PHYSICAL EATING DISORDER RECOVERY PART 2: Slow Progress is Still Progress
Because I get more questions about this topic than anything else on the blog, I figure it’s something people are either interested in, experiencing, or want light shed on. I also think it’s important to talk about, remembering that I am not a doctor, physician, nor do I have any nutrition credentials. I can merely speak from my own experience.
To read what I wrote earlier about physical AN recovery, head here.
Now, since that post, written about 8 months ago, I am up another five pounds, 18 lbs above my lowest scale weight. I do not weigh myself besides for doctor’s appointments, but I do think it’s interesting to note, especially in light of the fact that I see it as progress. I used to be petrified of gaining weight. But I feel healthier, stronger, and more confident than ever knowing that this weight remission has been achieved.
I also have grown an entire inch in the last year or so, confirmed by my doctor. This figures into some studies that have shown that anorexia, especially among teenagers between 12-16, which is a fundamental age range for growth and development, can stunt growth for a long period of time. Studies have also shown that proper restoration of nutrition can allow for the time span of growth of bones and height to lengthen, or be “made up for” later in life. For me, that was this past year, at 20-21 years old, I guess.
Because, when my height was taken accurately at my doctor’s a few weeks ago, I came in at 180 cm, or 5’10.86″, when a few years ago I was just UNDER 5’10”.
My body has clearly used the extra food and extra rest I have focused on allowing it to repair itself. It was after a month of little to no exercise, and lots of holiday food, that I got my period on New Year’s Eve.
I haven’t seen one since then, but I am hopeful that my physical body is *finally* coming into its own. And I really do have only Jesus to thank.
In my last post about physical recovery, I decided that I would only provide advice when I had had 3 consecutive periods. This has not happened. I have, however, only been seeing good progress (slow weight gain and one period, yay!), and am somewhere in the middle of that kind of victory. On my way, believing for it.
And so, I thought I would share some insights from the middle of this journey.
The importance of food for health cannot be mistaken.
I was only severely under-eating to the classification of anorexia for about 8 months of my life. Many people are in that boat for YEARS. While the damage is not irreversible, it can be long-lasting. I still deal with lost hair, bone loss, appetite struggles, digestion problems, hormonal imbalances, and amenorrhea. Adequate nutrition is crucial to our daily activities, for our brains, not to mention our social functioning.
It is okay for me to believe in, promote, and be passionate about healthy eating.
It took a long time for me to say this without feeling “guilty,” but I am genuinely passionate about healthy, clean eating. I believe in a mostly whole-foods based way of eating. I cringe at some of the fillers and additives in our “food” sources today. AND, I know that “hyper-clean-eating” is just as toxic, if not, in many cases, MORE toxic, than those unhealthy foods. I’ve found “balance”– called Jesus. I genuinely prefer the taste and preparation and fuel whole, “healthy” food provides, but I have no fear of treats. Food just “is” now, and, for me, it’s an exciting part of life that brings me MOST joy when it’s shared with others, communed over, and fellowshipped over.
Slow physical progress is still progress.
There is surely no “one size fits all” in eating disorder recovery, but mine has been quite slow. Or, at least, it has felt quite slow. I have been actively trying to gain weight for over two years, and it has taken that much time to put on 18 lbs– but, heck, my body’s been doing what it needs to. It’s been sorting it out and learning to trust me after what I’m sure was a very confusing few years.
Weight does redistribute.
Multiple times throughout recovery, I have felt frustrated that weight gain wasn’t going to the places I wanted it to. In reality… it was sitting in my stomach. I was constantly bloated, and I do still struggle with this, as we all do. But the weight has slowly dispersed its way to other parts of my body– only as I’ve kept up my regular eating habits. For an excellent article on weight redistribution in recovery, head here.
Food knowledge genuinely CAN fade into the background.
There is one aspect of ED that I consistently thought would never “go away,” and that was simply the vast knowledge I have about nutrition.
Spending so much time consuming the over 60-billion-dollar weight loss industry, I also consumed so much food/exercise stats in a very self-focused way (can we talk about how self-centred anorexia itself is? That is not to say a person suffering from the disorder intends to be– but, rationally, the disorder very much promotes self-focus).
I still do know so much about food and nutrition, and would be lying if I said I don’t still sometimes see food as numbers. By the grace of God, I know I’m not meant to base eating on numbers, but I still know them, if that makes sense.
But, TRULY, with time, such unimportant facts have become less and less apparent in my brain.
The most prominent example in my brain: I have the most vivid memory of being 14, at the height of my bulimia, and I had cognitively chosen to restrict my food intake that day.
I remember actually saying to my mom, “I have sixty calories left, but I can’t decide if I should have a tablespoon of honey in my tea, or a few grapes.” She didn’t say much, and I knew she was worried.
Now I happily add as much unmeasured honey to my drinks as I desire, and would pluck grapes off any snack tray, thank-you very much.
Any specific questions about eating disorder recovery/mentality/physicality I am always happy to answer, remembering everyone’s experience is different!
As always, thank-you for tuning in. xx
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.