NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
I’ve lost a bit of weight lately… I’m not sure how much since I don’t weigh myself very often, but my clothes are looser and my stomach is surprisingly flat. While I am happy to be feeling leaner, my weight loss is somewhat of a “hollow victory” and I find myself having mixed feelings about it. I’ve lost the weight as a result of a health condition that has been causing me a great deal of distress in recent weeks (and the reason why I didn’t post a blog entry last week).
One Stomach Flu Away from Goal Weight?
This is different from “one stomach flu away from goal weight” a la Emily in “The Devil Wears Prada.” While it’s decidedly no fun to have the flu, you know that it will eventually end and you’ll be back to feeling like your normal self in a matter of days. Unfortunately, I’m not sure when I’ll be back to my “normal self.” Instead, it’s entirely possible that I will end up with a new definition for normal. My condition has a tendency to be chronic and difficult to treat, and it’s made it challenging for me to eat all that much food for a number of days now. In fact, I may end up losing more weight than I ideally want to lose as a result of my being on a continuous diet of sorts.
Weight Loss Irony
It is ironic that the times when I feel good about my body weight and size tend to correspond to some sort of crisis in my life. During times of stress, I have a tendency to lose my appetite and, as a result, I drop weight fairly rapidly. Over the past few years, I have lost weight when my cats were sick, when my father-in-law passed away, when I had marital problems, and when I was attending an intensive school program. With the exception of the latter situation, all of these times were both stressful and sad times. The fact that I lost weight during these trying circumstances is akin to the silver lining in a dark cloud. I was happy that at least some good came out of an otherwise challenging time period.
When things are going well in my life, I tend to put on a bit of weight. This weight gain is nothing too dramatic, but just enough weight to push me over the edge into uncomfortable territory. Truth be told, I prefer to be on the lighter side of normal. Perhaps it’s a remnant from my anorexic years, but I am happiest when my body mass index (BMI) teeters around 19 or 20, as opposed to my usual 21 or 22 (a normal BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9). Sadly, however, my happiness about my weight tends to correlate with unhappiness in other areas of my life.
Can I Be Happy About My Weight Loss?
As I looked at myself in the mirror the other day, I half marveled at my slimmer figure and half chastised myself for being happy for losing weight as a result of illness. I thought about the Law of Attraction and wondered if being happy about my lower weight might attract more crisis or illness into my life in order to sustain this level of thinness. I need to believe that it’s possible for me to achieve and maintain my optimal body weight through the normal means of diet and exercise. It shouldn’t take a crisis or illness for me to be able to stay slim!
At present, I am struggling on multiple levels. For one, I want to be able to heal myself and restore my health to normal levels. I actually hope to achieve a more optimal level of health as a result of the dietary and lifestyle changes necessitated by my condition. I want to be free of the suffering that has plagued me in recent weeks. Yet I can’t help but be happy about the weight loss, the hollow victory which I’ve achieved through no real willpower or determination.
I worry that if I lose too much weight as a result of my health condition, it might trigger the disordered anorexic thinking that lies dormant within my brain. I am usually able to turn things around when I find myself delighting in unhealthy weight loss. I can see the signs and recognize the “primrose path” before I find myself lost along the way. But is this time different? Is my weight loss now beyond my control?
I can recall the living hell that was my life as an anorexic. My thinness was my consolation prize in life, as I didn’t feel successful or accomplished in other areas of my life. In truth, I really had no life back then, as my days were spent in the haze of starvation and the craze of obsession. I wouldn’t wish that life on my worst enemy and under no circumstances do I want to return to that prison. It is only the memory of my wasted years that allows me to pull myself back to sanity, lest I fall into the deep abyss over which I hover as I drop weight. Although I still aesthetically appreciate the model-thin look, I know that look is only achievable for me through intense obsession and deprivation.
Accepting My Natural Figure & Choosing Health
Over the years, I have struggled to accept the fuller figure that is my natural body type. When I exercise regularly and adhere to a healthy diet, I am slim but a far cry from resembling Gisele Bundchen or Nicole Kidman. That is just not my predisposition, especially now that I am in my forties. I’ve learned how to dress my body to maximize my individual figure attributes and have made great strides toward achieving self-acceptance. I feel that I’m in the home stretch of my journey toward loving and accepting my body at long last.
Now that I am faced with a potentially chronic health condition, I realize that I will have to walk the tightrope between restoring my health and reveling in my newly acquired slimness. It can be very easy to get caught up in the excitement of looser clothes and more hollow cheekbones. Although I am not able to eat much at any given time, I will have to do my best to prevent excessive weight loss, despite the psychological draw that I still feel toward thinness.
I need to be as healthy as possible in order to enjoy my life, face my challenges and pursue my dreams. I vow to always choose health, as health is the greatest gift we can be given in life. Whereas I once chose thinness over health, the more grounded and centered me will choose health every time, hands down!
5 thoughts on “Hollow Victory”
I hear you on not eating during stressful times. I always call myself an emotional non-eater because my appetite just plummets. On the day my mom passed away, the only thing I had to eat for over 24 hours was half a sandwich. I’m sorry to hear you’re experiencing health problems, but just keep your chin up and focus on the positive. *hugs*
Erica, Thanks so much for your comment and your encouragement. I think there are many of us “emotional non-eaters” out there, but the emotional eaters get more press. Neither situation is particularly healthy, but we all have our coping mechanisms…
You are so right that it’s essential to focus on the positive. I found that on the day I went to see the Tonight Show, I felt better than I had for about two weeks. I think that’s because my attitude was good and I was focused on having a good time. I will maintain a similar focus for my upcoming trip and aim to maintain a positive attitude every day. We all have our challenges in life, but we grow as a result and often end up stronger and better people as a result. You seem to be living proof of that! Hugs to you, too!
I just started reading your blog and I love it! I can relate to a lot of your struggles and it’s so inspiring and comforting to know I’m not alone in this fight against my distorted body image.
I’m a recovered/recovering bulimic and while I may have stopped a lot of the habits and behaviours, I’m finding that in my recovery, the biggest challenges to overcome are the negative thoughts and constant self-criticism that often lead to depression.
I’m relating to a lot of your posts and links though. Do you mind if I link to your blog on mine?
Youngromantic, Welcome and thanks for your comment! Sorry to take so long to approve it and reply, but I was out of town…
It seems we have some things in common. Like you, I recovered from the behavioral aspects of my eating disorders awhile back, but the thoughts have been trickier to overcome. A big reason for my blogging on the topic of body image is because I process feelings and issues well through writing. I also hoped that my insights would be helpful to others, so I’m glad to hear that you are finding my blog helpful. Look for another post by the end of the week!
I don’t often write about the ED on my blog because it’s something that has caused a lot of shame in my life and not too many people know about it. I’m very thankful that there are those out there, like you, who are upfront and honest about their body image issues and are brave enough to share them with the blogosphere. That takes a LOT of courage and is so helpful for others who are battling similar problems. Kudos for doing that!
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