Some of the most common New Year's resolutions are to go to the gym more or eat healthy, usually with the overall goal of losing weight. Almost everyone I interact with knows how I feel about the societal pressures to be skinny. Our culture romanticizes emaciated bodies and equates being thin with being healthy. As someone with a history of an eating disorder and an even longer history of hating my body, I was once also tracking calories and stepping on the scale on the first day of the New Year.
Although I have not intentionally tried to lose weight for a few years (after quite literally almost dying from extreme anorexia), I found myself questioning my priorities when it came time to make another goal for myself last December in 2019.
My relationship with food was not as unhealthy as it once was, but I still found myself avoiding meals if they were "empty calories" and always choosing the healthier option even if I secretly wanted the carb-filled one. I would look at bagels with longing but not eat them because there was something more nutritious on the menu, I'd opt for foods I didn't necessarily want because I thought it was better for me.
In 2020, I decided to make both a physical and mental change.
If I saw something decadent that I wanted but didn't think I needed, I would order it. If I already consumed quite a bit for lunch but still wasn't completely full, I would go for seconds. Of course, I wanted to still get my daily nutrients in, but I didn't want to live my life longing for the forbidden pastry behind the glass.
I was tired of living a life of fear.
Part of me thought that if I finally gave in to all those cravings, I would never be able to stop eating cakes and cookies. I had to learn to have faith in my body and its responses to food, to trust that I would not "lose control."
Once I actually started giving my body what it wanted, I was noticeably happier. I had more energy during the day and I felt genuinely excited to explore foods that I never dared to try.
In the two month period of giving into my body's cravings in 2020, I gained about fifteen pounds.
If you told me a few years ago that I could gain fifteen pounds and be okay with it, I would never have believed you. Even though I wasn't satisfied when I looked in the mirror, I became used to the figure. I was complacent in challenging my eating disorder voice and gaining weight was the step I had to take to change my mindset.
For me and many others who have suffered with an eating disorder, it is imperative to always push yourself. If you don't constantly keep yourself in check, you can easily relapse.
It is exhausting and frustrating, but it is truly life or death.
I will not lie and say I am completely fine with the changes in my thighs. I am not blind to the new stretch marks, I notice the pocket of fat on my stomach that did not used to be there. I have bad body image days where I want to shatter the mirror. In truth, I don't know if I will ever reach a point when I can wake up every single day and love how I look.
But I am trying to understand my changing physique and accept it. I will no longer allow the self-deprecating thoughts to control me when I want to eat a bagel instead of an apple.
I will not mentally punish myself anymore.
Above all, I recognize that I can still improve. I must continue to confront the voice that tells me I am not worthy if I am not skinny. I will never stop being an advocate for people with eating disorders and making sure their voices are heard among the sea of calorie tracking apps and fat-free snacks.
I encourage everyone to educate themselves about the warning signs of eating disorders. Keep in mind that they affect people of all genders, ages, shapes, races, socioeconomic backgrounds. It is not just white women. It is not just teenagers. It is not just those who look "skinny."
If you or someone you know is struggling, please contact the hotline at 800-931-2237.
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