Friday, August 31, 2012

What Weight Gain Means to Me

I wrote this post this morning, shared it with a close friend and then freaked out. Although it was saved as a draft I decided that it was way too personal to share on my blog. I put the entire post out of my mind and then went to work. Today was the best day of work that I have had since I started working there. The actual work part was the same; same tasks and time frame but I felt different. Something was better. I not only felt present to what I was doing but I felt connected to those around me. Although I have only known them for about a month, my coworkers and I have formed quick friendships. We have inside jokes and are constantly laughing with and at each other. Leaving work today my stomach actually hurt from laughing so hard. When I am at my job I am myself. Because I am doing things that I enjoy and am surrounded by people who feel the same, I don't hold back. Although I remain professional when I am actually doing my job, my filter isn't up and my guard is down. I am loud, clumsy and not afraid to show it. Today I feel like I gained a little bit of my confidence back and because of that I decided to post this. Enjoy!

I have a huge fear of gaining weight. I can not remember a time in the last 10 years where I wasn't completely affected by the number on the scale. Although, what is deemed to be "ok" has constantly fluctuated depending on how much I am struggling with the eating disorder and other things going on in my life. Some people, those who have eating disorders and those who do not, have a specific number in mind that is their "ideal perfect" weight. Some believe that at that weight magic happens; they will finally be ok, have their lives together and things will be perfect and wonderful. Due to our culture and the messages that we are constantly surrounded by it's no big surprise that people are so attached to the idea that thin is better and spend so much time fixating on weight, trying to manipulate their body and dieting.

Although I do struggle greatly with the idea of gaining weight, I do not believe that weighing more and being fat is bad. I do not believe certain weights are better than others nor are certain bodies. I don't buy into the stereotypes that people associate with fat and I don't believe that weight and health are the same thing. I really don't believe that a number on the scale tells you anything, other than how much you weigh. That number doesn't measure your worth or your value or say anything about your personality or the life that you lead. When you look at someone you can tell their size and what your prejudices are about people of that size, but nothing else. I have a lot of friends and family members who are bigger, they weigh more, and are some of the most inspiring people I know. They aren't lazy or unmotivated and they know how to take care of themselves just fine.

So given this information why am I chained to a piece of metal and plastic? Why is my fear of gaining weight so strong, that I would rather give up more important things in my life in order to remain stuck in the fog of under eating? 

Recently my nutritionist asked me the same question. Why do I fear gaining weight and what does gaining weight mean to me? When the question was first posed to me I gave my default answer of "I don't know", which at the time was the complete truth. I thought about our culture and the "thin is in" message but realized that I didn't buy that. When I hear others bashing their body or talking about how much better their lives would be if they just lost X lbs, it genuinely hurts me. I don't judge others by their size and I see nothing wrong with being bigger. The diet mentality and industry has always blown my mind.

Some people have the misconception that those with eating disorders, especially anorexia are vain. The media portrays the illness as a choice and as a way to seek beauty. While some of those who struggle are fixated on their appearance and do strive to achieve a certain level of thinness, this isn't the case for everyone. Those who know me know that I don't wear make up and most of the time am wearing a t-shirt and jeans. While I respect the people who put a lot of time into getting ready and looking their best, it really isn't my thing. If it wasn't for the fact that I work at a job that I need to dress professionally for, I would probably look like a disheveled mess every day and I would rock it. I don't believe how I dress or look says anything about me, other than I don't really value peoples appearances.

So back to the question, why do I fear gaining weight? Below is my raw, genuine, vulnerably written answer to this question. It wasn't easy to share this with my nutritionist and it scares the hell out of me knowing that I am putting my deepest, darkest fears and concerns out in the open on the internet for anyone and everyone to read and ridicule. However I believe that being honest and open is important. I hold on to the hope that maybe this will resonate with just one person. That I will be able to help end some of the shame and stigma around anorexia and maybe open peoples eyes and views a bit. I am also sharing this for myself, as a way to begin to change some of my beliefs and take my power back from anorexia and those who have spent years telling me lies that I have so faithfully bought into.

What Gaining Weight Means to Me 

Weighing less keeps me small, keeps things manageable, helps me go unnoticed. It keeps my passion and ideas at bay. It helps me fit into this pre-made box that people have been trying to squeeze me in my entire life. Gaining weight means bigger, it means becoming too much. Too much everything, which is unacceptable in the eyes of my mother. Gaining weight means I can no longer hide my personality behind my appearance. Being small means quiet, polite, compliant, going with whatever everyone else is doing. Being small means people will like me, at least my voice and opinions will be contained, so there will be no confrontation or rejection. Being small helps me keep the peace. Weighing more means taking up more space, existing, needing. It means having opinions, needs, wants and desires and showing them. All of those things feel selfish, needy and not ok to me.  It’s bold, daring and brave. Ever since I was a child I have felt cursed. I have felt cheated, like I have been given so much to offer the world and so much in general but then surround by people who can’t handle it, who think it’s too much, who think I am too much.  I have been told that my passion, ideas and enthusiasm for life is childish, my feelings are dramatic. That I am over sensitive and unrealistic. That I care too much, like it’s a bad thing. All of my life I have felt like I have been given a gift, a very big heart and the desire to share it with the world. I feel that one of my strengths is my ability to connect, understand and empathize with others. I feel the need to love and care for others with every part of being. I have a desire to help others and truly believe that I can make a difference in this world. I truly believe in the good in everyone and that everyone deserves a chance and I love working with people who have been told otherwise. I never give up on people, ever. And I love listening and learning. I love working with kids with troubled backgrounds, the disabled or even those who have mental or physical illnesses. I feel like listening to others and sharing the power of love and connection is better than anything else. But I have been told over and over again that I am naïve, that my enthusiasm isn’t realistic and so I have succumbed to trying to fit the ideal. Keeping my body small, helps keep me small and helps me keep to myself and not disappoint others. It keeps my “bigness” at bay. It allows my feelings and dreams to be toned down and then others can handle me. No one has to know about my passion to help those in need, take care of others and be a part of other people’s lives. The gratitude that I feel when people share things with me and allow me to be a part of their lives is not comparable to anything else. The joy that I feel when others are happy can’t be beat. 

I feel so strongly about so many things but have always been shot down, told that it can’t be done, it’s too much. I have been told time and time again that there is only so much I can do and that I am wasting my time. That instead I should focus on more “important” things. But what is more important than people? What could be more satisfying then helping others?

Gaining weight means I am here to, that I matter and that I am no longer second best. And on most days I don’t feel that way. I don’t feel like I can handle that. I feel selfish for taking up space. Weighing more scares me because what if people can’t handle it? What if I lose the ones that I love? What if others are right? That I am too much, too childish, too emotional and too big of a dreamer. What if I can’t devote my life to helping others? What if I can’t be the person that I long to be? What if I am just naïve enough to believe that I can make a difference in this world? Then when? Weighing less narrows my options. It keeps my contained, practical even. It keeps me realistic. It keeps me from trying. And if I don’t try, I don’t have to suffer the consequences of it not working out. Keeping my body small, keeps me in the lines. 

Weighing more means not holding back. It means no longer allowing my body to do the talking. It means showing that I have a voice and am not afraid to use it. It means that I have a presence. That I am no longer sitting back letting the eating disorder run the show. That I no longer have an excuse to hide behind. In my mind weighing more shows confidence, strength and courage, and although I long for those things, they scare me.

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