By Hannah Fost (@chronicallyhanclimbs)
CW: Discussion of eating disorders
Being a recovered anorexic, my relationship with my body is complicated. When starting to recover, I compensated for eating by overexercising. That is until I couldn’t anymore due to an energy limiting condition. I fought it for a while, went to the gym through excruciating pain and pushed myself to do even a little exercise even when every minute felt like torture.
I made myself sicker, and eventually, I had to stop. Understandably, I gained weight and a lot of it quickly. Being on a range of medications and having a GI tract that prefers low fibre food, I find weight hard to maintain. Sometimes it goes up, and other times it goes down.
Initially, gaining weight was hard. It felt like losing part of myself. The fit, healthy, active self that was so much of my identity. I also just felt too big for my body, like the extra weight was hard to navigate in how it felt on me. But eventually, I learnt to accept my body: my stretch marks, cellulite, tummy and thighs.
I still have my bad days, my bad weeks. Those days when none of those pretty dresses fit or look flattering. Those days where everything feels tighter or I’m more bloated than usual and look 9 months pregnant. Those days where I wish I could restrict and exercise it all off without making myself sicker.
But I’ve come to learn there’s more to life than weight or shape and being that little bit overweight or on the higher end of a healthy BMI is nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, I’m much healthier heavier. I have more energy, and it gives my body that buffer if I do have a bad enough gastro flare to cause weight loss.
I’ve learnt weight and body shape isn’t so black and white. Our bodies all have their own setpoint ranges. Some of us naturally sit above or below the healthy ranges. I’m not lazy, nor am I greedy for having an extra layer of fat on me. I’m simply doing the best I can with a difficult situation. To get smaller, I’d have to restrict, which would likely cause a relapse of my anorexia or I’d have to self-inflict a gastro flare. Both of which aren’t healthy.
I’ve learnt true beauty comes from confidence within oneself. From a smile and authenticity. Not from a number on the scale, a clothes size or a bra size.
Learning to accept my sick, less functional, and larger body has been a process. It’s taken time, but if you’re reading this and struggling with your relationship with your body, you can too learn to accept it. Surrounding yourself with positive role models where possible and curating your social media feeds to minimise negative input from society definitely helps.
Just because your body is different now, it doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful.
(Originally Published 16/1/21)