When Gaining Weight Is Tough

I am a young, healthy, able-bodied woman. I am also a recovering bulimic and anorexic and I have control issues when it comes to my body.

Editor’s note: This post may contain material which may be triggering to those with disordered eating.

I regularly get told how great or how skinny I look. I regularly get told I should be ecstatic with how I look or how I should put some meat on them bones. I regularly get asked if I’m sure I’m eating enough or not eating too much. I mean, to most people’s credit, they don’t know my history with eating disorders but to be completely honest I doubt that would change their reactions and comments.

I won’t go into numbers but I am currently lighter than I want to be. A couple of years ago I went through a really rough patch and gained weight. I then felt better emotionally and decided to shed the pounds in a healthy way. It took me two years to be in the weight I wanted to be in and then I lost a beloved pet so due to stress and sadness I ended up losing extra weight that I never intended to lose. I won’t lie, at first the little voice in my head, the one that was so strong when I was at the height of my eating disorder was in fact really fucking happy and cheerful. The rest of me wasn’t so sure about the weight loss but I immediately amped up my vigilance to make sure I was eating enough and not losing anymore weight. At this point the comments about my body started being more of a general occurrence and to be honest they caused more confusion than anything so I decided to start ignoring them. I wasn’t sure of what I wanted because I was afraid of letting my eating disorder take a decision for me so I chose to remain status quo. Then, about half a year ago I took up heavy lifting. I love lifting heavy, it makes me feel powerful and yes, in control. Pushing my body, molding it to be able to take heavier loads, to run faster, to be more agile gives me a type of rush that’s hard to describe. However it also made me realize that it was time to put on some extra weight because extra weight means more muscle mass which can power me through my workouts. So I started saying out loud that I wanted to gain weight. This may seem counter-intuitive taking in count all the comments I had been getting about my body but I started saying it aloud for myself. You see as much as I want to gain weight I am still terrified of gaining weight so I’ll fake it till I make it and part of that means expressing my desire to be heavier.

The whole talk about me wanting to gain weight is a double edge sword at this point. It’s made it easier for me to feel ready to eat more in order to put on those extra pounds but it’s also made me target for some very frustrating comments. I mean, I eat how much? Really? Oh, I am SO lucky that I won’t put on weight even though I’m stuffing my face so often. I’m such a bitch. Why would I want to put on weight though? I look great! What? To lift heavier? Am I a man or something? I am lifting how much already? I am sure going to injure little me, I should leave that stuff to guys or lesbians, am I a lesbian? It’s great that I chose to put on weight! I mean they didn’t want to say anything but honestly I don’t look that great. I am too skinny right now, I used to have such a nice ass and now I have no ass left. That’s such a sad thing. What? I want to gain muscle weight? Do I want to look like a Hulkette?

Even when I choose to ignore the whole discourse about how lifting heavy is only for some people or that it defines my sexuality or the gall some people have of choosing to narrow my body to my breasts and my ass; this time around the comments are a bit harder to ignore because I am constantly battling with myself. I am constantly telling myself that putting on weight is good and exactly what I want. I am constantly having to keep an eye out on what I eat because I am also sneaky enough to slowly reduce food portions as not to gain weight. It gets draining some times and sometimes I slip up. Take last Christmas as an example, after years of not purging, I made a mistake. Among all the noise, the insanity, the long trip, the extra food and booze I ended up sneaking to the bathroom to throw up. I did this three times in a row. I’d eat and eat and eat whatever I could get my hands on and then I’d sneak to the bathroom and purge. After the third time I dragged my husband to the side and in hushed tones I fessed up. He was wonderful, he didn’t judge me, he didn’t chastise me. He asked what he could do, he hugged me and he kept an eye on me for the rest of the week. It may not have been terribly comfortable having him following me around to the bathroom but it was exactly what I needed.

This event did two things for me. For one it made me realize how easy it is to slip back into old habits but it also strengthened my resolve to lead a healthier life. It is not always easy to not push myself too much or to not listen to all the noise around me but I’m slowly getting there. Also, I am getting better and better at ignoring people telling me how I should look and focusing more on what I want to do with my body. I mean, fitting on a pair of skinny jeans is nice and all but being able to reach my goal of squatting 200 lb trumps that.

7 replies on “When Gaining Weight Is Tough”

I find that having exercise goals related to strength rather than body fat is really useful to me. I love moving around and being active, but I don’t like my constant focus to be on burning calories (which it can tend to be, because it’s easier to count/calculate than like, general cardio endurance or whatever). I find focusing on getting stronger to be a positive goal in a way that focusing on losing weight definitely isn’t for me. So I’d be really interested to read more about your transition to lifting and what kinds of things you do and how it makes you feel.

I think this is such an important point. Lifting weights and focusing on getting stronger was a big, big factor in moving past my own disordered eating–the focus on positives in the sense of adding and doing, rather than negatives in the sense of, well, subtracting.

The part about telling your husband that you had slipped up and him keeping an eye on you the rest of the week made me tear up. Good for you for realizing that slipping up like that doesn’t mean you’ve failed forever – framing it as a means of recommitting to getting healthier is a good way to look at it. I struggled with food and disordered habits in college, so I really appreciate hearing from other people about their personal recovery journeys.

My husband (and Dom, go figure) has been incredibly helpful when it comes to getting over my fears of being overweight and unloved. He’s shown me I’m loveable despite of how I look or how I might think I look. Just having that knowledge has really helped me put a lid on my ED so when I feel like I’m slipping I know he has my back and he won’t judge me or leave me. He loves me, faults and all.

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