How to be OK with gaining weight

For a long time, I wanted, so desperately, to just feel normal around food. I wanted to just feel OK about eating breakfast without analysing the numbers and enjoy a cheese board with my friends without subconsciously committing to a ten mile run the next day and stop thinking about Easter Eggs all. the. effin’. time.

And what I didn’t realise, for a frustratingly long period, is that you will never feel normal around food if you don’t come to terms with the fact that you might gain weight. You just won’t. You can’t ‘just lose weight and eat intuitively after that’ or try to have a healthy relationship with food if you’ve always got your cellulite in the back of your mind. Fear of weight gain and disordered eating are inextricably linked. You have to become OK with the body stuff before the food stuff falls into place.

But in the old, fatphobic, diet-obsessed world we live in, being OK with gaining weight is hard. So hard! It goes against what every media message tells you to feel! You’re bucking a decades-long trend! Committing to accepting yourself rather than bowing down to societal standards! It’s tough! And I had to work pretty darn hard, and still do, to feel OK about the weight I gained.

I’ve put on quite a bit of weight over the past three years. I don’t how much exactly because I’ve not stepped on a scale in close to a year, but I can tell from the amount of clothes I’ve had to get rid of and how I look in photographs and the buttons on my shirts that pull and the jeans that don’t do up and my double chin and chubby cheeks and tummy that pokes over my trousers. I am still slim, and still have thin privilege and don’t face what must be utterly exhausting and dehumanising fatphobia that people in larger bodies do, but gaining weight when in recovery from disordered eating is still a challenge.

Most of the time these days, I actually don’t think that much about my weight or even really much about my body at all. But there are still off days, and when I first started to gain weight, basically every day was an off day, so I had to develop quite a few coping mechanisms to keep me committed to not going back on a diet. So if you’ve gained weight, whether through recovery or not, here’s a few things that help me when I feel weird about it, and I hope they help you too!

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I think about how much less stressed I am
Mentally and physically. I think about the brain space I have now I don’t spend hours thinking about calories and size six skirts anymore. I think about how much more rational I am now that my default mode isn’t hangry. I think about how I feel more energised and how I got my period back and how my body functions properly with a lot more fat on my stomach.

I think about what I value in other people
I have fucking great friends that I fucking love and not once have I ever thought that intently about their bodies. I love them because they’re funny or supportive or good listeners or thoughtful or kind and I know that them going up a few dress sizes wouldn’t change how I feel about them. And I know, or at least I hope, that they feel the same.

I think about stuff I like about myself that has nothing to do with my body
I think I’m good at puns and I think it’s cool that I can speak Portuguese and I like to think I’m a good pal and not one pound gained or lost changes that. Sometimes I make a list of things I like about myself, sometimes I just focus on one.

I think about stuff I really like about my body
I’ve got really, really excellent boobs, what can I say?

I tell myself it’s boring
You can read more about that particular technique here.

I wear the right clothes
In that, I don’t wear clothes that I know will focus my attention on the weight I’ve gained. I don’t wear clothes that cut into me or feel tight or uncomfortable and then I don’t reinforce the feeling that I don't deserve to feel comfortable at this weight and nor do I keep bringing my mind back to my body.

I remind myself that nature knows better than I do
I remind myself that my body is cleverer than I will ever be. It knows me better than I will ever do and I am not meant to try and control it by eating fewer carbs or forcing myself to go to the gym. I am meant to look this way. If this is the way I look from eating a balanced diet and moving my body in a way that feels good to me, then this weight gain is a gift.

I get rid of the idea of ‘skinny me’
There is no such thing as ‘skinny you’. I mean that in the sense that, nothing changes when you lose weight. I lost a ton of weight and I was still me! I never turned into the perfect skinny me that I envisaged. I thought that when I got thinner I would become happier and funnier and more spontaneous and totally secure and body confident. And yes, skinny me wore nice clothes and really cared about what she looked like but that was it. Skinny me didn’t have a better job or more friends or make funnier jokes or feel good about herself, in fact, she was more boring and stressed and consumed by thoughts of pizza and so, so terrified of eating anything. She was boring and sad and angry and not a person I would’ve wanted to be around.

I remind myself how fucking horrible fatphobia is
That we should write people off for jobs and healthcare and clothing options and just standard human decency because societally we deem fatness an unattractive trait is so unjust and pretty much the last culturally accepted form of discrimination. And I want absolutely no part of that, and challenging the notion that weight gain is objectively bad is my own tiny way of chipping away at my own internalised fatphobia.

I think about the patriarchy and get very angry indeed
I think about the patriarchy and societal beauty norms and the diet industry and how (probably) a lot of rich men have a vested interest in me hating my body and wanting to change it and thus buying diet teas and waist trainers. Thinking about how a lot of my self esteem is linked just to economics is normally enough to make me forget all about the idea of losing any weight.

I think about all that wasted time!
So much wasted time! So much of my short life spent on stupid diets and in the gym and online researching how cultivate abdominal definition! It is a tragedy! I could have spent that time writing or dancing or eating brownies or seeing my friends or chatting to my Grandma and instead I spent it worrying about bingo wings! It is too sad to think about spending any more of my 20s, or any of my life on those trivial things and so I promise myself not to waste any more precious time on worrying about my weight.