I wanted to start this post with a comment a reader left on one of my other posts:
“I workout almost every day and eat lots of fruits and veggies. Yet I despaired because I am 15 pounds over pre-kid weight (and even back then, I wasn’t pleased). I started therapy for body image issues. We’ve only had two sessions so far. This morning I was explaining that I lost weight and kept it off after college for about ten years. I exercised daily and tried to keep my calories around 1500-1600 a day. I told the therapist that I just haven’t been able to do that since I had kids and I feel so much shame about it. Her first comment – maybe you were underweight for your body before since that is a very low caloric intake. I have been poking that idea all day and it’s really hard to even understand. By BMI I was not underweight. By my standard of having tummy rolls I was not underweight. By the ‘ideal body size’ numbers online I was not underweight. And yet… should you have to work so hard every day to be at your body’s ideal weight?”
Your comment spoke to me on so many levels. I, too, kept the weight off for 10+ years and then had a kid and struggled with the 20 or so pounds I just could not lose. I love the comment your therapist said it was kind of a lightbulb moment for, too.
The lowest weight I ever got was 143 and I was NOT able to stay there very long (and according to BMI I was still considered overweight–eye rolls!). I was around 150 for most of the 10 years I kept the weight off. I look back at pictures from that time period and I was so skinny! Then I feel like a failure because I didn’t stay that skinny. But your therapist was right. Was it a weight my body wanted to be? Was it a sustainable weight? I spent 15 years eating really low calories every day, including working out, and now I wonder if I did serious, permanent damage to my metabolism.
Thank you for the comment and I hope you share more about your healing journey!
How do you connect with your body/do intuitive eating when you can’t recognize your fullness? Or you deny your hunger? If you binge, do you recognize that it could be because you’ve been restricting throughout the day? Not eating enough calories? Ignoring hunger signs because it’s not time for a meal?
Lately I am trying to get back in touch with my body and the hunger cues. Something I noticed recently was feeling very tired and fatigued and then I eat lunch and suddenly I have energy! Sounds pretty “DUH” huh? But honestly it’s a reminder of what it’s like to restrict. I was so used to it for so long and couldn’t figure out why I was so tired all the time. Part of that was because I wasn’t eating enough calories. Especially doing Keto. Barely any carbs, not enough calories = tired, cranky, chronic fatigue…
Something I heard about recently was the concept of Body Grief. Highly recommend Food Psych podcast! Check it out. This episode was very good and spoke to me!
“I had to grieve the perceived loss of the way society would celebrate me. Grieve that I was never going to be the “After” Photo. I had to grieve that I was never going to make certain family members proud of me because I never achieved that size.”
It’s weird because I *was* the “After” photo. For a very long time. But then things changed. Life, age, pregnancy, breastfeeding, metabolism, medications, injuries. They sound like excuses but the older I get, the more I realize the equation is NOT just food + exercise. It’s also rest. It’s genetics. It’s stress levels. It’s medications you might take. And since I *was* the after photo for a long time, for the last 5 years of gaining and losing the same 10-15 pounds, I felt shame and grief and disappointment and anger. Anger that what worked before no longer worked. Ashamed that I could SEE people in my life doing the body scan and silently judging my weight.
“My body caused me distress.”
What does Body Image mean? Is it how you see yourself? Is it how you FEEL in your body? Is it feeling happy in your body?
Does the way you feel in your body make you uncomfortable?
Is your love conditional for your body?
On another episode of Body Psych, they discussed Binge Eating/Body Dysmorphia and How to Stop Fighting Food. Something that has come up on the podcast many times, which was shocking to me, was that you can have a Binge Eating Disorder and be in a fat body. Binge eating/anorexia/bulimia = does not mean you are skinny. My mind was blown.
Before, I was a binge eater. After, sometimes I “binge eat” but it’s a different scale. It’s a scale from restriction/calorie counting etc. I have like 500 extra calories of chocolate in a day (hello Halloween or Easter) and I feel like I “binged” and my day is blown.
I feel like all of this is about mindset.