Healthy Body, Healthy Mind?

It happened.

This week I officially reached my target weight. After six months of watching the scale climb and climb, I can finally start to see that number settle.

So that’s it, I am, for the first time in over a year, a healthy weight, and the heaviest I have been for a very long time. Healthy body, healthy mind, right? If only, if only that was how it worked. In some ways, the point I am at now is the hardest, and I’m lucky that my day patient team and therapist have validated that because I often feel frustrated with myself that my brain is still so far behind my body. The way they described it is that in many ways I have been on autopilot throughout this refeeding process, just eating mechanically at the times prescribed to me, while trying to keep myself afloat. Now that cognitively I can function, I have started to actually work on the reasons why I have anorexia and why I keep coming back to it over and over again, which involves a lot of challenging my most horrible, manipulative and self-assassinating thoughts. That shit is hard, and in some ways it’s even harder than the eating itself (though I would never have said that six months ago!).

This week has been very challenging. Seeing that number finally appear on the scale was hurdle number one, followed by a very challenging conversation with my dietician. We are now doing the difficult process of trying to work out my maintenance meal plan, which is a bit of an art and one that requires some trial and error. One of my biggest fears is overshooting my target, so initially quite a significant reduction from my last weight gain meal plan was suggested. However, another huge fear of mine is having to restrict my diet so much that I basically live in quasi-recovery forever, or that the restriction starts creeping up and I end up back at square one. I just want to be able to eat what I want when I want, and it feels like my body is punishing me for all the years of torture with a shitty metabolism and uneven weight gain. Will I ever be able to pick a chocolate bar over a diet cereal bar? Is it possible for me to take a doughnut when someone brings them into the office? Am I ever going to be able to eat chips at the seaside or have a hot chocolate from the Christmas market? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. Full recovery is the ultimate goal, but whether it’s an achievable one remains to be seen. It all comes down to whether I am prepared to let go of that last bit of control. Is it worth a little extra weight gain to live a life free from anorexia? Honestly, I think right now the answer is no. I have lived alongside anorexia, whether actively unwell or not, for all of my life. It’s a life I am familiar with and I know I am able to function. Maybe just functioning isn’t where I should be aiming, but in my mind it’s better than where I was a year ago, six months ago. Maybe this is as far as I can get. Perhaps this is my stop.

I hate hate hate the way my body is now – I take up more space than I am comfortable with, I am softer than I would like to be. I do not like being at this weight. But I am repeating to myself over and over and over that I wasn’t happier at a lower weight either. No matter how thin I got I hated my body. So if being this weight allows me to live my life, then it’s a trade off I will have to make.

In some ways, target weights are unhelpful. I feel like I should be better because I’ve reached it, and I think it gives the outside world that impression too. I am no longer underweight so I must be better. I also feel like I cannot go over that weight, which is difficult if maybe it’s not where my body wants to stay. I have been manipulating my weight for so many years that I’m not exactly sure what my set point is, and I’m so afraid of it being higher than this number I have been assigned. Anorexia is a mental illness, not a physical one – weight loss is a symptom of the mental torture we experience every hour of every day, and that doesn’t go away once an arbitrary number on a scale is achieved.

So this is it, I can close the door on the weight gain chapter of my recovery. I can move on from the trauma of starting day patient and sitting through glass after glass of milk and crying about the stomach pains caused by my body learning how to digest food again. I can continue to eat the food prescribed to me at the times listed on my meal plan, hoping that the day will come when I don’t hate myself after every meal and snack.

Phase one of treatment is complete. It can only get better from here.

11 comments

  1. You are absolutely right – this is one of the hardest parts of recovery, and that’s without taking into account the fact that you are soon to be discharged into the community and so more responsibility for food/exercise will fall to you. For what it’s worth, I would strongly suggest you reconsider your decision to go onto a ‘maintenance’ meal plan. The majority of the time, this prevents sufferers from reaching their body’s true healthy weight (not to mention damages metabolism further) and therefore keeps you locked in a life of food rigidity, fear and ritual. Best wishes xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think my current weight is my healthy weight! My set point is where my target was set and I was able to maintain at that weight for a good couple of years before I relapsed before. My dietician is a clever cookie 😊 x

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      • In your post though you admit ‘I am no longer underweight so I must be better. I also feel like I cannot go over that weight, which is difficult if maybe it’s not where my body wants to stay’ which suggests that you may not be at your set point and you probably aren’t if you are having to reduce your intake to maintain it. Of course if you are happy with that, that’s absolutely fine – you have come an awful long way and deciding to stop here if you so choose is fully your choice. But have you come this far to only come this far? Would it be worth seeing what happens to your body whilst continuing to eat your normal meal plan? It is possible that you may not continue to gain on it.

        I hope I am not coming across as critical as that is not my intention at all. I have a lot of admiration and respect for the work you have done and I have silently followed your blog and twitter throughout your journey. My only concern really is that going onto a maintenance meal plan means reducing your food intake which, in its very nature, is restrictive. I have made this mistake in the past myself and have ended up being a ‘healthy weight’ yet still very much trapped in the eating disorder.

        Just some things to consider. We are all different and require different approaches to treatment and recovery. Whatever you decide to do, you can be incredibly proud that you have made it this far x

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’re not at all! But I am almost certain that my target weight is my set point because I have maintained at it for a number of years before without restricting my intake. Set points can change as we get older and I’ve suppressed mine for years so I can’t know for definite until I stabilise but I am confident I know where my set point is and that I have reached it. My ‘normal meal plan’ is specifically a weight gain meal plan and I no longer need to gain weight x

        Liked by 1 person

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