Gaining

I’ve been formulating this post in my head for a long time. Months, in fact. It’s a rather touchy subject, but one I feel I need to address, as both someone who has recovered from an eating disorder, and as a woman in American society. I’ll start at the beginning.

When I was a little kid, I was stick thin. I was a peanut, a string bean of a girl (in fact, that’s what my family used to call me). I was short and skinny. My slim pants were sometimes too big. I was perfectly healthy and active. My skinniness was part genetics I believe, and part being an active little girl. I remained short and skinny until I was about 12-13.

Then, I started growing up and out. You know how they do that height forecast at the pediatrician’s office when you are about two? I was forecasted to not hit 5’0”. I stand 5’5” today. And so we were all surprised when I grew taller than we thought I’d grow, and I grew hips and breasts and was no longer a peanut or a stringbean.

It is not a bad thing to grow taller and gain feminine attributes. But, those attributes mean gaining weight. I broke the triple digit mark and kept going. I was horrified to see the scale hit 120, 130 and even 140. Now I know that those are perfectly healthy weights for someone my height, and with my frame (I am average-large framed). But I didn’t know that at the time.

And so I began to try to reduce this new me (as you all know about because you read the book, or know about the book). My weight ran the gamut: 117-160 before treatment. No matter the number, it wasn’t good enough, and I wasn’t thin enough. Now I know that I don’t look good below 130, but I didn’t know that then, and I strived for the ultimate goal of shrinking myself to 110lbs, thinking that was a cure to everything. At 110lbs, I’d be a peanut, a stringbean again.

I would be lauded for my thinness. I missed that.

I tried and I tried and I swung from anorexia to bulimia, and back again.

I went to treatment and gained about 15lbs. I left around 145lbs. I was not thrilled.

I lost 15lbs immediately following treatment and I looked like hell because of how I lost them, and because I pushed my body beyond its set point.

I recovered and gained those 15lbs back. And then a little more.

Last summer I had a bad summer with some health problems, and the treatment included hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT at 26 was rough. It made me moody, weepy, hot-flashy and more than anything, hungry. I gained more weight. I was also on high-estrogen birth control, which also contributed to gaining weight. All of this also played into a recurrence of depression, so I switched up my antidepressant.

In the fall, I started working at a preschool, and got sick a lot from the kiddies. My asthma flared like it never has before and I took pack after pack of steroids to quell the inflammation in my lungs. And this of course made me hungry, and I gained weight.

Along the way, my favorite gym became too crowded, and I had a problem with being approached by leering men in the hot tub. So I left the gym.

At first, in recovery, I was rather vigilant about portion size and what I ate. Then I relaxed a bit and indulged. I found that I actually like food a lot. I like to eat. I tried things I’d never tried before, and I wanted to eat out all the time. I ate fast food, which I had previously banned. I drank milkshakes and ate burgers (I also banned meat at one point). And I gained weight.

I weighed myself all along, so I always had a good idea of how much I weighed. I grew exasperated with the number on the scale. I sometimes panicked, cried, screamed and shouted. But I didn’t resort to eating disorder behavior. Because while I was gaining weight, I was also gaining insight.

When I was actively ED’ed, I thought the worst thing in the world was gaining weight, and being overweight. I thought I’d simply die if I was overweight.

Now, the worst (according to my formerly flawed thinking) has happened, and I am okay.

I am not thrilled with my weight, and I realize I need to lose a few pounds for health reasons, including a history of high cholesterol on one side of the family and heart problems and diabetes on the other side. I know that I feel best between 137-145 or so. So I’m going to try and get back there, in a healthy way. My husband and I are going to meet with a nutritionist and devise a meal plan and shopping list. I’m going to start going back to the gym, and we are going to walk more and hike more.

No matter what though, I now realize that I am so much more than the number on the scale. My weight does not determine my self worth, or make me a good or bad person.

You’re probably wondering how much I weigh right now.

Somewhere around 170. I haven’t checked the scale lately.

170lbs is not a sin, or something significant. It is merely a number. It does not measure who I am.

At 170lbs, I got married. And I think I was a beautiful bride. If this had been a few years ago, I would not have enjoyed my wedding day, because I would’ve been fixated on my weight.

Below is a picture of our wedding day. Weight was the furthest thing from my mind:

 

I have gained so much more than weight.

It feels good to come clean about this gaining in recovery.

Sidenote: I’ve had some fairly remarkable medical stuff happen that has played a significant role in my gaining weight. Most people I know in recovery do not have to deal with all of this, and don’t gain weight like this. Most of them seem able to maintain within a certain healthy range.

*I will edit later for clarity, grammar and spelling.

