by Aubrey Butts
And yes, the pun with the word gained is intended. Because here’s the thing, the importance of weight gain in recovery from an eating disorder is a given. Even in non-restrictive type eating disorder recovery, there may be some form of weight fluctuations or maintenance required. Another way to phrase this is that in losing the attachment to weight and any notion of controlling one’s body shape one gains life. For the sake of argument, this definition is the one I mean when I discuss “gaining weight.”
With Eating Disorder Awareness Week coming up in the month of February, I wanted to reflect on a year of what may arguably be my most solid time of recovery since developing an eating disorder at age nine. Had there been slips and lapses and more? Yes. This year, although it had its weight fluctuations, meal plans, and other indicators traditionally thought of as parts of recovery, was marked more by living, the true measure of success in recovery from an eating disorder.
So, here they are: 28 things I gained in my recovery from an eating disorder. Some are general and may hopefully resonate with you; others are personal accomplishments that can be taken as examples of what the “other side” may look like. Consider using the days leading up to Eating Disorder Awareness Week to reflect on your own “gains,” regardless of what stage of recovery you, or your loved one is in.
1. Spring break trip to Austin, Texas full of tacos, tequila, pizza, yoga and dancing.
2. Establishing two weekly yoga classes to teach.
3. Giving the dream of being a roller derby girl a try.
4. Actually attempting to date.
5. Sitting with a “binge” or the discomfort of fullness and not engaging in compensatory behaviors.
6. Enjoying an ice hockey game with my best friend and not freezing the entire time.
7. Being around to see my hero and first female run for President.
8. Subbing for many yoga classes a week (being trusted to do so).
9. Visiting my sister and being able to go out for pizza and beer.
10. Waking up in the morning, enjoying the sunrise and not having my first thoughts being consumed with B/P behaviors.
11. Developing many self-care rituals.
12. Increasing communication with important individuals in both day to day interactions and high stress, high conflict scenarios.
13. Little moments of not just body peace, but body confidence.
14. Going to the beach in the summer and wearing a bikini.
15. Honesty in therapy.
16. Taking on a job in food service and not being fearful the entire time.
17. Learning to be a barista and being able to memorize complicated drink orders and manage stress and urges during a rush.
18. Having the strength to run and the awareness when the desire to run or workout is driven by my eating disorder.
19. Being asked to be my sister’s maid of honor.
20. Re-establishing my relationship with my sister.
21. Being honest about my past and current struggle with friends and on social media and getting the resounding sound of support.
22. Recognizing toxic or damaging relationships and beginning to believe I deserve better.
23. Gaining closure in a past toxic relationship, as well as being able to reestablish old friendships.
24. Going back to school after much anxiety and finally finding a program and plan that works for me.
25. Eating chocolate.
26. Food flexibility--knowing that I can choose what to eat and be radically okay with my choices (still a process daily).
27. A successful, behavior-free Thanksgiving spent with family and enjoying pumpkin pie.
28. Identifying as an optimist because I had seen the darkest of days, fallen too many times to count, but have seen the kindness in others and the way the sun always comes back, to believe there is another day to try and I choose to be around for it.