The Mighty Logo

What I Wish People Knew About My Weight Gain

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.

I’ve struggled with my body image for as long as I can remember. When I was 15, a particular incident that involved hearing comments about how I looked from a bunch of teenage boys pushed me off the far end into becoming anorexic.

When I started losing weight, the compliments came pouring in. People told me I looked gorgeous, the boys in school started to notice me and the girls started asking me for tips on how to lose weight. All I heard was, “Congratulations on being more acceptable and desirable.”

Each comment only reinforced my belief that thinness was a quality that people valued in others. I lost a large amount of weight in a year.

I starved myself in horrific ways over the next six years. I exercised until I could no longer move. I observed the way every piece of clothing hung on my body. I’d punish myself harder.

When I turned 21, my chronic depression set in harder than it ever had before. I began to eat, not worrying about my body or how I looked. I stopped exercising and barely left my room. My body began to put on weight with a vengeance, absorbing every morsel that I’d starved it of for years.

In six months, I was no longer skinny.

When people I hadn’t seen in a while saw me, many of them reacted with disgust about my weight gain. They once again fed my greatest fear that the way my body looked had a direct impact on the value I had as a person.

But I did not go back to starving myself. This was because there were a few people who showed kindness I will never forget. Who looked at me as though they saw the exact same person; as though my appearance had not changed; as though it had no bearing on anything that mattered.

I knew better than anyone how much weight I’d put on. I knew it when my clothes, one by one, stopped fitting me. I knew it when I’d touch my body and find flesh in places where I could feel my bones before. I knew it when I looked in the mirror and saw a reflection I no longer recognized.

But I also knew better than anyone the ways I’d starved myself for years before. I knew the kind of trauma that sunk into my body and mind. I knew the depths of depression I had crawled out of. I knew there was so much more to the story of my changing body than what anyone else could see.

When people treated me as though I didn’t look different, I wasn’t being delusional and thinking, “I haven’t put on that much weight if they don’t notice it.”

I was thinking, “There are people in this world to whom it doesn’t matter how much weight I lose or put on. Who see me beyond this body and love me no matter what.”

Climbing out of my anorexia took me another five years. But the goodness I found in some people kept me going. Today, I’m healed. And there’s one thing I’d like to remind everyone reading this — please be kind to those whose bodies change.

They may be battling eating disorders, like anorexia or bulimia, that you know nothing about. It could be other illnesses, the side effects of which often include weight gain. Maybe they’ve just given birth to a child. Maybe they’ve been depressed in a way that the only thing that could save them was food. Maybe their bodies changed naturally, with no major external impact. No matter what, it’s best to be kind to them.

Try to avoid pointing out to them that they’ve put on weight — they know. Don’t ask them how it happened or why. Nobody should have to explain their body to the world.

Instead, ask them how they are doing. Ask them how life has been to them. Tell them how life has been to you. There are a million topics to talk about that do not include how someone looks. Pick those.

When you do so, the message you send out is clear:

  1. You love them no matter how they look.
  2. You are happy to see them. Your bond remains unaltered by something as slight as their looks.
  3. Beauty is far more than skin deep and the shape of their body has never had a bearing on how beautiful you think they are.

Welcome them into your life with love. It could make the difference of a lifetime to many of us. It could be the thing that saves us.

Getty Images: Victor_Tongdee

Originally published: October 1, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home