Warning: This piece contains discussions around weight, eating disorders, depression, and other mental health issues.
Hey, hi, hello there. This has been a difficult piece for me to write, but also, I know, an important one. I've been putting it off. It would appear I've gained some weight.
I would be lying if I said this hasn't been one of my bigger fears in the last few years. Death? Loneliness? Crushed hopes and dreams? Nothing, apparently, in comparison. After an almost year-long stint on an extreme low carb diet, perpetual cycles of low carb eating and calorie/macro-counting (in between bouts of binge eating, my restrictions set free and my hunger running rampant), gainful employment, and a newfound joy in moving my body, I had stayed within the same 15 pound range for the last four years or so.
Find me in January of this year! I was riding high on social engagements (like the countess that I am), eating delicious food, and moving my body in new and fun ways most days of the week (hip hop classes, boxing, many blissful hours of yoga, you name it). I was continuing to find comfort and strength in my body, although I still struggled to not feel guilt and shame, compulsion and restriction, in many of my food choices.
At the same time, I started listening to intuitive eating podcasts and following more body positive bloggers, my Instagram filled with an endless stream of stunning plus-sized fashion and bodies of all shapes and sizes. I learned about the science behind Health at Every Size, and the intricacies of diet culture as a social justice issue. Gradually, over months, I took a hard look at my history with food and my cycles of binging and restriction, and gained solace in the idea that my body might stay this size forever.
And then I got sick. Nothing serious, but I had been running at full tilt for months and I found myself stuck in bed for a week, with symptoms lingering for weeks afterward. Max and I left immediately after for a two-week road trip, and my groove was thrown out of whack. When we got home, we went away the next weekend, and I found it harder and harder to get back into the swing of moving my body at the level I was before.
I gained some weight in that first month, but tried not to dive back into my usual patterns. I fed myself - sometimes too much, sometimes carelessly - and watched from afar, taking care and observing my feelings and interactions with food, for once not wracked with guilt. While my choices in food weren't always healthy in the nutritional sense, they were healthy in a new way. I certainly had some compulsions around eating, but my binge eating had subsided substantially.
Unsurprisingly, I've continued to gain a little more weight. It seemed to happen overnight, as I'm sure it does to many people. My clothes started fitting poorly, my body moved a little differently. I'm not at my highest ever, but I'm high enough to feel uncomfortable in my body. When writing this, I had to stop myself from specifying I had only gained "a little weight" over and over again. (I only did it once, see?) I'm scared.
I feel increasingly self conscious, and a wave of depression has been following me around for a number of reasons (including, ya know... just having depression). I'm tired and sluggish, although whether from depression, my decreased exercise, or the weight gain, who can tell. In all likelihood, they're all tightly intertwined, with no discernible heads or tails.
In many intuitive eating journeys, gaining weight at first is actually a common occurrence. It's natural to find confusion in portion sizes, hunger cues, what a meal looks like, and what food will actually make you feel good, after years of ignoring these cues and following external "rules". My old response would be to heavily restrict and track my food choices, but I know now that's probably not a helpful next step.
This time, instead of trying to find a workaround, I'm going to work through this. But there's the rub - I'm not quite sure how. How do I eat healthily without restricting? If I don't feel good in this body, what can I do about that? What bullshit with food and emotional responses is still rattling around in my brain? What does body positivity look like when you're not feeling positive about your body? Where do I go from here?
One thing I do know is, I can't do this on my own. My needs for a professional are veeery simple - a Toronto-based counsellor or therapist who is relatively reasonably priced, has a history with eating disorder recovery, works with intuitive eating principles, and operates from a Health at Every Size standpoint. See? So simple! Am I looking for a dietician? A counsellor with special certifications? A mini team of specialists? I'm not sure yet, but it's time to start digging.
In the meantime, I'm trying to be gentle with myself and get back to moving my body in the ways I love. Some days may feel foggy and maybe I'm crying at a lot of doggo videos as of late, but I'm also wearing my best kimono, pumpin' iron, and singing Adele at the top of my lungs (all at the same time, obviously). Let's take this one day at a time. We can do this.