Rejoicing. Absolutely rejoicing.
This has been my goal for so long: getting two periods in a row.
Well, to be precise, my GOAL has been to get three in a row… but, you can’t get three without the first two, and I haven’t missed less than 3 months between periods in just about 8 years, since I was first diagnosed with anorexia. So, when I got my period again a few days ago and calculated that the previous one had started 38 days prior, I was overjoyed – and I knew I had to share with you what has gone on, the recovery and healing I’ve experienced and worked hard for, and the truths about my body that I have had to understand.
My hope and prayer is that someone out there reads this and is able to just. let. go.
So. What has changed? Why am I getting my first truly normal periods after 8 years?
Well, after 4 months of complete starvation due to anorexia nervosa when I was fifteen years old, and losing a total of 85 pounds in that time, I completely lost my period for two years.
Over the next seven years, I gained and lost the same 15ish pounds, and had a total of maybe 8 periods in those years.
Needless to say, I’ve spent many moments praying to God that I could have kids one day. That I hadn’t totally ruined my body. That there was still hope for my ovaries.
I always took note of the differences in my body and habits when I did get an occasional period. For one thing, I NEVER got a period when my BMI was less than 18.5 – probably more like 19. But it had to be at least 20 for me to get two in a row (At least, the last time I checked my weight my BMI was at least 20).
I don’t want to get all into numbers, because they aren’t really what matter. But, if you happen to be in a similar boat that I was, and playing the numbers game… recovery from anorexia is not possible with a BMI of less than 18.5, and it’s very very very very very rare for it to be possible at a BMI of less than 20. It took seven years for me to learn this.
So… what was different about the past few months from the past seven years?
Many big and obvious things.
- ZERO restriction. Zero. My mind would sometimes say, “No more peanut butter,” but my extreme hunger would actually not allow that mental restriction to win and I would most definitely eat more peanut butter. My mind would sometimes try to make up reasons for why I couldn’t eat something, but my growling, empty-feeling stomach – sometimes so empty-feeling even if I had just eaten – would disregard those reasons as irrational. Thus, restriction never won, and I was constantly eating until I was *actually* full.
- Letting go of the number on the scale. This was the hugest change by far. It was the dispelled lie that ALLOWED me to eat with zero restriction. When I saw my weight climb to a number I hadn’t seen in years and years, my first instinct was panic… but then it was realization after realization: these were arbitrary numbers to my body, and I was still freaking starving. I needed to keep eating until I was full, or I would never recover.
- Zero purging. Well, I shouldn’t say zero. I had a few – approx. three – minor slip-ups the past few months, in terms of vomiting or over-exercising. But God used each of these mistakes to show me just how much I CANNOT partake in these behaviours, period. When I do go to the gym, it cannot be amount burning off calories – the amount I would burn there was measly compared to the amount I consumed. And I only exercised again once my weight was well within the healthy range.
- Tons of variety. Protein, fat, and carbs, all in large amounts, every single day. Sauces. Breads. Fatty meats. Cookies. Cake. Peanut butter. Chocolate. Bananas. Full fat goat’s milk. Goat cheese. Bacon. Granola. All of it. True healing, no half-assing it.
Here is my takeaway. Here is what you CANNOT skip in recovery:
Let your body do it its thing. EAT all of the foods. Don’t stop. Don’t let the numbers stop you.
Here is the thing: I STILL have to take this advice for myself. Because restricting again would only mean the process would start over. AGAIN. And after eight years, I am pretty darn sick of restricting and then eating over and over, damaging my metabolism and soul and idolizing something as trivial as my physical body.
Lord, help me. HELP ALL OF US to trust you. To eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full. To look to YOU, our Healer and Redeemer, in ALL THINGS. Amen.