Coping with Weight Gain in Eating Disorder Recovery

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I get a lot of messages asking me about how to cope with weight gain, so I thought I would put a post together of some of my tips and how I have got through it.

Stop body checking:
Body checking is one of the most likely things to keep you stuck. For most of us, body checking increases with weight loss, and a lot of the time we don’t realise we are doing it. Body checking includes things like weighing and measuring yourself, repeatedly touching different areas of your body, taking photos of yourself, looking at yourself in reflective surfaces, trying on different clothes to track your size and more. I was easily spending probably 8 hours plus of my day body checking at one point, but all it’s going to do is cause you to stress about your weight and body even further.

Wear comfortable clothes
Wear things that feel gentle on your body. You might feel the need to wear baggy or loose clothing to start with – that is totally fine. Wear what makes you feel comfortable, even if that means new clothes or trying on things you haven’t worn in a long time.

Throw out clothes that don’t fit
Similarly, get rid of the things that don’t fit you anymore. They will only sit in your wardrobe taunting you, and if you’re trying to recover part of that is learning that you won’t fit into those clothes unless you are unwell again, which is likely what you’re trying to move away from. Cut your losses and give them away or sell them.

Focus on your goals
Remember the reasons why you are recovering. Think about the things you want to do and achieve that aren’t compatible with having an eating disorder, and remind yourself of them constantly. Write them down, stick them up somewhere, say them out loud. Ask other people to remind you why you are putting yourself through so much short term discomfort (and it is short term) – because you want your life to be different and weight gain is part of that.

Don’t restrict or compensate
Really, really try to commit to the process. I know how hard that is, and how tempting it is to cut corners or give in to using behaviours. I did it myself, but doing so only prolongs the inevitable, and the longer you delay it for, the longer you have to put yourself through the torment of seeing the scales and your body changing.

Don’t weigh yourself every day
Some people recommend not weighing yourself at all and I think that is great advice if it works for you. For me, I don’t feel that is achievable. However, weighing myself once or twice a week as I was doing in day service is manageable for me, and I find I am much less obsessive about the tiny shifts that happen in my weight day to day.

Focus on what your body does
Your body allows you to do so many things in life – it’s actually pretty amazing. Write a list of the function of what your body does, and think about all the things you can do because of it, and all the things you want to be able to do in the future. It’s not about loving your body, it’s about appreciating it, and for me those are two very different things.

Unfollowing triggering content
Remove people who make you feel bad about your body. Unfollow them, mute them, hide their stories, whatever you need to do to stop yourself viewing content that is harmful to you and your recovery. It can feel like a difficult thing to do, but it is important to separate yourself from things that make the weight gain process feel even more difficult than it already is. Also, follow people who do make you feel good about yourself. Shake up your social media feeds – it makes a big difference.

Read helpful books
Two books I specifically recommend are Fear of Weight Gain by Tabitha Farrar and Living with Your Body and Other Things You Hate by Emily Sandoz and Troy DeFrene. They both helped me a lot and have different things you can try to help you to cope with the process.

Try mirror exposure
If you’re in treatment or some form of therapy, I really recommend mirror exposure. It’s hands down one of the most painful things I’ve ever done, but it really helped me to get a handle on what my body actually looks like. Mirror exposure in theory shouldn’t take place until you are weight restored, but it definitely helped me a lot to process that my body had changed and challenged a lot of the dysmorphia I had around it.

Don’t panic
I remember almost being physically sick when I had weigh spikes because I felt so panicky. I literally wanted to pull my skin off and run away from my body, but that’s not something that can happen and we have to come to terms with that. Panicking didn’t serve me at all and although I couldn’t help it and it was an automatic reaction, using some of the tips above helped me to accept that the changes were inevitable and a completely necessary and unavoidable part of my recovery. So whilst it is easier said than done, please try not to panic. You can do this.

I hope some of these might be helpful, and if you have any please do leave them in the comments.

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