Weight fluctuations are a normal part of eating disorder recovery– but that doesn’t make them any easier.
The only way to truly recovery from your eating disorder is to surrender all efforts spent on trying to control your weight and body size. This goes without saying, but all behaviors such as dieting / food restriction, binging, and purging (aka the things that cause weight fluctuations) must come to an end in order to recover. This also means not suppressing your natural body weight. Many individuals who have been engaging in dieting / disordered eating behaviors for years are unaware of what their healthy weight range actually is, so it’s unfair to set a pre-determined goal weight without allowing for flexibility in that range.
When it comes down to it, we simply aren’t in control. One of my favorite quotes on this subject comes from one of my fellow Health at Every Size (HAES) Dietitians, Meghan Kacmarcik, RDN, LD. She says, “If you’re a size 8 show, you’re not going to be able to comfortably fit into a size 7, no matter how hard you try. Just like your body: You can’t force yourself into a size you weren’t meant to be. You can’t defy science.”
But with this release of control comes many scary new steps, one of those changes being your body size.
I have personally experienced how frustrating it can be to lose weight + buy a whole new wardrobe, only to enter into recovery and not be able to fit into any of my new clothes.
To make matters worse, I gave away all of the clothes that no longer fit me in order to save some closet space.
I ended up with what seemed like nothing to wear.
I remember when I was finally able to fit into the size I had always dreamed of, I was so proud.
Looking back, I’m not sure why…I had nothing to be proud of.
There is nothing praise worthy about starvation.
Let’s not forget, I had to get my wedding ring resized four times– at the time my fiancé proposed, I had only been in eating disorder recovery for about a month. The jewelers looked like I was crazy every time they saw me come back in. I finally just blurted out,
“I need it resized because I am in eating disorder recovery.”
The questions stopped after that.
As inconvenient as this was at the time, I knew it’s what I needed to do. It didn’t matter how many times I needed to get my ring resized. I wanted to make sure that my ring didn’t either slip of my finger as I was washing dishes, OR cut off my circulation. My goal was to get healthy, not to fit into a pre-determined size. I also wanted to stop obsessing about all of little things related to my body that I didn’t necessarily love at the time. To do that, I know I needed everything that I wore to be comfortable.
–Side note: When I stopped restricting food + consistently nourished my body with the food it needed, my body weight became incredibly stable, and my wedding ring has fit great ever since. Now, I know that this won’t always be the case. Life happens– we get pregnant, go through menopause, get sick, take care of family members, have changes in activity, and simply get older. Most of our bodies will not stay the same size and shape our entire lives– and that’s okay! There will be fluctuations–and that’s okay!
And when that happens, I will happily march into Kay Jewelers and get my ring adjusted to the size that it needs to be. Let’s face it– by now, I’m a pro.
Ok, let’s get back to the main subject.
So…..weight changes are hard for anyone, much less someone who is in recovery for an eating disorder.
It takes time and self-compassion to learn how to accept your body for where it’s at.
To make things more difficult, once you’ve come to terms with your new body, you often realize that none of your clothes fit– and that’s a problem. As if treatment wasn’t expensive enough, a new wardrobe is just as much (if not more)!
Here are 7 tips that helped me rebuild my wardrobe during eating disorder recovery (and helped save some cash while doing so):
- Sell or give away clothes that no longer fit: One of the most helpful things that I could have done for my recovery was to get rid of my “sick clothes”– the clothes that I knew would not fit if / when I stopped engaging in eating disorder behaviors. As painful as it was to part from some of these items, it was also a big weight off of my shoulders–there was no more pressure to fit into clothing that my body was never meant to wear. I sold what I could (and earned about $$50 that I could put towards new clothes!) and gave away what I couldn’t sell.
- Don’t shop alone: We are our own worse critics. Take an encouraging, trusted friend or family member with you when you first hit the shops. It’s important to bring someone that can be honest with you about the size and fit of the clothes you are trying on. For example, it’s common for individuals in eating disorder recovery to buy clothes that are incredibly too large for them in order to mask / hide their bodies. If this is something you’re trying to work through, it may be helpful to have another set of eyes to help determine what actually fits vs. what doesn’t. In contrast, if you are in the middle of the weight restoration process, it may be a good idea to buy your clothing a size up so that it lasts longer. Your treatment team can help you determine where you are in that process. Resist the temptation to buy something that doesn’t fit well only because you want to stay the same size. It’s important to bring a “safe” person along for the ride so you don’t get bogged down by the size listed on the clothing tag.
- Shop Online: If you aren’t quite ready to face the dressing room, online shopping could be a great option for you! Some of my favorite items of clothing have come straight from Amazon! Amazon has everything you could ever ask for, so many cute sizes + colors, and most of what they have is relatively affordable. Read reviews to determine the quality of what you’re buying and whether or not the size runs big or small. Try the clothes on in the safety of your home, and if they don’t fit, no big deal! Ship it all back for free!
- Buy neutral colors: Selecting neutral colors can help give you more bang-for-your-buck because it makes it easier to mix-and-match different items. I generally tend to buy more neutral colors when I am shopping for cardigans, jackets, and pants, and add in a pop of color with dresses, shirts, shoes, and jewelry.
- Ditch the name brands: Some people who are reading this are able to afford Lulu Lemon, Nike, Lizard Thicket, and Free People, even with the cost of treatment factored in. Most of you, like me, will not, and that’s okay! Some of my favorite pairs of leggings have come from Walmart, and cost around $8-12 dollars. Totally affordable and still super cute!
- Experiment with your style: During eating disorder recovery, you have the really unique opportunity to rebuild your life from the ground up, and you get to decide who you want to be. When the eating disorder is in control, individuals often get lost in their identify, and have to constantly work through the question, “Who am I without my Eating Disorder?” Style is included in that. The way you dress is one way to use your voice and express yourself to other people in a way that is not self-destructive. So be creative! Have fun piecing together outfits.
- Don’t stress: At the end of the day, clothes are just clothes. In 20, 50, and 100 years, no one is going to remember the clothes that you were wearing. They are going to remember who you are as a person and how you contributed to their life. Life is more than the clothes you wear or the size of your body.
Photo: Pixabay / 2goldi