Proud2Bme | Dear Melody: How Can I Accept Healthy Weight Gain?

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Dear Melody: How Can I Accept Healthy Weight Gain?

“Monthly Matters with Melody” is a monthly advice column by Dr. Melody Moore, a clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and the founder of the Embody Love Movement Foundation. Her foundation is a non-profit whose mission is to empower girls and women to celebrate their inner beauty, commit to kindness and contribute to meaningful change in the world. Dr. Moore is a social entrepreneur who trains facilitators on how to teach programs to prevent negative body image and remind girls and women of their inherent worth. Her work has been featured in the books Yoga and Body Image and Yoga and Eating Disorders: Ancient Healing for Modern Illness, as well as in Yoga JournalYoga International and Origin Magazine.

How can I stop thinking that my healthy weight gain is a bad thing and how do I accept being in the normal weight range?

Three things. None of them easy, but each of them possible. One graceful step at a time, you can first begin to unravel the assumption that your weight is what matters about you. It isn’t. This is the first thing. There is so much more to who you are than what you weigh. And it is imperative that you land in the truth of this step, because without doing so, you will continue to be seduced into the illusion that your weight is your worth. The “good” and the bad” come from this limited perspective about your whole, worthy self.   

The second thing: Your “normal” weight range is your body being able to function effectively to carry around your soul. Your personality. Your essence. Your purpose. The inner you. If you are able to eat from the wisdom in your belly, you will find that your body is in sync with your hunger signals. And that it is not working against you. Your body is not the enemy. It is the temple. The vessel. Your body is the shell, not the soul.  How your body ends up looking when you nourish it according to its needs is its own unique and individualized expression of beautiful.

Thing three? To know that your “normal” is yours, and yours alone. You cannot be compared to anyone else or any standard for yourself that you’ve contrived. Own who you are. Only you can. Your eating disorder contributes to you seeing a distortion of the reality that you look better when you weigh less or look smaller. The truth is that your body looks best when it is nourished, and that it feels best when you feed it what it needs. The result of nourishing your body is a nourished mind, one that will be less likely to believe the inner critic of your not being thin enough unless you are underweight.

I don't look underweight yet according to BMI and my dietitian underweight (below ‘healthy range’ BMI). How do I accept their advice to gain weight? And is it possible that I'm at a healthy weight for my body now?

I’m struck by your statement, “I don’t look underweight.” That’s tricky. Because how you “look” to you is likely not how you appear to others. If you have an eating disorder, please respect its ability to distort your reality. The strength of the disorder lies in its capacity to confuse you into believing that you “don’t look underweight,” which is a hallmark of anorexia nervosa.  I get that it can be really confusing to see one thing in the mirror, yet have those around you tell you that what you see is not real. I am not doubting what you see. Anorexia is powerful. So much so that it is, in fact, deadly. It can be true that you look healthy to you while being underweight.

While I do not believe that BMI is everything, it is one standard by which your dietician is hoping to help you understand that you are likely harming yourself by not having enough weight on your frame to nourish your bones and organs. If your treatment team feels that you need to gain weight, consider that they are not against you or trying to sabotage your happiness, nor are they trying to make you look big. Consider that they aren’t wearing the same distorted lenses that your eating disorder is offering you, and from their reality-based perspective, you aren’t yet in the safe zone. Trusting others is difficult, and could be the crux of the issue here. I hope you will be able to trust in your dietician until you are able to fully trust in yourself again, and in your own perspective of your image in the mirror. This will likely come with time, commitment to feeding yourself, and, a true healthy weight.

Any advice on body dysmorphia? I am eight months into recovery and feel like a gigantic person although I have only gone up one pants size. I think I'm not seeing myself in the mirror, but a different, larger person I don't know.

“Can you be strong enough to let the world be different?” A friend of mine, Matthew Sanford, author of Waking, once asked this at the close of a yoga class I was lucky enough to attend. His inquiry comes to mind now, as I consider how to help you un-see what you feel and move toward what is real.

It sounds like you are conflicted about whether the image that you see is being caused by distortions, or if it is a true image. Have you tried reality checking your perspective? Here’s an idea. Roll out a piece of butcher paper that is at least the length of your body’s height. Then, take a marker and do your best to draw out the frame of your body, as closely as you can to an actual size image. After you do so, lie down onto the sheet of butcher paper, inside the drawing that you made, and have someone that you trust, perhaps your therapist, trace your body’s shape with a different-colored marker. Then, get up, turn around, and look at the two distinct frames. Notice what you notice. Is the figure that you drew any bigger or any different than your actual traced body? If so, let yourself feel the sensations and emotions that arise within you when you see that you are actually smaller than you think you are.

Can you be strong enough to let the world be different? Seeing things from a new perspective takes strength and bravery. Just like eight months of recovery does. Draw on the wisdom from those eight months of learning and use the skills and the tools you have already developed to support you in trusting in the part of you that asked the question. That part of you, maybe it is your inner knowing, already recognizes that you’re “not seeing yourself in the mirror.” Grow that part of you, the part that is your wise, witness mind, and see if the distortions begin to shrink. 

Have questions for Dr. Melody? Post them in the comments below!

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