Content note: This post talks about disordered eating, the fact that I’ve gained weight and the disordered thoughts that this has triggered. It also has loads of pictures of my naked body! If any of that is going to be difficult for you, give this one a miss and look after yourself 💙
Like a lot of people during lockdown, I have gained weight. This is a normal and natural thing that happens to our bodies during times of stress, and I’ve been hella fucking stressed. Moving deeper than that, it’s just a natural thing that happens to our bodies when we put more fuel in than we’re using right now; our bodies store extra energy for later, because they’re clever like that. It’s normal. It’s natural.
It’s not the end of the world.
I’ve gained weight because I’ve been exercising less and maybe eating a little more. That’s okay. Even though this weight gain has coincided with the coronavirus pandemic, which feels like the end of the world, my weight gain is entirely neutral. It’s just a thing that happens, like time passing or rain falling.
It’s not the end of the world.
I don’t know whether I can call myself a recovered anorexic, because my, um, anorexic brain always insists that I never got skinny enough to have “real” anorexia. My periods stopped for a little while, and people told me I looked unhealthy, and I was definitely exhibiting the behaviours of an anorexic person… and yet, of course, my brain insists that I wasn’t ill enough, because anorexia makes you push yourself beyond every limit in front of you. All I can say with authority is that I’ve been to a lot of therapy about the eating disorder I supposedly don’t have, and I’ve picked some stuff up. Like: our value as people has literally no relation to the size we are. Like: I probably want to control my weight because it’s the only goddamn thing I can control.
Like: it’s not the end of the world if I’ve gained weight.
I keep telling myself that. Nothing has changed as a result of me gaining weight except that some of my clothes don’t fit me. Downing Street hasn’t exploded. The White House is not burning. My support network still loves me. Right?
It’s one thing to recite to yourself things you brought home from therapy, and quite another to actually believe them. To me, my weight gain doesn’t say, “You put more food in your body than you currently need to use, so your body stored it for later,” in the entirely neutral tone that a therapist might use. Instead, it says – my anorexic brain says – “You have lost control of the world around you. Your body is morally wrong, and you don’t deserve to feel comfortable in it.” And that activates my fight-or-flight reflex.
The thing is, it gets tiring, being in fight-or-flight mode about your own body. I’m sick of looking at my own body and seeing the enemy. I’m sick of putting on clothes that are a little tighter than they used to be and having to talk myself out of disordered behaviours. I’m sick of feeling the world end every time my tummy folds in places it didn’t used to.
Anorexia and disorders like it make you believe that you don’t deserve food. You don’t deserve to be nourished, to be safe, to exercise your human rights, because your body is morally wrong. You are taking up too much space. You are ruining everything.
Except: you’re not ruining anything. It’s not the end of the world.
Being convinced that I deserve nothing, and especially not something as fundamental as food, makes me reluctant to ask for things. But right now, in this moment, I think I need to ask y’all for support. I need to ask for reassurance. I need to ask for compliments on my new, marginally bigger body.
I need you to tell me that it’s not the end of the world.