Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

take off the fat suit!


Yup. Those are my feet. On a scale.

This post comes to you courtesy of my Questions and Topics page. The questions:

When will the recovery weight stop feeling like you’re walking around in a fat suit?

To be totally honest, I can’t answer that question.  The amount of time it takes to get used to being at a healthy weight varies for each individual.  I’ve actually known some people to feel better about themselves after gaining weight in treatment.  The main discomfort came during the weight gain process itself and then they were accepting of their new, healthy, strong, bodies.  I was always jealous of those people.

I can give you some advice from journey, however, even if I can’t predict your future.  It took time.  I’m not even sure how much time.  It was about a year?  I say I’m not sure how much time because it was a gradual process, a slow letting go of the “fat suit feeling.”  It really did happen that one day I realized, “Hey, I haven’t been thinking about my weight in awhile.  Huh.  Guess this is an okay place for me.”  It certainly didn’t happen overnight.  No great revelation dropped down from the sky and knocked some sense into me.

I went through this process again recently.  In the span of five months, I gained a significant amount of weight–above and beyond the ideal weight I had been maintaining for four years.  Suddenly, my BMI was technically in the overweight category.  I had already gotten rid of my “skinny jeans” and now I had to buy a whole new set of jeans (and some skirts and shirts) for this new body–this new body I didn’t ask for and this new body I didn’t want.  “At least when I gained weight in recovery, I was making myself healthier and stronger and *wanted* to gain weight,” was my main thought, followed by, “I did not agree to this.”

Yes, like a significant amount of people with histories of eating disorders and depression, my thyroid decided to stop working.  And, I am now 33-years-old.  I am not the 18-year-old starting college and playing two collegiate Varsity sports.  My body has changed.  There are things I can do to help with the thryoid problems: I take my medication and (when I’m not waiting for knee surgery) go on a walk every day.  And I’ve seen some changes, some weight loss. But I’m still well above my “ideal weight.”

This “ideal weight” is in quotes.  Because the one thing I found to be the most helpful in combating the “fat suit feeling” was changing the way I think about myself and what I say.  There really is power to positive thinking.  That cliche is not a lie.

First, I worked on acceptance.  I could spend my time wishing that I was still back at that “ideal weight.”  I could get angry.  I could think about how much this was not in my plans.  I could step on my scale every morning and night, wearing exactly the same thing, and write down my weight to the exact tenth of a pound and celebrate losing one-tenth of a pound and berate myself for gaining one-tenth of a pound.  I will be honest.  I did do this.  And felt awful because I used to be “perfect” at controlling my weight and now everything is completely out of my control.

That last bit is what made things click for me.  I can’t control it.  If I want to eat a healthy diet and go for a walk each day, and my body still decides to gain weight, there is nothing I can do.  Except accept that fact.  And continue eating a healthy diet and going for a walk each day with the knowledge that these are things in my control.  Rather than obsess about what I can’t do, I will continue doing what I can do.

The second thing I did was change my behavior.  Again.  I stopped weighing myself twice a day in that obsessive fashion.  It’s not like I was helping myself at all. Stepping on the scale didn’t change a damn thing.  Well, it did make me obsess more and made me miserable.  So I went back to the “weigh myself once a week and notice overall patterns” type of plan.  (Please no comments about how I shouldn’t own a scale.  I did not own a scale in those early days of recovery for all the reasons the doctors and therapists threw at me. And it helped.  But one of the things I have to email to my cardiologist, along with  blood pressure readings and my heart rate, is my weight, and not for any arbitrary reason.  With my heart condition, sudden fluctuations in my weight clue my doctor into how my heart is functioning.)  This new plan stopped me from obsessing and comparing myself to the me I was the day before, etc.

The third thing came gradually.  I stopped berating myself for gaining weight in the first place.  Negative self-talk was getting me nowhere.  And then I started replacing those negative comments with realistic statements.  Then came the positive statements.  Then came the day when the temperature skyrocketed and I said, “I don’t care that I now weigh more than ever before, I’m going to wear shorts.”  And I realized I physically was a hell of a lot more comfortable than when I had jeans on.

Then the day came when I did my weekly weigh-in and immediately thought, “Well.  I’ve been at X for awhile now.  If this is my new normal, I guess this is my new normal.”  Maybe that old “ideal weight” was ideal for my body then.  But maybe now, this is where I need to be.

