One of my rules of recovery is that scales are off-limits. My nutritionist had me do a “blind weigh” at my initial appointment because she needed record of my weight (to make sure there were no dramatic fluctuations one way or another), but I did not. I generally do really well with the no-scale rule because I don’t keep one in the house…but it can be pretty tempting when I visit friends or family who do keep scales. Many of them (like my mother) hide the scale when they know I’m coming over to eliminate the temptation entirely.
When my uncle died in May, our family began cleaning out his apartment right after the burial. Amid the hectic atmosphere that is five brothers, three wives, and three cousins in a one-bedroom apartment, I retreated to the bathroom for a moment to breathe. And there it was. A glass scale, and no one to stop me from using it. That day, I learned I gained about 8 pounds since the last time I weighed myself (which was at a doctor’s appointment at the beginning of the year).
Gaining weight while recovering from anorexia is a bizarre, emotional experience. It’s exciting to see that number reflect a mass that has traditionally been more “healthy” for your body — but terrifying to see it higher than it’s been in over a year. Part of the reason my therapist and nutritionist advise against weighing myself is because weight is often not an accurate measure of health (just like BMI). My weight was never considered “unhealthy” or “underweight” medically, but the look and feel of my body at its lowest weight certainly fit that bill. My body feels better now that I’m making choices overall to nourish it, so even though we’re conditioned to see an increase of the scale as a “bad” thing, for me it’s actually necessary and positive.
But, you know, try telling that to a socially-conditioned, young female brain during bikini season.
While I’m aware of the positive physical changes that have taken place over the last few months — more mental clarity, more feelings of satiety, more energy, more strength — I am also aware of the changes that make me feel a little insecure — rounder tummy, rounder hips, no more “weight padding” (staying at a weight lower than my “healthy weight” to anticipate and offset any accidental weight gain), C E L L U L I T E, (properly) fitted clothes.
It has been a huge challenge to accept the new way in which my body takes up space. It squishes in different places and bloats in different places and just…is in different places. It’s hard to appreciate the malleable nature of the human form when you’re trying to break free of the mental box you place your body in. It takes a lot of mental energy to remember that a dress fitting how it’s supposed to means I’m succeeding at getting healthier, not that I’m “getting fat.”
I follow the recovery blogger Nourish and Eat on Instagram for a consistent dose of body positivity, societal critique, and general inspiration. Some of my favorite posts are part of a hashtag collection called #embracethesquish, where she posts pictures of herself existing as a healthy, happy, squishy human. What I love about these is the vulnerability and authenticity — most importantly, I love seeing the empowerment that comes with daring to be seen, even when the pangs of insecurity and social pressure hit deep. And seen not just in social media highlight reel poses, but real poses of human existence.
I’m working on embracing my own squish as I get healthier. There are still many days when the bloat of my stomach or curve of my hips make me want to restrict (or binge because I’ve “thrown it all away” anyway). I am fortunate to have cultivated enough strength to say “no” to those voices most days. Recovery, like existing, is all about doing your best to be a little better and a little healthier today than you were yesterday. Missteps happen, relapses happen. But so do steps forward and little victories.
I am a long way from consistently embracing the squish — but today, I choose to embrace myself a little more tightly. When I have those moments of insecurity — the times when I buy into Mean Anorexia Voice’s lies or society’s unrealistic expectations — I try to remember how much better I feel when I choose to nourish my body and listen to it, rather than fight it. I try to remember the voices of those who love me, affirming the visual manifestation of my improving health. I try to remember the things that are most fundamental to who I am have nothing to do with an arbitrary number or a flat stomach — my kind heart, my sharp wit, my creative mind, my joyful spirit.
Embracing the imperfection of your human form is hard for us all. It helps me to remember that we all have squish to embrace, even the skinniest, most muscular among us. Living is soft and malleable and beautiful, and that’s okay. #embracethesquish