If you were to tell me 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or even 1 year ago that gaining 30 pounds would make me feel more beautiful, leaner, healthier, happier and just love myself more in general, I would have thought you were out of your mind. You see, in my malnourished, frail mind, I was already huge. I had jiggly thighs, a saggy, wide butt, flabby arms, a bloated belly and no boobs. In my mind, I looked awful. I needed to lose another 10, not gain. Gaining was horrifying. It was unacceptable. It would not happen. I would not let it. I didn’t care how tired I was, how much my stomach hurt from either being so painfully empty for so long or from stuffing enormous amounts of hard to digest raw vegetables in my stomach to make the hunger go away on minimal calories.
While I can’t pin point the exact moment my eating disorder took over my life, I can remember the day I decided to recover. I had been toying with it for a long time knowing I needed to for nothing else than to be able to run my business optimally. After a few attempts at recovery that had just lead me to relapse before, I decided I was done. I was DONE hating myself, I was DONE being hungry, I was DONE not feeling beautiful or comfortable in my own skin. I was done saying no to the things I loved to eat, to the social events that the real Kathryn wanted to attend, I was done with the mood swings and with the power that the size of my pants had over my life. I was lucky. I woke up one morning and it was like a switch was flipped. None of my restrictive behaviors made sense to me anymore and the size of my jeans just didn’t matter as much. Factors that I believe contributed to this were immersing myself in body positive social media. I followed plus sized models on instagram, I read recovery and body positive blogs and I started seeing the fitness industry for what it really was. A scam.
I spent countless hours online reading recovery blogs, different recovery resources and different ways to recover. Believe me, there are a lot of opinions out there about how you should go about it and to be honest, I didn’t follow any of them. I think everybody responds differently to different treatments and I can’t say I have an opinion on anything simply because I only know my own illness and my own recovery. I was able to do it without therapists, doctors, family, etc. I was able to do it completely by reading scientific research on eating disorders and recovery blogs. I will get in to more detail on my recovery in a later post. First, we’ll talk about all of the amazing things that came with gaining weight!
Let’s be clear. Gaining weight after a restrictive eating disorder is not easy, fun or pretty. It does not come back evenly. Contrary to what usually happens to people in recovery (all of the weight usually goes to the stomach from a mixture of water retention, bloating and initial fat tissue), it all went to my thighs. The area of my body that was always very triggering for me. I always hated my thighs. They ballooned up, they retained water, they were sore and my butt, ugh, my butt went flabbier and wider. It was horrible. Thankfully, I knew this would happen. I knew it would be uneven and as much as part of me did not believe the science, I knew it would even out. Spoiler alert! It did.
I still remember the day that my mom laughed so hard as I excitedly showed her how my butt had gone from flat, wide and flabby to a tad more narrow, rounder, firmer and perkier. The shape my butt always was before my ed. My thighs also firmed up and developed a very nice shape that I have grown to love so very, very much. Phew!
Then came my stomach. It did bloat. Boy did it bloat. I was farting something fierce (TMI, I know), I looked pregnant, I desperately tried to suck it in to hide it. It hurt from not being able to digest certain foods very well, it hurt from not being used to the volume of food and for a while, I was very, very constipated. Eventually, though, my body became used to more food and, thus, wanted more and began to digest it better. I became, uh, regular, and my appetite sky rocketed. Yes, this was terrifying, but eventually I got over it and reminded myself of why I chose recovery. So I toughed it out. I ate, and ate and ate. I ate until I looked 9 months pregnant and then I ate more. I ate every time my body asked for it and I ate it with gratitude. I thanked God for the nutritious food that was going to heal my body from the damage I had done. I told my body to use the food to repair what was broken and to create whatever shape I am genetically made to be.
Know what happened? Eventually, I stopped bloating. I stopped trying to suck it in, I let it all hang out and as a result, I had better digestion. The swelling went away and I had a normal, softer stomach again. The spaces between my rib cage filled out and you could no longer see my spine protruding. It was a wonderful sight. I built back muscles naturally and I grew a bra size in a couple of weeks. I finally, after 5 months, started to even out. My body looked… normal. Not the cover of Shape magazine. Just… me. Kathryn.
For the first time in years, I recognized who I saw in the mirror. I saw Kathryn, not a shadow of her. I recognized the shine in my eyes, the curve of my beautiful hips, my strong arms, my round a perky butt, my strong thighs and the smile that is too big for my face. I was back. And, oddly enough in my eyes, my body was more beautiful and more lean than I had ever seen it before. My dysmorphia was finally gone.
This isn’t to say that I don’t still have days where I think I look unattractive or larger than I am, I do. But it just doesn’t last long anymore. I simply put something comfortable on and go about my day as normal. I eat the food, I move my body in whatever way feels good and I move on with my life. I also no longer care quite as much what my body looks like. Life has become so much more than my appearance. It’s nights out with friends with drinks and dinner, it’s time with my husband, it’s hiking in gorgeous weather, it’s playing games with my family, it’s traveling, it’s loving, laughing and experiencing. It isn’t how my stomach looks today. My stomach is busy digesting food, repairing cells, detoxing, and, ya know, keeping me alive. If it looks a little bloated today, well then it’s busy doing it’s work and I’m going to let it. I need it to do what it needs to do so I can keep doing what I want to do.
That’s all for today, guys. Have a great Monday!