And I know that doesn’t answer your question.  This has just been my journey of weight acceptance.  My advice is to change your thinking about your current weight.  Don’t let the phrase “fat suit” be how you describe yourself.  It is difficult to jump from negative self-talk to positive self-talk, which is why I did the realistic self-talk in between.  Looking at my body from an objective point of view.  I may have gained weight, but I am still healthy.  In the case of recovery weight, think of it in terms of health.  What you are able to do now that you couldn’t before because you didn’t have the strength or energy.  Use logic to combat that negative phrase.  Each time it enters your head, throw an actual fact back at it.  Find one piece of clothing that you love, and allow yourself to say, “I look good in this.”

You will get used to the weight.  i cannot tell you when.  I can just tell you that you will.  And you may never like the new weight.  I’ll be honest with that.  But hopefully, you like life more than the number on the scale.  Hold onto life.  It can be quite beautiful and amazing sometimes.

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July 9, 2010 - Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders, recovery | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Comments »

  1. I’ve been working on this a lot lately, feeling physically and psychologically uncomfortable in my most recently adorned ‘fat suit.’ However, I’ve really impressed myself lately, in part because the weather has been so hot, and I’ve decided I would rather expose my ‘fat suit’ than drape it in more hot layers, and further, because, while uncomfortable in my ‘suit,’ I recognize that at least I’m desiring to actually join the world in a number of ways, rather than disconnect with the world for a cheap, knock-off, sub-par suit that isn’t going to ever feel quite right anyway (i.e. for an ED that can never achieve any satisfying ends)–or ever be the real thing.

    As such, I’ve been thinking: I can retreat to my isolated world sans-physical ‘fat-suit,’ but nonetheless still suffocated by a psychological corset–or–I can feel fat, (maybe even be fat/”fat”), but have a fighting chance to function.

    So if the choices (for now) for me will be to feel fat and have an ED (and absolutely nothing else)–or–feel fat and have a chance for absolutely everything else, I’m taking the latter.

    Comment by emily | July 9, 2010 | Reply

    • Emily–definitely take the latter choice. I have this feeling people think we get from A to B in a nice smooth process. But people don’t realize that it takes time and isn’t the same for everyone. I’d be lying if I said the first time I wore shorts this summer I wasn’t self-conscious as hell. And I said to my therapist, “I just tell myself no one’s looking.” And he said, because he believes in honesty and knows I like honest answers, said, “People ARE looking. People always look at other people regardless of clothes or size. But people AREN”T necessarily judging you. THAT is the part that is in your head.”

      So wear those shorts. You cannot deny how you feel, but at least you are not letting your feeling get in the way of everything else in your life. That’s awesome.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | July 9, 2010 | Reply

  2. This post makes me want to cry. You have described so much of my experience over the past several months. As a 33-year old myself with health issues & ED, I have had to “deal” also with weight gain, into the “overweight” BMI range. Except I have not even attempted acceptance of where I am. My symptoms are all over the place. I am wearing ugly clothes, not trying to look good, because all anyone can see is this “fat suit” that I obsess about for hour upon hour each day. I feel like it’s pretty much all I think about, and of course everyone else who sees me must too (self-centered much, lol?). I don’t know how to put what you’ve shared into my thought process right now, but I really appreciate your giving me so much to think about.

    Comment by C | July 9, 2010 | Reply

    • C-One thing that I have been working on is this term of “overweight.” Yes, by the BMI’s standards, I am still overweight. But I’m also the healthiest I’ve been in years. That’s what I focus on. My challenge to you is to buy one item of clothing that isn’t “ugly” and wear it around the house. Get used to the feeling of allowing yourself to feel good in what you wear. Honestly, the way I started doing that was with pajamas. things no one sees me in. But I bought ones that I liked and were comfortable and weren’t just baggy sweats. And it really does make me feel better to wear pajamas like this.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | July 9, 2010 | Reply

      • And who doesn’t want a good excuse to buy fun pj’s?! I never put much value in it before, but even if it’s just feeling good in your house when no one sees you…it still is a good feeling, right? I’ll take that. COmfy clothes aren’t just comfortable, they’re theraputic!!! (Feel THAT, P!!!) Thanks, Lex!

        Comment by slzu | July 15, 2010

  3. Maybe this is a similar question, but how/when were you able to not feel bad for being “healthy”? My problem is once I hit that no longer “underweight’ category in my BMI I freak and then retreat back just to stay “underweight”….I am scared of being “healthy”. When did that fear dissipate for you if you ever had it?

