We hear it over and over: the freshman fifteen, the idea that once you get over the age of 50 you just “stop caring” about your appearance, how women everywhere need to “bounce back” to their pre-pregnancy body. People are constantly talking about this idea that if your body changes, you’ve let yourself go.
By now, we’re all familiar with what diet culture is, but it’s still hard to catch the sneaky ways it tries to trick us into controlling our bodies and putting way too much emphasis on appearance or weight.
We’re bombarded with magazine articles about which celebrity has “failed” due to her inability to lose her pregnancy belly in a mere week since childbirth. We’re trained to look at pictures on the internet and make value judgments based on someone’s body.
I’m always, always, ALWAYS, shocked by how common this “letting go” mindset is. I’ve heard clients and followers and blog readers (and friends and family) alike claim that if their body has changed in the slightest, they’ve let themselves go.
It’s so hard for people to recognize that our bodies are meant to change. I’ve never met a single person who’s body has stayed the same their entire lives (an 80-year-old baby would be a medical mystery, for sure). Even if we consider a less drastic option, it’s extremely rare to meet someone who’s body stays the same all throughout adulthood. Many people experience changes in weight, shape, energy levels, you name it.
Imagine your favorite house plant: it’s alive, right? It has leaves on some branches, maybe less on another. It needs water and sunlight and maybe it’s a different shape than it was at the beginning of the year. You wouldn’t look at your plant and say: “Ugh! You’ve changed! I thought you would always stay the same exact size, shape, height, etc.”
Bodies are living, breathing vehicles for our brains and our souls, so it’s kind of ridiculous to expect them to stay the same over an extended period of time!
What’s unfortunate is that diet culture has tricked a lot of people into thinking that weight fluctuation (even just a little bit) is a bad thing. I always bring some humor into these conversations by reminding people that you can seriously use the bathroom and notice a change in your weight. That being said, weight fluctuation doesn’t always mean much.
I’ve talked before about how weight is a poor metric to use for health, but people really seem to look at the number on the scale as some sort of end-all-be-all measure of worth.
But anyway, my point in this post is that weight gain, in our society, is looked at as a bad thing. When we notice people have gained weight, we often question if there’s something wrong, if they’re dealing with a health issue, or if they’ve just plain “let themselves go,” but it’s important to remember that someone’s outward appearance doesn’t tell us anything about their health.
For some people in recovery, weight gain can often feel like the end of the world. There’s so much fear that is centered on weight gain and body changes, but both of these things are normal in recovery!
It can be hard to break down the beliefs that we’ve had at one point or another that align with diet culture, and it can feel terrifying to do so. But moving away from the diet culture mentality and towards a place of flexibility, body trust, and intuitive eating allows for people to refocus their lives on what really matters.
So you body is going to change in recovery. It’s going to change in regular life, too. Body’s change. End of story.
Instead of spending all of our time focused on how to keep our bodies the same, we could be focused on building relationships, accomplishing career goals, giving back to others, and continuing to debunk diet culture (a personal favorite, obviously).
It breaks my hear to think that so many people are so uncertain of their worth on this planet that they reduce themselves to their appearance and their body. We’re all so much more than our weight, than that bad haircut you got in 8th grade, than the recent break out on your forehead, and whatever else you perceive as a “flaw.”
Accepting that your body is going to change and approaching this from a less judgmental standpoint can do wonders for your body image! A client recently shared that she heard a great comeback phrase when you catch yourself judging the body changes you’re experiencing. She said that instead of looking at this change and automatically judging it, she’s found it helpful to say “Huh, I didn’t expect that.”
Taking the value out of a judgment leaves you with an observation. Sure, your body has probably changed over the last few months or a year, but that’s life, especially in early recovery!
Once your body has reached it’s set point and you’ve spent a decent chunk of time NOT engaging in your ED/DE behaviors, your body will begin to even out and might maintain a steady range in terms of weight. But even then, just FYI, fluctuation is normal!
So my question is this: did you let yourself go? Or did you stop holding yourself to impossible standards, unhealthy rules, and ridiculous beliefs? Did you let yourself go, or are you a living, breathing, human being made up of ever-changing cells and energy?
Be gentle with yourselves! You’re meant to grow and change and learn.