Body Dysmorphia, Eating Disorders, and Grief

It’s been a pretty rough time in my life.  I’ve experienced a lot of loss.  It’s affected my body in a very real way too.  The result is that there’s been a big hormonal soup to swim through, and of course, I gained some weight because of the pregnancy and massive stress event afterwards.  For a lot of reasons, I’m having a hard time with the extra weight.

For one thing, so much of what’s happened to me has been out of my control.  Bad things have happened to my body, and I’ve had no say whatsoever – from cervical insufficiency and pregnancy loss, to invasive perinatal physical exams that I didn’t really want and were very unpleasant.  And now, about 10 extra pounds I’m not comfortable with.

I’m afraid that pregnancy moved my set point up.  I don’t know if it did or not.  I just know that I feel heavier and weaker than I used to.  There’s fat accumulated on parts that once were more lean.  It’s difficult to not feel like I’ve failed.

When a lot of shit hits you at once, it’s natural to want to find a coping mechanism to carry you through the really rough times.  Sometimes those coping mechanisms serve you – activities like meditation, observation, writing, napping, sexing, nourishing yourself, sitting in a hot tub with a bunch of your hippie friends… those can all help you process and move through the loss.

Confession Time:
But there came a point for me where I was so unhappy with myself, so guilty and angry at my body for causing the loss (even though I know I’m not supposed to think that way), for gaining weight, for being a body going through pregnancy and miscarriage, basically, that I had the thought:

I should just stop eating. I should have an eating disorder. It would cause this discomfort with my body to end.

And for a couple days, I tried it.  

I know!  So unlike me.  But grief does shitty things to you.  For about a week I restricted my calories and tried to eat as little as possible.  I felt anxious and sad, but also light and buzzy.  It felt good to have control over something, when I had so little control over my body the last few months.

However, whenever I go through a bad pattern of thinking, there’s always a voice that speaks up and questions what I’m doing.  My inner spirit knows better than to do this to myself.  

Plus, it’s unlikely to work anyway.  Most people that lose weight can’t keep it off, and I know from past experience that this is definitely true for me.  

Pregnancy probably moved my set point up some, and there’s not much I can do about that.  Medical research suggests that it’s pretty hard to move it back down, because it’s not in our biological interest.  As it turns out, there’s a reason for that: somewhat overweight people have more longevity than normal or thin people.  Doctors just don’t want to believe it because thin privilege is so ingrained in our culture.

So if being a little chubby actually increases my longevity, and doesn’t affect my overall health (because people who lose weight are actually at the same risk for stroke, heart attack, and death as they were before, why do I care?  Because of the relentless body shaming society does on people who aren’t thin.

Well, fuck it.

I have gone through too much to care about what society says.  My body has been on a bigger journey than what I can control through diet and exercise.  There’s hormonal fluctuation going on, some pretty big cortisol releases from all the damn stress of significant loss, pressure at work, and major life change, and a lot of recovery and healing.  My body cannot be reduced to my weight, my appearance, or the measuring tape.

So I am going to find a better coping mechanism.  It’s my head that’s the problem, not my damn cellulite.  

Here’s what that looks like: focusing on behaviors, not outcomes.

My plan is to get back to my normal routine of lifting heavy 3x a week, 3 days of cardio or yoga/mobility, and a rest day, more if I need them.  Also, to plan and prep nourishing food that I am actually jazzed about for breakfast and lunch, and take more of an active role in dinner planning.  To sleep 8 hours a night.  And to figure out some self-care routines, like meditation, writing, and regular massage.  With those habits in place, I’ll have a shot at feeling my best, maintaining my health, and maybe making some gains at the gym.

Even if my set point is higher and I can’t lose weight or be the size I was before, that doesn’t mean I can’t be healthy or take good care of myself.  My goals of what looks like success will change, but that’s actually probably a good thing, because I need to redefine what I want – to actually enjoy my damn life.

Life is fleeting.  I see that even more clearly now.  Do I really want to spend it locked in a mental battle?  To be fighting and fearing my own body forever?  Nope.

Behaviors, not outcomes.  Health, not weight.  Peace, not disorder.  Enjoyment, not regret.

Maya Kern (source) Body Dysmorphia, Eating Disorders, and Grief - superbalancedlife.com

Maya Kern (source)
Body Dysmorphia, Eating Disorders, and Grief - superbalancedlife.com