It’s a simple fact of life that our weight will not remain exactly the same over the course of our lives. Your birth weight of 6 lbs 9 oz (fun fact: that’s my birth weight) just isn’t going to cut it as you grow into your adult height. However, just because our weight changes at certain times during life, it doesn’t mean the changes are easy to deal with.
Although significant weight changes and associated body image woes are common amongst people with eating disorders/disordered eating or in recovery from these conditions, there are plenty of other reasons for significant weight changes and associated body image concerns. Major reasons why we might experience significant weight gains include: puberty, periods of depression or grief, pregnancy, as medically necessary and in response to significant weight loss, while taking certain medications, and menopause/aging, among others. Some times where we might experience significant weight loss include: periods of prolonged anxiety, anorexia (as in loss of appetite), acute or chronic illness, while taking certain medications, and food insecurity (when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from), among others.
I’m not here (in this particular article) to tell you how to gain or lose the weight if it’s medically beneficial for you to do so. I want to explore how to cope with a changing body and how to create some comfort in a very uncomfortable situation. To begin:
1. Smash the Scale
You’re not weighting yourself, right? Of course not! It’s not necessary for you to obsess over a number, so let your treatment team take on that responsibility for you.
2. Reassess your Wardrobe
If need be, weight changes can be an excuse to buy new clothes and give away your “sick” clothes! Don’t wear clothes that are much too big or too small with hopes that you’ll one day fit into them again. You’ll instantly feel better when you wear clothes you feel good in and that flatter your body.
3. Cut the Tags
Sure, you’ll probably remember what size your clothes are, but it can help curb the obsessive desire to wear only size X clothing. Sizes vary so much depending on the brand and putting all of your self worth on such a meaningless indicator is a waste of time and energy.
4. Cover the Mirrors
No, you’re not in mourning, but if you know you’re going to spend hours in front of the mirror body checking, just cover up all your full length mirrors and trust that you look awesome! Stick some positive affirmations around the mirrors you keep uncovered to remind yourself that how you look has nothing to do with the kind of person you are.
When you find yourself saying something negative about a body part (i.e. my thighs are massive), turn it around and force yourself to say something about that body part that you appreciate (your thigh muscles help you excel in your sport). It may seem like a silly exercise, but the more you do it, the more you’ll find yourself automatically reframing your thoughts.
6. Appreciate Your Body
Think of all the awesome things you can do now if you’re at a healthy weight, or that you could do when you were at a healthy weight like remember what you just read, hold a conversation, walk up a flight of stairs, or go to the gym and lift weights. Could you do that when your body was not properly nourished?
Cultivate a practice of some sort of movement that you enjoy. Maybe you take up jogging or join an ultimate frisbee league or get into yoga. Movement to feel good rather than look good really helps you appreciate what your body is capable of. (See more on Cultivating a Healthy Relationship with Exercise in Recovery).
8. Do What You Love
What do you enjoy doing? Whatever it is, do you feel bad about your body while doing it? Chances are, you’re so absorbed in whatever the activity is, and you don’t have the mental capacity to focus on your body. Keep yourself distracted with activities that bring you joy.
9. Talk About It
Sure, we’ve all experienced weight changes in our lives, so you’ll have plenty of people to empathize with you, but your story is also unique. And how you feel is unique. So tell your story and ask for support, as needed. Whether it’s your therapist, your dietitian, your partner, your friends, or the internet; get it out.
10. Unfollow Negativity
Speaking of the internet, unfollow, block, or ignore anyone who either directly puts you down (that’s a given) or makes you feel uncomfortable about your body.
Remember, too, that what people are posting online are highlights of the best parts of their life and everything can be digitally altered.
11. Unfollow Negativity IRL
Do you have a co-worker who is always bashing her body? Or do your friends always talk about other girls’ bodies behind their backs? If you can’t redirect the conversation, spend less time with these people. You don’t need that negativity.
Lastly, this is an ongoing process, and you’re not going to accept your body overnight. Some days will be okay, and some will be incredibly difficult. But body acceptance is possible no matter what you weigh. And your weight is never reflective of your worth.
As always, bring your specific concerns to your therapist or dietitian.