On Recovery


Hi I can’t share my name but i’m scared I don’t know what to do anymore I am really struggling and stressed our about my weight right now. I was never big for my height I was just never skinny. I was 5’2 and weighed around 120 pounds. I ate whatever i wanted and didn’t gain weight or need to workout. Although about 6 months ago I decided to change my lifestyle and eat healthy and exercise. I cut out red meat and dairy products. Over time i began to see results but now i’m too thin and can’t stop. I keep being told i look to skinny and it makes me feel so horrible. People don’t even mean it as an insult sometimes but it is. Just like you shouldn’t say someone is fat, the same goes for being skinny. I worked so hard to gain a better body and more self confidence which i had for a while. Now i’m more insecure than ever. I am currently 97 pounds I know how unhealthy it is. I look st myself in disgust. I don’t know how to put on weight healthily. I don’t wsnt to gain weight and be unhappy again. I’ve been trying to gain weight but my mind constantly is calculating everything I eat and I feel guilt. I know i need to gain weight but when i see the number on the scale go up i become afraid.


I get a lot of messages like this one, and each one just breaks my heart. I can recognize the fear and self doubt in each one of them, because I have lived it. It is a strange feeling to be told you are too thin. On the one hand you feel vindicated, because it means you have really lost a lot of weight. And on the other hand it hurts. You aren’t after more hate piled onto your body. There is enough inside of you for that.

The desire to disappear is seductive. It is bred from a place of feeling alone and unseen, and it grants the user a sense of clarity and safety. If the world around you is completely unreliable and unknown, at least you can control your food intake. If you control it enough, maybe people will notice the pain you are in. Often once your “work” is validated, you are in too deep to just start eating properly. Food ceases to be something that nourishes you physically and mentally. It is something that is the enemy – an assortment of macro and micro nutrients that has suddenly taken refuge in the center of your universe. You can’t “just eat” because eating is incredibly complicated. It is a very scary place to be in.

So my key piece of advice here would be to talk to someone about this. The first step in tackling my food issues was to talk to a therapist. I was completely in denial about how much my food intake was linked to my self worth and sense of control, and having someone there to talk about my deeply ingrained thought processes was invaluable. Eventually you start to celebrate achievements. That time I went to Mexico and finally ate the guacamole. My first mouthful of fruit in years. Bread. It is so important to have someone hold a mirror up to who you are, and to guide your sense of self beyond other peoples projections. It is also really hard. This sort of work takes a complete disassembling of the ego, which smarts. But there is a place of settling at the other end, a settling into yourself that denies no part of your character.

Every person coming out of a period of disordered eating does it differently. I cannot stress this enough – we all react very differently, and will require different strategies to find our way. I can only speak from my experience here. Discover what works for you. I work extremely well with a line drawn in the sand that says do not cross. I do not do moderation. There are people who can go easy on themselves, everything in moderation, and just pick themselves up and start again. I am not one of those. If I am going to do something, I am going to push myself beyond sane limits. I now use this ability in a positive way. I will always eat three meals a day, even if I don’t want to. I have to eat fruit, avocado and nuts every day (fear foods for me). I will exercise no more than an hour a day, four days a week. I will not drink alcohol. You get the drift.

Channel the strength and fortitude required to under eat into something self-affirming. Working out when you are eating correctly is an incredible feeling. Suddenly you can do things that you never dreamed possible – and you can do them with ease. Instead of hating your body and wishing you would disappear, try inhabiting it 100% and create something personal. The brain power that once was dedicated to food and control is massive – channel it and create something that fulfills you. We are all so much bigger than our bodies, and discovering this is liberating. It is no coincidence that I began writing well once I started eating.

One final thing to always keep in mind is that there will be a bounce back period. When you come from a place of restriction and control, your body will gain back the weight and then some. This is the most important part of recovery, treat your body with respect and continue to feed yourself properly. Because the weight will even out again, into where your body needs to sit. I have experienced this time and time again – I would undereat and lose weight, begin eating well and gain loads of weight, then after a few months suddenly I would be right between the two extremes, and feeling great. The key is to just keep doing what is known to be healthy. Hit all your nutritional goals. Show your body that you are caring for it, not depriving it.  

During all of this your sense of self must be shifted from your body image. I know that I do not see myself correctly. Accepting this and learning to live with the dysmorphia has been a struggle, but it has forced me to get out of the mirror and to take part in my own life again. It is so easy to beat yourself up over your perceived flaws. But there comes a point when you must choose to take the scarier, ego-less path, and learn that you are so much bigger than your outward appearance.

Take your place in the world. There is a place for you. Nobody can do it but you.

But it is always worth it.




Main Photograph | Dove Shore

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