Why Anorexia Recovery Is About More Than Gaining Weight

I may have gained weight, but in reality, I have gained so much more. I have gained happiness, I have gained laughter, I have gained truth. There is no more lying or hiding or running. I would say no more fear, but there is. There is fear. But who isn’t afraid? Life is scary; life is a big frightening world of experiences and lessons and people. It would be more worrying if we weren’t afraid. But now, bigger than the fear, something else has begun to take over. Hope.

My whole world is different now. I wake up without the cloud of a bad night’s sleep interrupted by nightmares or drowned in a medicated fog. I open my eyes and see. Not calories, not numbers, not the lurch in my stomach on weigh day. I see the day I am about to have. The friends I will see. The things I will learn. The new experiences I will gain. Breakfast is no longer a battle of wills, a fight between me and my parents, me and my own mind. I listen to the radio, hear the music, sing along, laugh at the jokes. I can laugh now. I can sing.

I walk to school, not alone any more. I’m surrounded by people and don’t feel alone. I talk, about my day, my week, his day, his week. I look at him, I see him. He sees me. I don’t pace anymore, trying to walk as quickly as possible to burn more and hurt more. I stroll along, taking in the trees and the cars and the weather.

Arriving at college doesn’t bear the heavy weight of fear and apprehension about the day ahead. Instead I am excited to see my friends. I have friends now. They know my story but not all of it. Maybe one day they will. But for now they know enough, enough to understand, but they don’t judge; they listen. They don’t berate me for struggling; they berate me for not leaning on them enough. They want to help. My conversation is no longer restricted to me and my brain, numbers and percent signs. Sometimes I join in, talking and laughing. Sometimes I just listen. That’s OK too.

In lessons I can think straight. I look down at my page and it’s full, not of my problems and my past but of algebra or the American constitution or French verbs. I look up at the clock for the first time in half an hour. Time goes more quickly now. My head isn’t so full.

It’s not all about the food, but it helps. Timings are more relaxed. If lunch is not at 1 p.m. sharp the world will not end. That extra chocolate or the sweet given to me in class or the chip off my friend’s plate will not hurt me. Anorexia will hurt me. Eating will not.

So much has changed. Walking is for pleasure and purpose, not for walking’s sake. I don’t run. I don’t like running. That’s OK. I choose the shortest routes now or the most enjoyable, not the longest. I make a habit of seeing people, speaking to people, smiling at those I pass in the street. At work I can smile now, chat, ask people about their day. I can stand without it hurting now, and last week I chose to switch off the heater. I’m warmer. I smile.

I am growing in more ways than one. I am changing. I am smiling. I am laughing. I am singing. I am healing.

So yes, I have gained weight. But it wasn’t just weight. It was life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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