Weighing it up - by Alex Young
‘Well done, you’ve gained a lot more weight than I thought you would’!, my doctor said to me in his cold, bleak office that rainy, grey day in back April 2015. I can still hear those words ringing in my ears as clear as anything. He thought he was being encouraging, saying the right thing. I can confidently say that he was oblivious to the fact that I’d leave the GP’s surgery and cry all the way home with my Mum, who couldn’t fully understand why I was so upset, despite her desperate attempts to try.
There was a healthy part of my brain that was telling me to be proud of myself, a part of me knew that I was on the road to recovery. I knew that gaining weight was the only way to beat anorexia and doing it quickly was important. I remember trying to speak to the damaged part of my brain, the part that still wanted to be tiny, the part that was happy to refuse food and be freezing all the time, the part that felt good about not fitting adult clothing.
I was fortunate. The ill part of my brain never fully took over. I always had some of my true self in there. Some days it would almost disappear but it never completely left. That particular day, after speaking to my doctor, I fought so hard to try and convince myself that I should be happy. I was getting better. I reminded myself of all of the wonderful things that would come with putting on weight. I could go out with friends. I could wear my nice clothes, maybe feel confident enough to go out, have the energy to dance again, to run again, to live again. What kind of a life is staying in, fearing your next meal, never being able to let go of thoughts of what you’d been made to eat, hating yourself and your skeletal body, only wanting to be smaller. It’s not a life. It’s a curse.
I could see a way out. A way to break free from the disease that had plagued my mind and my body. It was so simple. I could see it, everyone around me could see it and yet it seemed like the hardest thing in the whole world. How can you gain weight and feel good about yourself? All we’re ever told is how to lose weight and how losing weight is the key to health, the only way to be happy, the best way to look and feel good. Thinking back to that day, I wish somebody could have told me that that’s all shit. I wish I could have been told what I know now.
Recovering from anorexia is like trying to climb a mountain but you’re convinced you’re going to die during the journey. It’s no wonder most people who suffer with it fight it for the best part of 10 years. It doesn’t surprise me that it’s the biggest killer of all mental health issues.
Anorexia is evil. But it’s not you. You don’t become anorexia. Sure, it fucking feels like it. It feels like that’s all you’ll ever be. It feels like there’s no way out. But there is. And unfortunately the way out is that 1 thing that you don’t want to do. The thing that seems impossible. There aren’t any tricks to it. You have to gain the weight. But you can do it and you can fall in love with yourself whilst doing it.
Picture your life without the curse. What do you want to do? Who you do want to be? Write it down, talk to your loved ones about it. This isn’t a dream, this is your future. All of the work you put in to get better is going to get you closer and closer to the life that you want. The life you deserve. You can go out and celebrate with your friends. You can cook and eat and love food and never see it as a number again. You can feel energised and well rested and warm. All of those things you once had, they’re not gone. All of those parts of life that you long for, they’re still there. Every time you struggle to see how gaining weight is a good thing, remind yourself of these things. Get your family and friends to do so, too.
One day, not too far into the future, you will be able to look in the mirror and be filled with pride. You’ll know what you overcame. You’ll see yourself and know that your beauty is something that will not be taken from you. You’ll love your skin, your hips, your cheeks, your arms and your legs and everything else- they are all deserving of your love. You are deserving of your love. And from then on, you’ll be able to see weight loss and diet culture for the disgusting, money making movement that it is. You’ll know the truth, that gaining weight was the hardest and best thing you ever did. Because for every pound / kilo / stone you gained, you got more of yourself and the life you love back.