I read an article online this morning that really got to me, and wanted to share it on here too with a few of my thoughts. Really, really important when thinking about eating disorders!
Here's a link to the article: Eating Disorder Recovery. The part that got me was the quote "The problem in the medical community is that the 'set point' weight may not match the person's 'ideal weight' based on their BMI. A person's weight at their set point may be considered overweight or even obese...People have a lot of misconceptions about what it looks like to have an eating disorder and what it looks like to be in recovery from an eating disorder. The general assumption is that people who have eating disorders are visibly, dangerously skinny, and when they recover they return to a 'normal weight', whatever that means. This assumption is true for some people, but wildly untrue for others. There are thousands of women across the country suffering from eating disorders who don't 'look like' they're suffering from an eating disorder. There are thousands of women across the country who have recovered from eating disorders that inhabit bodies of all shapes and sizes, including bodies classified as 'fat' by our society. My story fits both these scenarios."
I cried when I read the article because I can really, really relate to what it says. When I was an inpatient the second time (the only time I stayed for close to the full programme), my weight went up at nearly twice the rate of anyone else there even though I was on a reduced portion size and it didn't stop when I got to 'target weight'. Once you're at target, you're meant to start a three month stabilisation programme but because I was still panicking about the weight gain and feeling so out of control, I wasn't allowed to start it for originally four weeks which was then extended by another four weeks. After another extension, I made the decision that I wanted to start stabilisation anyway but by then, I'd already started to relapse and I didn't understand why I couldn't eat even a small amount of 'normal' food without my weight going way above target and even the high end of the target weight band. This was ten years ago and I'm still struggling with it now, and it's something that ED services really need to be more aware of. Some people have different 'set points' and metabolisms, and they really need to take that into account and have more of a focus on acceptance and psychoeducation about that rather than specific 'target weights' or judging people by their BMI.
I still hate my body but I've accepted that unless I want to stop eating or exercising completely, I can't change it and that makes me feel frustrated and inadequate but there's not much I can do about it. The bitch in my head tells me that it's because I'm naturally lazy and selfish and my body reflects that, and maybe that's true. I don't know but I know that distance running is such a massive part of my life now and one of the few things that genuinely makes me feel 'real' and like an OK person that I'm not willing to give that up, and I need fuel to be able to run every day. That doesn't mean I don't still restrict and skip meals- I do, but my body genuinely doesn't seem to need a lot of food to stay alive and if it starts to impact on my running, I'll eat more. In an ultra, I eat several times the amount I usually would in a day and a lot more variety of foods, and the bitch in my head shuts up for that space of time which is another reason I love running ultras so much- the freedom from constant criticism and rules is incredible. I have no idea what's going to happen in the future but I think as long as I'm still running and doing things that make me feel 'real', I'm going with a quote from the incredible David Bowie who said that "I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring." That's my attitude to my body and running at the moment, and much as I feel selfish and horrible in the body I have, it means I can run over 24 hours at a time and that's a pretty amazing feeling.
Published by Alex Anderson