Oct. 27, 2021, noon
When I was nine years old and in fifth grade, I got my first period. By the time I was 12, I was already taller and weighed more than my five-foot-zero mom. One time on our way home from Burger King my mom grabbed her full stomach and complained about how disgusting it was. Thinness, I learned, according to my mom was like a moral claim.
For all of my childhood I watched my mom count calories and try different diets in an effort to control her weight. The South Beach Diet hardcover book was always on our coffee table; that’s how I learned to diet as a preteen without the internet. Heartbreakingly, it makes sense that my adolescent brain created a story in my head that said, “If my mom thinks she’s fat, then she must think I am a whale because I am bigger than she is.”
Obsessing about food and body became a way to check out of the confusing world around me. My eating disorder was a way to escape the heavy emotional load, the constant overstimulation, the endless self-made pressure, and every other uncomfortable thing in my life. I thought if I can just keep my weight and food intake strict, I can remain just numb enough to survive the day.
Because I believed thinness determined my worthiness, I also learned to completely deny my hunger cues. I stopped trusting myself and began allowing external sources to dictate the size of my body. I wanted to be a morally good girl; so I did exactly what my mom and every other successful woman does. Diet.
It has been nearly ten years since my eating disorder recovery journey began. Over the past decade I was admitted to inpatient treatment six times and have worked with countless therapists. My journey has been anything but a straight line but I sure have learned a lot along the way.
Currently I am in a place where my therapist is once again encouraging me to gain a little healthy weight. It is challenging for many reasons. In order to combat the stories I created in my head as a child, I have created a list of things I know are true about being at a healthy weight:
My brain is less foggy
My emotions are still intense, but manageable
My issues with overstimulation are less noticeable
I have more energy
I obsess about food less
There is more space in my brain for creativity
My sex drive improves
My overall anxiety decreases
My skin is better
I sleep through the night
I perform better at work
I can notice obsessive thoughts without acting on them
My relationships, while still messy, have improved
It’s okay to develop my own relationship with food separate from my mom’s
There are people out there who get it - Glennon Doyle, Christy Harrison
It’s okay to trust and listen to my hunger cues
Weight gain is uncomfortable at times; it’s safe to lean into that discomfort
Our society has a ton of misinformation surrounding food and diets and metabolism
While growing up I was taught to view thinness as a moral claim; a pathway to belonging. Now as an adult with ten years of eating disorder recovery under my belt, I can see beyond the illusion. Even though in the moment it feels familiar to maintain a tight grip of control over my weight, my list is proof that reaching a healthy weight is actually bursting with positives.
I wish I could go back and show my nine-year-old self this list. I wish I could have shown her the truth before she created all of those false stories in her head. Eating disorders are destroying lives. Maybe it’s time to ditch this idea of thinness as a moral claim. Maybe instead, it’s time to properly fuel and develop trust in our bodies. All of the benefits listed above are waiting on the other side.
Kelsi is a 33 year old woman in recovery from both anorexia and alcohol addiction. Her background includes degrees in both Culinary Arts and Sociology. She is the proud mother of a precious 14lb Havapoo dog named Teddy.