TW: ED behaviors, diet culture, weight talk.
As someone who struggled with anorexia, I definitely resonate with how you feel and I understand how being thinner can make you happier on some level.
That said, I think that the happiness you feel is stemming from the belief, and a false one, that being thin is synonymous with things like beauty and self-worth. The belief that “If I weight X amount of pounds, I’m good and valuable and deserving of people’s love, affection, and acceptance.”
And because we live in a thin-obsessed, fat-fearing, weight preoccupied culture that reinforces this belief by sending us the message that what we look like is more important than who we are, it make sense that being thin feels so important to you. And given that people have a tendency to “reward” us — through compliments and better treatment — for conforming to our society’s standards of thinness and beauty, and because there’s a part of you that so desperately wants to be treated with love and kindness, it makes sense that you would feel better about yourself.
1. The thing about that sort of happiness though is that it is extremely short lived.
You might feel satisfied for a while, but it’s never good enough — you never feel good enough. And no matter how thin you become, you still feel the need to lose more. You still feel flawed and inadequate. You may feel more comfortable in your body and more attractive, but it doesn’t remedy the self-hatred.
And that’s because whatever caused your insecurities and created the emptiness you feel is not something that can be filled by thinness. Losing weight doesn’t make us feel whole or at peace. It can temporarily satisfy that emptiness and allow us to numb out from painful feelings — but it isn’t sustaining and it doesn’t actually solve the problems that caused us to hurt and feel inadequate in the first place.
2. Based on what you wrote, it sounds like what you really want isn’t to be thin.
You want to be loved and accepted. You want to feel seen and heard and validated. You want to feel appreciated and significant. You want to feel connected and like you belong. And all of those are normal, valid feelings. But you don’t have to be thin to get those needs met.
If anything, staying in your eating disorder will make those things harder to receive, and here’s why:
3. When all your time and energy is dedicated to pursuing thinness, you don’t have very much time or energy to put towards anything or anyone else.
You don’t have the time or energy to spend developing new friendships or strengthening existing connections. You become so wrapped up in behaviors that you aren’t really able to be there for the people you care about. You’re so busy making sure you stay thin that you give up doing things you feel passionately about, and in doing so, disconnect from the people you used to share those passions with. You have trouble thinking and concentrating because you feel so weak, and sometimes, you don’t even have the energy to hold conversations.
You’re afraid of food so you don’t allow yourself to go to certain events that would force you to eat. And so, you miss out on important experiences and opportunities to engage in the world and connect with others. You miss out on birthday lunches and dinner parties and late night trips with friends to get fast food. You skip fun things like going to the beach with friends or spending the day exploring the city with your roommate because that would mean missing out on your exercise routine. You cancel dates because you don’t feel comfortable going to restaurants and eating in front of other people. You turn down road trips and out of state visits to see friends because you won’t have control over the food you eat or when you can get in your exercise. Again, and again, you miss out on life and connections for the sake of pursuing thinness.
You end up isolating yourself. And because you consistently make yourself physically and emotionally unavailable, people interpret that as you not caring — so they distance themselves too. And as a result, you’re left feeling lonely, disconnected, inadequate, and invisible — the exact feelings you have been working so hard to escape from.Your body may be small, but so is your life.
Giving up the pursuit of thinness and living in a body that is bigger than your eating disorder approves of may be uncomfortable for a time, but it’s the first step in creating a bigger and fuller life for yourself. There is so much more to life than your eating disorder and being thin, and you deserve to discover what that is.
4. In order to get to a place where you feel accepting of your body, you have to address the issues underlying your eating disorder.
The way you feel towards your body has a lot less to do with how much you weigh and a lot more to do with the negative beliefs you’ve internalized and how they impact the way you feel about yourself as a person. As long as you’re holding onto those beliefs, no number on the scale will ever feel good enough.
It’s also important to recognize that you weren’t born thinking these negative things about yourself. At some point, someone or some experience sent you the message that there was something wrong with who you are. And in order to heal, you have to figure out what or who taught you those things and why you no longer need to internalize them. You have to identify the specific negative thoughts and beliefs that are fueling your insecurities and you have to challenge them with positive, self-loving and accepting truths. You have to talk about the things from your past that are causing you pain, and you have to find new, non self-destructive ways of coping and taking care of yourself.