    Comment by Jessica | July 10, 2010 | Reply

    • Oh, I definitely had that fear and would do the same as you and get back to the BMI that put me just in the “underweight” category. I didn’t care if it was by 1/10th of a point, but I wasn’t “healthy”. I’ve been thinking a lot about where our fear of healthy comes from, for it is common. I think for me it meant I was no longer worthy of help or care, if I was declared “healthy.” And i think I wanted to be taken care of, or be seen as worth of care. And my weight was the only thing I thought I could control at the time. It changed for me when I was in the hospital. when someone asked me what i did (job wise/etc.) and I answered “I’m a grad student” and then realized I WASN”T a grad student. I was on a medical leave with my ass in the hospital for the upteenth time. And about that same time I realized I really wanted to be an active part of my nephew’s life because it broke my heart to have him visit me in the hospital. And I decided I had to be healthy to really be A) part of his life and B) a functioning grad student. Those two things were what I kept in mind, to combat the “healthy=bad” thoughts. And then I realized I just felt so much more alive and was enjoying living. And I was “healthy.” And I couldn’t do that when I was “underweight.” And the knowledge that my “healthy” is above the BMI charts for my height. I don’t function well at what the charts say is healthy for my height. I NEED to weigh more than that. That acceptance took longer, but it really sunk in fast when I finally did accept it.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | July 11, 2010 | Reply

  4. i appreciate this post 🙂
    my weight has fluctuated SO much since the beginning of the eating disorder to now, and i think part of the “typical” eating disorder mind is to hold on to particular numbers and not be able to tolerate change-never mind my lowest weights were when I was 14 or 15 years old and hadn’t even allowed myself to develop fully. I clearly will not weigh that amount ever again, unless something was very wrong.
    Even in recovery…change is hard. I don’t know what my exact weight was at discharge from treatment, but I do know that I’ve probably gained slightly since then–my jeans I bought in treatment are tighter than they were then and I’ve had to purchase new ones that are more comfortable. I remember emailing my therapist in a panic the day I realized they didnt fit “right” anymore–I cried in bed quite literally for hours, and smoked a ridiculous amount of cigarettes. My therapists response? That weight is a “range”. That in treatment, they often discharge in a certain portion of the range, and it’s normal for it to change. That when I discharged, I was 18, and I’m 21 now. Unfortunately, I apparently am not going to be the size of an 18 year old forever, either.
    I’m totally rambling (story of my life)…but all that to say–I have days where I could jump out of my skin and think, “this cannot be my body”. but I also have days where I feel good. I feel healthy. I feel alive. And I wear shorts anyways. I wear a 2 piece bathing suit. Because I WILL NOT let the eating disorder take anything else away from me. Fuck you, ed. Not listening to your rules anymore.

    Comment by mindy | July 13, 2010 | Reply

  5. I think the BMI is simply a very rough guideline to potentially take into consideration to various degrees *in tandem* with so many other variables. Some of my healthiest years I have been underweight(BMI)–while some of my unhealthiest years, I’ve been within a healthy weight(BMI). For me what matters most are attitudes and behaviors. Vitals matter too–but I have also had a number of fluke vitals (at times of both good and ill health).

    I can be physically and psychologically un/healthy underweight/BMI just as I can be physically and psychologically un/healthy at weight/BMI.

    For me, once again, it’s largely about attitudes and behaviors; that is how I know how un/healthy I am.

    Comment by emily | July 15, 2010 | Reply

  6. I suppose I’ve already heard or knew about the things you mentioned in your post. I haven’t weighed myself in… 4 months now. The 5.5 months before that was restoring X-X (edited by S.A.S.) pounds to get to healthy weight. But I literally feel like my body gets in the way now. Psychologically, I know I’m fine and “healthy” or whatnot, but physically, it’s extremely uncomfortable. I was just hoping maybe someone else understood this feeling and what you could do about it…

    Comment by Lily | July 16, 2010 | Reply

    • I’m sorry my post didn’t help. But all I could offer was my own experience. I think you can see by the other comments that we DO get this feeling. we’ve all eperienced it/are experiencing it. And a lot of the things I’ve mentioned-that you’ve already heartd about-are really effective things. But I’d ahve to say this IS one of the two hardest parts of recovery and it does take time. Please keep sticking with it, though. Don’t give up, not after all this work. you’ll get there. I can’t tell you when but you will get there.

      Comment by surfacingaftersilence | July 17, 2010 | Reply


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