People often talk about how weight restoring is the hardest part of recovery, but I think this invalidates something I’ve learned through the last few years of my own recovery.
All parts of recovery are hard.
While the refeeding process and weight restoring can be physically painful (and emotionally excruciating), I think that this time in recovery gets a lot of attention because you’re still visibly sick. People can see how hard it is for you to finish a meal. They can see the way your ED has affected your body and your mind. In a way, this part of recovery is kind of glamorized.
I can’t tell you how often I see girls posting about the refeeding process and about having to gain weight and all of the stuff that comes along with that time. And don’t get me wrong, as someone who went through it, I get it: it’s fucking hard. It’s uncomfortable, it’s terrifying, it’s downright shitty. But it’s worth it in the long run.
People can easily recognize how hard this time is for people. I mean, here we are, spending so much time and energy trying to make our bodies smaller, and then we are forced to pack up, ship out, and return to a healthy body.
But once you’re weight restored and the physical signs are less obvious, recovery doesn’t just *get easy.* I’m not saying this to scare anyone who might not be there yet, I’m just saying it to be honest. Recovery doesn’t just become ten times easier when you reach your target weight and stop using behaviors.
We wouldn’t tell someone who’s not alarmingly thin that they aren’t struggling with an ED/DE, so why do we act like once someone is weight restored, recovery is easier?
Honestly, my recovery got a whole lot harder once I was weight restored. I did everything I could to drag out my weight restoration process, and I lived a good year of my life in this grey-area that I refer to as pseudo-recovery. I wasn’t constantly using symptoms, but I definitely wasn’t abstinent. I was living in a really black and white, all or nothing type area. I was either super body conscious and using symptoms or saying “SCREW IT” and indulging A LOT (because when I wasn’t indulging, I was restricting! Hmm…sounds that like terrible restrict/binge cycle, huh?)
Once I really committed to recovery (which was around the time I finally could be considered weight restored), things got a whole lot harder because I wasn’t in a “sick” body anymore. All of a sudden I had to learn to live in this new body that felt foreign and strange and I didn’t really know how to dress it and I didn’t always feel comfortable.
In fact, the early stages of being weight restored were really triggering. I missed my sick body a lot (thank god I don’t anymore) and I was pretty much convinced that I needed to lose weight. *eye roll*
It took time and support from friends and therapy and seeing my dietitian before I really started to make REAL peace with being weight restored. And honestly, this peace came around at the same time that this blog did. I finally felt like I knew what the *heck* I was doing and like I could actually really do it.
I’ve talked before about the stages of recovery and I stand by those stages. Although they’re totally based off of my own recovery, I can see these stages in other people’s stories.
While I consider stage 1 to be the early part of recovery where you begin the weight restoration process, I think the later stages can be even trickier sometimes because of the added stress. You might no longer be in treatment, or maybe you’re not seeing a dietitian anymore. These changes can make recovery 1000000x harder.
For most people, being weight restored can feel weird. We can feel like we are suddenly in a new body and that can be scary. But there’s so much more to recovery than just a changing body.
You might be weight restored, but your whole life is restored. We’re not miserable anymore, we’re fun to spend time with because we’re no longer obsessed with food and exercise and calories.
We focus so much on gaining weight, and even the treatment programs we go to make our weight a focus. You’ll hear people talk about the things you gain in recovery, and as corny as it seems, it’s true.
While it’s easy to think of gaining weight as a bad thing (and in our society, it’s dangerously easy), when I’m feeling *notsohot* about the changes my body has gone through in these last few years I like to think about the ways my life has changed for the better.
I’m not stuck in treatment. I’m pursuing a career I’m passionate about. I am going to help others with EDs/DE. I have a great fiance. I have wonderful friends and MEANINGFUL relationships. All of this would be impossible if I were still using symptoms.
I don’t want to minimize the dedication it takes and the pain that people experience when going through the weight restoration process, but weight restoration is just the beginning of recovery. Once you’re weight restored you can start realllllly working on the underlying issues that have led to your diagnosis.
At this point in my life I can easily say that I’d rather be weight restored than living in my sick body. For some people, that might sound like a lie, and if it does: keep working on your recovery. I wouldn’t write that statement if I didn’t mean it.
So yes, weight restoration is tough, but recovery will always be work. I’ll always be working on my recovery, even if that is just *maintaining* where I’m at, because where I’m at right now is pretty good.