A sense of humor.
Mental space & clarity.
A social life.
In short, I gained 15 pounds and got my life back. It made me… me again, and it feels so damn good. If you are in the same boat that I was – anxious around food, tired, desperately attempting to be at a weight unnatural for you – this may be a good read for you.
In our society, gaining weight is one of those things that everyone fears to death – it’s the absolute worst thing that people can imagine. We have a whole multi-billion dollar diet & exercise industry that (successfully) feeds off of that fear.
But, what if losing a ton of weight unnaturally was even worse than gaining some? That was the case for me.
Last year I dealt with some really restrictive eating patterns and obsessive exercise routines. It was thinking about what I could eat, what I couldn’t eat, what I wanted to eat, what workout I was going to do, what body part I wanted to change, how could I look like XX on Instagram… 24/7, all day every day for almost a year. I had gotten down to a super low weight, one that I hadn’t been at since 8th grade when I was 13. PS, I was 20 last year, so like… a woman, with curves and stuff.
It was a weight – 15 pounds lighter than what it is now – that was completely unsustainable and borderline dangerous, but I felt that rush of excitement every time I got on the scale and saw a lower number. I mean, who cares if your life is crumbling around you, as long as you stay thin, right?
I started working with a dietitian and going to therapy, and I am ~slowly~ learning how to break those habits and basically just chill out. Needless to say, that cycle is exhausting and takes toll on you physically, mentally, socially, and just about every other way.
During my quest for the “BEST” body ever, I lost a lot besides just 15 pounds. With those 15 pounds that really didn’t need to go, I lost everything unique that makes me who I am. I also lost my period. I was a bleak shell of myself, forcibly smiling through the motions of life while thinking about the hunger I was feeling, the workout I “should” have been doing, and the body that I just couldn’t get no matter how hard I tried.
I had no energy. I honestly don’t know how I even made it through workouts. But really, that’s all I did – get up, go to class, come home and think about food, workout, eat a dinner I didn’t want, sleep. Track macros or weigh food during the day. Repeat.
Going out and having fun like a normal 20-year-old? Nope. I couldn’t be around all of that food. Plus, I was way too self-conscious, even though I weighed the “perfect” amount.
Isn’t that the ultimate paradox, though? We have this goal weight or goal body and think that once we get there, something will finally just CLICK and we’ll be totally happy with our bodies and lives and all will be good. We’ll be able to ease up on our diets and enjoy ourselves with a kickass body.
But that is never the case. We never really get “there” – because once we do get to that goal weight or body, it’s not good enough. We want more. We set another goal – “just another 5 pounds” – and
discipline deprive ourselves enough to reach it, if possible. We’re still just as self-conscious as when we started.
The more we try to reach this “goal body” to find happiness in ourselves, the less happy we become.
Once I finally accepted that things were not okay, I started to eat more and exercise less. And yes, I gained weight – at first, more than my set point weight (if you haven’t heard about set point weight theory, read this). It was scary and uncomfortable as hell. But eventually my body balanced out to a normal weight that’s healthy and sustainable for ME; I’m still learning to love that weight. Everyone’s set point weight is different, so you just have to let your body find a weight that’s healthy both mentally and physically (no scale required).
As I gained weight, my spark returned. I started enjoying foods I hadn’t in months, and I didn’t feel stressed if I missed a workout. I slept more. I laughed more. Everything good in my life is in abundance since I’m wasting less time tearing my body apart. Here are the things I gained when I gained 15 pounds…
SENSE OF HUMOR.
You all know that people on diets are no fun to be around. I was able to go back to being my happy-go-lucky self. I stopped being so serious all the time and just lightened up.
MENTAL SPACE & CLARITY.
Do you know how much brain power it takes to think about food and your body ALL day every day? (No, I’m not exaggerating.) Once I was able to let go of most of those thought patterns, I had so much more mental space to think about things that actually matter – my grades, my relationships, social issues, blog ideas. It’s like a thick fog lifts and you’re able to see the world clearly again.
A SOCIAL LIFE.
LOL if you think serious dieter Emilie was going out for food and drinks with friends. I basically became a hermit because all I could think about was food (that I didn’t eat) and how self-conscious I was. Post 15 pounds, I actually hang out with friends and meet new people – what a normal college student should be doing! Now I’m having double the fun to make up for lost time.
Hiiiii Aunt Flo! I didn’t have my period for about 9 months, which really concerned me. It still isn’t regular yet, but I’m trusting it will eventually get back to its normal routine. Who ever thought I’d be wishing for a period?
I mean, I didn’t really have much to start out with (I am not genetically blessed with voluptuous lady curves), but I had absolutely nothing when I was at my lowest weight. After I gained 15 pounds, I gained some new curves that actually make me feel like a women. Ooh la la. Yay to filling out clothes!
Like I said earlier, I was a shell of myself. I mean, I was there, but not 100%. My obsession with food and my body changed the way I thought, the way I interacted with others, the things I enjoyed… it changed everything. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be ME again – happy, healthy, life-loving, ambitious ME.
Oh, and don’t think I’m writing all this from “the other side” – the totally confident, completely happy with my body, always normal around food side. I’m halfway writing this to help you all out, but halfway writing it to help myself out. It’s still a struggle for me; it especially has been in this season of swimsuits and short-shorts.
But almost every day, I intentionally choose to not think about it, or to just say eh, this body good enough…life is good. But it’s not every day; some days I wake up and feel totally horrible in my body. I think that’s okay for right now. I don’t think we’ll ever get to that perfectly confident “other side” – the goal is just to have less of those bad days. Agreed?
All that said, here’s a few things I’ve learned from this whole mess:
Most weight loss attempts made in complete vanity will fail and are pointless.
Eating healthy and moving your body must come from a place of self-love FIRST.
Some extra curves are awesome. 😉 Women need extra fat to do all of the cool things we were built to do… like carry little kiddos! It’s normal and healthy, even though it’s different than what media teaches us.
No one else cares about your body. Literally no one.
If you’re comfortable in your body and around food, your positivity and happiness will radiate, and that will be more beautiful than a “perfect” body will ever be.
Do I think weight gain is always a positive thing? No. If you’re using food to numb emotions and eating way past fullness, that’s obviously not healthy. But in my situation, gaining weight was a positive thing because it got me back to my normal weight, one that is healthy, sustainable, and effortless.
It may not be the weight at which I feel most comfortable (yet) or the one I’ve spent years trying to “achieve.” I may still fight it sometimes. But right now I’m just focused on all of the amazing things in my life. Body acceptance will come with time.
Resources to help you:
Robyn @ The Real Life RD
Kylie @ Imma Eat That
Christy @ Food Psych Podcast
Paige @ Nutrition Matters Podcast