5. People treating you better is not a reason to stay in your eating disorder.
I received compliments from people during my struggle with anorexia too, and similarly, it reinforced my fear that if I gained weight, people wouldn’t find me desirable or valuable anymore. But through recovery, I’ve learned that the right people are not going to use my weight or appearance as a measure for my worth. The right people aren’t going to choose me as a friend or partner because of how much I weigh — they are going to want me in their life because of who I am as a person and how I make them feel.
Being complimented on the external stuff is definitely nice, but it doesn’t define who you are. You don’t need anyone’s validation to be good enough. Other people’s opinions don’t have the power to improve or discount your value. Your worth is something inherent. You exist and therefore, you matter. With or without other people’s compliments, you are okay and enough.
That aside, anyone who only wants to associate themselves with you if you’re thin or because you weigh a certain amount is an asshole and not someone you want to have anything to do with anyway. The right people are going to value and accept you no matter what you weigh — because to them, you aren’t a number. You’re a human being deserving of love and kindness and compassion. You have a unique set of strengths and talents and kindness and love and insight to offer the world — and those are the things that draw people to you and make them want to stick around, not your weight.
6. The fact that certain people are treating you like garbage is NOT about you.
It’s about them and their own insecurities and limitations and struggles, and you don’t have to internalize that. Ever. Their behavior is a reflection on them and the toxic shit they’ve internalized from living in a thin-obsessed, weight pre-occupied culture — it’s not about you, and it is absolutely not a reason to stay in your eating disorder.
It’s also important to recognize that no matter what you look like or how much you weight, there will ALWAYS be someone who treats you like garbage. Not because we’re inherently inadequate, but because it’s impossible to win everyone’s affection. We’re not going to connect with everyone and win every person’s approval, and that’s okay. It’s normal.
Even when I was really thin, there were still certain people who didn’t care to be my friend. There were people who wouldn’t give me the time of day, acknowledge my existence, or treat with any kindness — and it had nothing to do with me or my weight. It was about them and their own preferences and whatever life issues they were going through. You are not an exception to this. Other people’s behavior towards you is NOT about you or a reflection on your worth. It doesn’t make you inadequate. It just makes them mean, shitty people.
7. It’s not your responsibility to be thin.
It’s okay and normal to want to feel beautiful and be attractive to certain people, but it’s also important to recognize that you don’t owe thinness or beauty to anyone. That isn’t your job. It isn’t some rent you pay for being female. You don’t exist for other people’s viewing pleasure. And you have so much more to offer the world than how you look.
8. Some recovery assignments to think/write about:
-What do you want to be remembered for after you die?
I don’t want people to remember me for what I looked like, what size clothing I wore, or what I weighed. I want to be remembered for the person I was and what I contributed to the world. I want to be remembered as someone who positively affected peoples’ lives. I want to be remembered as loving friend, partner, and family member. I want to be remembered for my passion and my creativity and my strength. I want to be remembered as someone who helped people and made a difference. What do you want your legacy to be? Chances are, it doesn’t have to do with weight.
- Make a list of all the people you look up to and are inspired by.
Not because of their appearance or weight, but because of who they are and what they offer the world, and use that list as a reminder that it’s the things inside that draw us to people and make us want to be around them, not what they look like or how much they weigh. You don’t choose your friends because they’re thin. You choose them because of how they make you feel and the fun you have with them. You are not an exception to this. The right people value you for the same reasons.
- Make a list of all the things your eating disorder and the pursuit of thinness have forced you to give up and miss out on.
Use the list as a reminder of why you’re in recovery. Use it as a reminder that you gain so much more in recovery than just weight — you gain back your life.
*** I know that all of this is easier said than done.
I’ve been there and I understand how painful and terrifying and difficult this process is. So be patient and compassionate with yourself. You’re doing the best you can right now and that’s all you can ask of yourself.
It’s okay that you aren’t feeling enthusiastic about recovery.
In fact, it’s normal. I wasn’t very fond of getting better in the beginning either. Most people aren’t. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be angry and sad about gaining weight. It’s okay to scream and cry and yell. It’s okay to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling.
Recovery isn’t pleasant. Not in the beginning. It takes time for things to get better. But the important thing to remember, no matter how painful it is in the moment, is that things DO get better.
Sending so much love your way,
please read the above^