Recovering from an eating disorder, dieting, and disordered eating is a long process. Filled with ups and downs. It’s easy to get stuck in a middle place. Somewhere between sinking back into food/body hell and the side of recovery that feels like freedom. One single mantra helped me finally make the leap from struggle to deep lasting recovery. And it was the truth that: I don’t get to control my weight in recovery.
Say it with me one time:
I don’t get to control my weight in recovery
How does that land? Do you notice reactions rising within your body? If you feel angry, explore that. Do you think you should be able to control your weight? Do you think the ability to control it actually makes you more special? Brings you value as a human being? Maybe you’ve attached your identity to being the person that does always try to control their weight. What if you feel like pursuing weight control brings you worthiness?
If this is the case, please know you’re not alone. Since our birth we’ve grown up in a culture obsessed with weight and body size. We’ve attached body size to worth without even realizing it. If you identify as female, this is even more true for you.
Recovery from dieting and disordered eating requires we come back to ourselves.
We must recognize our inherent value is completely separate from whatever size or shape we are.
Getting to know our values, embracing our unique and quirky personality traits, and embodying who we are as individuals helps us detach our worth as human beings from our weight. Recovery is learning to embrace the truth we’re valuable simply because of our humanity.
Basically, being able to control our body does not make us valuable or worthy. There is so much more to us than the shape of our body.
So say it again with me:
I don’t get to control my weight in recovery
What other feelings come up as you say this truth? Perhaps sadness? Even grief? It may feel like rocks in your stomach. Or a tightening in your throat. Maybe just a dull ache all over your body. Whatever feelings arise, allow them to take up space in your body and just notice them.
It can feel very sad to accept the truth that I don’t get to control my weight in recovery.
I experienced a deep sense of sadness thinking I’d wasted decades of my life trying to control my weight. Considering the amount of time, energy, and money I put towards controlling my body felt overwhelming. The urge to berate myself arose.
Thankfully I understand that mindful self compassion is the only antidote for feelings of guilt and regret. I was always doing the best I could at the time.
Now I understand on a much deeper level what kind of pain happens in my life when I spend all my resources trying to control my body size and food.
So again, say it with me:
I don’t get to control my weight in recovery.
This time, how does the statement land? Do you notice any shock or denial surfacing? Have you caught yourself trying to find a loophole to this statement? Do you think you should be able to control your weight? At least to a certain extent? Again these feelings are common.
Let me ask you this:
Has attempting to control your weight worked in the past?
How has it ended every single time you’ve tried to control your weight? Because here’s the thing. For 95% of people, dieting and restricting cannot be maintained long enough for any lasting weight control.
And for the other 5% (the people who can restrict and keep weight off longer than 5 years), they’re likely living in a very stressful relationship to food and body. Keeping your weight below your body’s natural set point takes an enormous amount of headspace. All of your time, thoughts, and energy must go to what you eat and don’t eat. In my opinion, it is no way to live.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You’re an individual and have the right to do what you want with your body. But just understand:
If you choose to control your weight and food, you CANNOT also have the freedom and flexibility that comes with recovery.
Accepting this truth
Coming to terms with this truth can feel impossible. Sometimes it’s easier to think about this concept in another example. Take the concept of aging. In similar ways to thinness, we’ve learned to attach our worth to how “well” we age.
There are two ways you can approach aging. We can fear it terribly and see it as something that must be warded off every way possible. We can inject our foreheads with chemicals, buy expensive creams, and follow every recommendation of the influencers in an attempt to prevent aging. Maybe temporarily this will give us results we hope for. But the bottom line is, no matter what happens, we are each getting older every single day.
You can’t deny that aging will happen.
Yes, you can fight it. You can spend money on it. And you can worry about it. Living in a place of fear and anxiety about your wrinkles and saggy skin.
Or you can take the second approach. The one of acceptance. Simply accept that our bodies are naturally always changing and evolving and yes, always again. Unless we die. We can have gratitude for our life and accept our faces will look different over the years. And we can get on with our lives.
Simply put- we can spend our lives fighting an aging process that’s coming anyway. Or we can accept it and find ways to enjoy our life the most we can.
In the same way that we can accept we don’t get to control our weight in recovery. And get on with our lives and find enjoyment, connection, and fullfillment through our lives.
The choice ultimately is yours. And the good news is you get to make the choice every single day. At any moment, you can choose differently. If you spent your life up until this moment fighting your body’s natural shape and size, I encourage you to try something new. Try accepting it. And move on with your day.
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