I’m in recovery from disordered eating. For decades of my life I focused most of my time, energy, and money towards shrinking my body. Yet here I am…. what I feared and attempted to avoid for decades of my life. “Overweight.” At the same time, I’m in recovery. Something I’ve fought for relentlessly.
My body hasn’t changed significantly over the past few days, the past few weeks, or even the past few years. Yet, last time I went to a new doctor for a well visit, she told me I needed to “get my weight under control.”
When doctors basically prescribe disordered eating…
I’m sorry. I spent decades of my life focusing on controlling my weight. It got me nowhere. Except to the hell of living in disordered eating land for years. Fighting my own instincts. Obsessed with restriction. Feeling physically awful. And even worse emotionally and mentally.
No thanks… I’d rather stick a fork in my eye than control my weight.
What does “overweight” even mean?
What does it even mean to be “overweight”? It means when you use an archaic formula derived by a mathematician, astronomer, and statistician in the 19th century (that was never even designed with health in mind) and plug in my height and weight, you get a number that is above 25. Period. It doesn’t mean anything else. BMI is not a valid way to measure health.
Focusing on BMI and even weight is not a good way to identify health. Even setting a target weight in recovery can be extremely harmful.
The real deal with disordered eating
Here’s the deal. During my disordered eating days, my weight cycled. I was not “overweight.” But I was extremely unhealthy. I was ignoring my hunger, pushing through exercise when my body was exhausted. And engaging in other self harm behaviors. I put the rest of my life on hold while I obssessed about my body size.
Finally I stopped spending my life trying to shrink my body and instead started truly living. Now that I’ve healed, my weight is stable. I don’t even know what the number is. But my clothes have fit for years. When medical professionals ask me to step on the scale, I decline. I smashed my own scale with a hammer years ago. (And I highly recommend you do too!)
I’ve been trying to live my life disconnected from my body’s weight and size.
The stigma of “overweight”
I was feeling amazing about my relationship to food and my body. Until the day in the doctor’s office. When she said, “You need to get your weight under control.”
Suddenly the old parts of myself, I thought I’d put to rest, woke up. Not quietly or gradually. But more like when a fire alarm startles you from a deep sleep. My old inner critic screamed angrily at me. “You’ve let yourself go.” “You have taken this recovery thing too far.” “You’re a fraud.”
For a while I walked around feeling like a black cloud covered me. Old doubts and insecurities crept out of the woodwork. Well, more like they came barreling towards me like a speeding train.
The story you tell yourself matters
As I spiraled downward in my thoughts, thankfully the words of body image coach Isabel Foxen Duke rang in my head. Silently willing myself to eat breakfast, I heard the question in my mind, “What is the story you are telling yourself about this situation?
Admitting to myself the current story I was telling was difficult. Shame welled up as I acknowledged the script running in my mind: “I’m fat, I’ve let myself go, and I’m disgusting. I’m a failure of a human being.” No wonder I felt like shit for days.
Desperately wanting relief from the weight of my inner critic, I began considering a new story.
Our stories affect our perception and well being
The responsibility to change our story lies within us. So I began working on a new story. It goes something like this: I’ve fought my way back from disordered eating after struggling for over two decades. I was never healthy emotionally or physically when I was at a lower weight. I wasn’t present in my relationships, and I lost my joy in life.
Finding freedom from food and weight obsessions has been a challenge. It required I get courageous enough to stand up against fatphobia. And to reject the cultural norms because I refuse to continue living in agreement with a false system of beliefs that oppresses so many human beings. Beautiful, amazing, caring, creative, loving, giving, joy-filled humans who just happen to be in bodies over a certain number.
I believe in my heart and soul all humans are worthy of love and acceptance no matter their shape, size, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, or race. And I am one of those humans.
My story continues
After decades of struggling, I ‘ve found freedom from disordered eating. My life is filled with more joy, deeper connections, and authenticity than I ever imagined. This life free from the hell of disordered eating and dieting inspired me to help others on this path.
My new story also recognizes that the problem in that exam room had nothing to do with me. Or my body size. Nope. The problem was the fatphobia in the room. My doctor was just as brainwashed as I had been.
Despite ZERO evidence of any way to lose and keep weight off long term.… my doctor was prescribing just that. Instead of giving me the same treatment she would’ve given a thin person, she blamed me for my slightly elevated labs.
The problem was not me. Or my weight. The problem was this doctor and her own fatphobia.
The truth about my weight and disordered eating
I know, from experience, I cannot safely control my weight to keep it in the range doctors label as “healthy.” Because the moment I start “cutting back” on food, I tread a very slippery slope that leads me to a dark and unhealthy place.
Alternately, the moment I nourish myself freely, my body goes to her natural set point weight. Which happens to be “overweight.”
My overall health cannot be defined by a single number.
It includes my mental health. When I’m listening to my body and caring for her with kindness and compassion, she naturally falls into a range classified as “overweight.” But I’m healthier mentally and arguably physically. At this weight, I can function. I’m able to be mindful and present. And grounded. I find joy in life. At my lowest weight, I didn’t even want to be alive.
By working to accept my body, as she is, I’m standing up to a system that harms people.
I am this size because I have chosen RECOVERY over the thin ideal.
Now I’m a warrior whose career is dedicated to helping others around the world. No longer drowning in disordered eating, I’m more alive than I ever was when starving and harming myself. I’ve found a job that is consistent with my life purpose and I am thriving.