Community Magazine

Losing Weight in Eating Disorder Recovery

By Amanda Bruce @RecoveryisCake

IMG_1628A size 10.  The double digits blink back at me like an ugly, secret line I swore I’d never cross.   The glare from the department store does nothing to hide the stray eyebrow hairs, the zits, the muscle mass in my butt that refuses to form despite my ability to do hundreds of squats in a half an hour.

I am comfy, though.  Not the same tense feeling when I squeeze into a size 8.

There was a time when I was a size 0.   When I’m in moods like this, it’s hard to remember I was miserable then.  I skipped eating with friends to restrict my food.  I had no spine and couldn’t tell people no.  It was as if I actually had to gain weight to ground me, to make me sturdy enough to stand up to injustice and narcissism and men who told me to smile.

When I went to treatment, they told me the number on the scale didn’t matter, that “my body would tell me where it wanted to be.”

But they didn’t account for middle age.


Middle age in recovery has thrown me for a huge, stranded loop.  Treatment told me to exercise when my body wanted to; doctors tell me at my age to exercise 5-6 times a week, alternating resistance training with cardio.  Treatment told me to eat whatever I wanted, and being 38 has dealt me a waist with three added inches when I eat past 6.

Recovery in middle age is a paradox.  I am more in shape than I have ever been in my entire life.  Last spring I ran 11 miles straight for the first time in my life, and my shoulders are beginning to look badass thanks to some guy named Reinere on PopSugar fitness.  I eat five different colored fruits and vegetables a day, and I don’t typically stuff myself.  But despite doing what I’m supposed to, my weight continues to rise slowly, and my waist is out of proportion with the rest of my body.

Middle age loves not giving a fuck, or at least less.  And it loves comfort.  But this can intersect with needing to change habits and behaviors.  And needing to change habits and behaviors to an age-appropriate fashion can intersect with eating disorder recovery.  It’s a vicious circle.

Not to mention the way the eating disorder field, or well-meaning supports, views someone in recovery attempting to lose weight.  It’s a damn taboo!  For years, I’ve felt like if I’ve wanted to alter my body in any way someone would rush in and say, “Oh my god, you’re perfect.  You’re not going to lose weight again, are you?”  Their caring comments reinforced the very black and white thinking that spurned my eating disorder.  It kicked up shame about my behaviors and turned my head away from my body again, making it invisible.  Don’t think about it, I told myself.

But part of recovery is thinking about it, it’s being able to face your body and see it for what it is and give it what it needs.  And I’ve wondered sometimes if losing 10 pounds, and JUST 10 pounds, would be what it needs.  But losing it in a way that doesn’t involve scales and numbers.  Losing it in a way that includes different kinds of foods instead of cutting some out. Because I also know that when I get too out of my comfort zone, I resort to all-or-nothing thinking and behaviors.

I have eaten enough ketchup and pickle diets (yes, when I was sick I was really sick) to want to spend the rest of my life enjoying the foods I love.  But I’ve also spent a childhood at a weight not comfortable for my body, and I don’t want to return to that either.  And my life is more gray than the black and white of both extremities.

Part of how this will go is still a mystery to me, a group of actions foreign to my natural makeup.  But I suppose it will involve not attaching moral value to food, which I still do in minor ways (“I have a hard job so I DESERVE this!”).  It will involve refining the way I listen to my appetite and listening to the nuances of fullness.  It will probably involve being willing to reduce my stress level, which is the hardest, to be honest.

Because the old tricks simply just don’t work anymore.

What are your thoughts on losing weight in eating disorder recovery?

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