, if anything I wanted to get fitter in times when I wasn’t exercising enough, but once I reached my natural weight I stopped giving it much though.
Fast-forward to now: I am quite active, I play basketball, do yoga and I have a job that keeps me on my feet all day. However, I have also been eating crap. This is something I’ve been whining about in months: since moving to New Zealand my diet has drastically changed, I went from eating an abundance of fruit and veggies to living off bread and sugary cereals due to the fact that food and produce are quite expensive here. I’m also not drinking enough water and sitting down a lot – which is my own fault. So I’m pretty confident in saying that this time round my four extra kilos are unfortunately not muscles. And on top of storing the crap I’m eating as excess rolls of fat, my skin has also been breaking out pretty badly, and my mood in general has been all over the place.
So, what am I going to do about all this? I’ll be honest with you: I do want to lose weight. But the reason behind it is that it doesn’t feel good. And here is the big difference between wanting to get thinner from an eating disorder’s perspective, and wanting to feel better in your own body from a healthy perspective. When you suffer from anorexia, you don’t see yourself as you truly are. Even if you’re reduced to a bunch of skin and bones, you still see yourself as fat. You think you are horrible, disgusting and unworthy. In fact, you don’t think like that: your eating disorder does. When you recover, you start developing a healthier vision of yourself. You look in the mirror and you see yourself for what you really are. You are able to close your eyes and picture your body exactly how it is in reality, and not a distorted version of it. If you’re gaining or losing weight, this is no longer a matter of life or death, it’s just something that’s happening, it’s your body changing, and you are able to recognise that. You exercise in order to get fit and strong and because you enjoy it, not in order to burn calories or to punish yourself.
And this is where I am now.
Can someone who has suffered from an eating disorder still want to lose weight? Yes. Is it dangerous? Only if done in an unhealthy way. Am I in a safe place to say I want to lose weight? Yes.
However. I’m not going to make losing weight my priority. The reason why I would like to shed these four extra kilos is because I know I am heavier than my natural body weight and I know I feel at my best when I’m a bit leaner and more toned. I’ve never been on a diet and I’m not planning on going on one, if this is what you are worrying about. What I’m going to do is put my health on the top of my priorities. I will focus on only eating fresh, clean food that has a nutritional value (fries don’t, cookies don’t). I will be organised and pack myself a healthy lunch instead of grabbing a pie and a giant cookie at the gas station every day. I will drink more water. I will bring my ass to the gym. All of this I’m going to do because it makes me feel good. This way I know that even if I don’t focus on losing weight per se, I probably will by simply cutting out the junk from my diet, getting my ass moving, and concentrating on my health.
Your body changing is completely natural and ok. You should not be freaked out by putting on some extra kg. However, it’s good to also get know your body and learn what makes it happy. And if you’re reading this and you do have a past with eating disorders, I feel you and I love you and I want you to be in a safe place. You are beautiful and worthy and you deserve to be as healthy and happy as you can possibly be.