9 Responses to “Gaining”

  1. Katie says:

    Nicole, reading your book. I think it is very interesting and I like it! I don't know if you can answer this…but I was in treatment at Roger's Memorial Hospital EDC 2 summers ago and then again last year. I can't help but recognize the crazy similarities between my experience and your writing. Is your book about Roger's? I understand if you can't answer…just thought I would ask.
    Thanks for writing this book! Its fun to be able to read and laugh about the similarities and [sic] humor.

  2. Lily says:

    Okay, so honestly, we both know it's not really about the weight/numbers anyway. But woman, you and your hubby are just gorgeous in that photo. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your writing with the world- I sure hope to do the same someday.

  3. We Are Broken Chains says:

    You look gorgeous.

    I can relate a lot to what you wrote. I haven't used eating disorder behaviors in over a year (save for the occasional food rituals or weird excuses for meals under stress, but I eat a proper amount and don't do any sort of purging), and when I weigh myself (which is becoming less and less frequent), I have seen the number go up, up, up. I've gained about 12 pounds since leaving treatment (which hasn't caused any worry to my nutritionist, but which has driven me INSANE!), although word on the street is that it's muscle. Which means that I don't "look any different." This brings up exactly the point you were making:

    Weight is just a number. It's a number that is related to gravity and physics and all these things that I don't understand. It doesn't make the difference between beautiful and ugly, good and bad, or – as I am learning – even fat and thin.

    Finally I am accepting that health is the goal, not any number. I write my nutritionist emails between sessions: "I can't keep going like this! The high range for my body is 132 and we both know I have a small frame!"

    As I'm typing this, I'm acknowledging that I am technically 20 pounds overweight. Yet I wear a size "small" and I'm petite but not THAT short! I can also kick and punch like a ninja, fold and balance my body in ways that I would never have imagined, and lift things that my dad can't.

    Whether weight gained is fat or muscle, healthy or unhealthy, it's just a number, and when we are able to tap into ourselves, we can know whether we REALLY need to lose that weight (like you are saying you need to do for health reasons) or if it's something that we want to do because we think we should (like my constant argument that I'm so overweight that it must be terrible for my health despite having great blood pressure, cholesterol, and health in general, aside from residual ED-related complications).

    This could have been my own blog entry, so I apologize for the length. I admire you for having gained the insight in the past few years to accept yourself and work to make yourself the healthiest and happiest woman possible.

  4. Kelly Rose says:

    Thank you for posting so honestly about your experiences. It takes courage to put it all out there and your amazing ability to be comfortable with your body given where you've come from is an inspiration.

  5. diesel14 says:

    Hi Nicole,

    I just bought and started reading your book, and after having EDNOS (and PTSS) for 14 years myself and just before going into a treatment center for the first time in a few weeks from now, I find it very reassuring to read about your experiences with not being stick-thin and yet being very ED'd.

    I can relate to a lot of the things you describe in your book and it's a relieve that you don't do the "all's well that ends well"-bullsh*t!

    Particularly, leaving out all the things that can be used as 'tips on how to be more disordered' is a very wise thing to do, as that's also how I read a lot of the other memoirs -and novels- out there.

    I'm very glad you had the courage to write this book and wish you all the happiness you deserve in your marriage with Prince Charming!

    Diesel14
    The Netherlands

    ps: I regret living too far away to attend your workshop in August 🙁

  6. Vee says:

    You are so inspirational. I've read your book and it was definitely one of my favorite books because you were so real and so honest. I appreciate that. I'm currently going through similar things and it's been seven years. I hope to one day be comfortable in my own skin and accept myself and the number on the scale and not let that get the best of me. You seem to be doing so well, ed wise. I'm so proud of you.<3

  7. imaginenamaste says:

    Hello-

    I found this blog today when looking up your book (which is great–read it twice now!). So much of it….I'm nodding along (been diagnosed EDNOS a few times, including now)…its the first book that I've felt like I've really related to more than others that are really focused on anorexia or bulimia. Anyway, thank you for writing it!

    Also, I love this post. Exactly what I needed to read today.

  8. Nicole Johns says:

    Thanks for your posts everyone. I'm glad my entry resonated with you. I've replied to some of you individually, but for some of you I can't find an email or a place to leave comments on your blog. I just wanted to say thanks for leaving me a comment, and sharing a bit of your story.

  9. haullie says:

    hi Nicole,
    i just bought your book yesterday evening, and finished a little while ago. i just couldn't put it down. as someone struggling with ednos for the past 12 years, alot of it resonated. but i can't stop wondering, did holly pass away?! that's the one thing i wish the book had! lol anyways, as everyone else said, the book is great and i admire you for sharing it with the world.