Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Question # 5: "The Vicious Cycle"

On to the next question, one I received from Kia:


"I have got this problem with my anorexia: whenever I'm underweight I like my body and I feel well with myself, but I know it's not healthy for my body, so (with the help of my nutritionist) I gain weight and I get to my set-point weight. But when I get to my set-point weight, I don't like my body, I'm sad and nervous, so I start restricting again, and I go underweight. Whenever I'm underweight... go back to the beginning and read all this several times, as it's all my life in the last 6 years.

How can I like my body when I have my set-point weight?

How can I break this vicious cycle?"



The problem may be an obsession with numbers. It shouldn't be so much about the weight as it should be about being healthy and well. Is there anyway you can stop knowing the number? Get rid of a scale. Let your nutritionist weigh you, but don't let her tell you what your weight is. That way, she will know how well you're doing, if you're gaining or losing, but you won't have to start feeling badly about yourself, because you will be unaware of the actual number.


I know a lot of the time, we can start to feel unhappy with our bodies as we know the number goes up. But if you simply start looking healthy, perhaps you will not hate it as much if you don't see a number on a regular or frequent basis. Part of the reason you like your body when you are underweight could be because you know you are underweight. And that in itself is not healthy. It sounds like part of the reason you dislike your body when you get to your set weight is because you know you have reached your set weight. That is scary for you. It's a number you never wanted to be, perhaps.


Stop thinking of your set weight as a number. Get rid of the numbers in your life. Realize that being healthy is the only way you can live your life. Happiness may not immediately follow being healthy. You can even prepare yourself for being UNhappy when you have reached your set weight. But the unhappiness won't last if you try to accept the set weight and DO NOT allow yourself to restrict. You have the willpower. You have to understand that you may not like gaining weight (many people do not), but you have to do it anyway for a time. And the rest will follow. It is MUCH easier to keep your mind happy and healthy if your body is healthy too.


If you are at a set weight for a short period of time (weeks, a few months) before you begin restricting and turning to old ways, it's simply not enough time to adjust to your healthy weight and come to terms with everything that surrounds it. You never give yourself that chance. You are robbing yourself of progression. You cannot progress in recovering if you keep sabotaging yourself.


It may take a lot of pain and tears and frustration, but if you can allow yourself to stick with the healthy weight for longer than you have, you may find that things do not stay as difficult as you have found them to be. Often, when we are underweight, we are happy with our appearance, but we are not really happy in all things. What you want is total happiness, not just happiness with a body you are forcing into a lower than natural weight.


I know the cycle continues almost without you realizing—believe me, I've been there—but in order to break it, you have to be conscious. Extremely conscious. You have to make yourself stick with it. Employ the assistance of your nutritionist, your therapist, your significant other, your family members, your best friend—whatever it takes. When you hit that healthy weight, you KNOW what will happen. Because you've done it many times before. So you KNOW what to look for. You KNOW what to stop. This is a strength, not a weakness. Turn your thinking around.


It's not all about a number. The weight is silly. Focus on being healthy, and forget the scale. There are professionals who can monitor your weight for you right now without you having to do so. Best of luck!


Eating Alone said...

My therapist has been telling me this same thing for months. No weights! No numbers. I had no idea why. I like your explination. That make's a lot of sense. Be happy with who you are as a person, not as a number on a scale.

Anonymous said...

Well said! I really like your explanations! I was traveling for my university for a week and then was traveling for myself for a week and I found that I was so much more relaxed. I thought about my scale at home, but at the same time, I didn't want it and I got dressed much quicker and really started my day on a better note! While this didn't carry over 100%, I can really see how I'm starting to put less emphasis on it!

Kia said...

Dear Arielle,
thanks a lot for spending your precious time answering to my question... you're awesome!
I've read your words with big attention, and I really want to say THANK YOU for all you've written.
I just only want to point something that maybe wasn't clear when I wrote my question.
I don't know my weight. I never weighted myself when I was in the abyss of anorexia (yes - because I was afraid of numbers, it's true), and I don't weight myself right now. My nutritionist weights me, and she says "You're underweight" or "You're OK", but she never says my weight and I don't want to know about it.
My problem is about how I look at myself, how I feel my body when I'm at my set weight: that's why I found very important the second part of your post - the one from "If you are at a set weight for a short period of time..." and on 'til the end.
So, I have to concentrate myself to be healthy, even if to be healthy means to live with a body I dislike, because health is the most important thing... am I right?
(Ah, I wish it was as simple in facts as it is in words...)

P.S.= As usual... sorry for my bad English and my mistakes... I have to learn better this language, I knw...

Arielle Bair (Becker) said...


Your English is great. And thanks so much for the reply. Especially now that I know you don't actually know your weight in numbers, Question # 7 I'll be answering, which I haven't gotten to yet, may be helpful. I'm responding about what helped me to like my body and a good weight, etc. It's almost like a continuation of your question in a way. So, keep your eye out for that.

Thanks again for reading and good luck with everything. I know how difficult it is. Keep fighting. :)


Cammy said...

I would second the part about giving yourself time. Every time I hit a new high milestone during the weight restoration process, I feel so terrible and strange in my body. It's like I'm wearing someone else's clothes inside my own skin, and it can be really disturbing and hard to handle. There are very real psychological and neurological reasons that it takes a while for your mind to adjust to your body, but if you give yourself a grace period it does, truly, get better. I would recommend the book 'The Body Has a Mind of Its Own', it is not specifically about EDs but does discuss them in regards to body image and how our sensory perception tracks changes in weight.