Wednesday, April 14, 2010

No, I can't lose weight

Because I've had some form of an eating disorder for more than 20 years, I have absolutely no idea what my natural set point is. I mean, I know that there's a weight range I've never fallen outside, and that when I've been on the upper end of it it's because I've been eating terribly, and that when I've been on the lower end of it I was chronically underfeeding myself. So I know my set point is somewhere in the middle. It's around where I'm at right now. In fact, given that while I've had flareups of my ED I haven't had a single true lapse (until last week, but it was indeed a lapse, not a relapse, so I'm OK) since November, it's probably exactly where I'm at right now. It's a healthy weight for me. It's not difficult to maintain. I look fine, I feel fine.

But--but. But. To say that--to say I do not need to lose weight, I am not trying to lose weight--is incredibly foreign to me. When I first entered treatment I remember feeling in awe of the possibility that I could eat normally; that no longer seems foreign to me. But as the weeks pass and I continue to be dissatisfied with my body and know that I am not doing anything to "fix" it, and that in fact I never will--well, that is really hard to accept. I am not "fixing" it because there is nothing to fix; this is where I should be, and I know it. But I feel like I'm trying to learn a language that I can read but not yet speak: I can see the words and know what they mean, but my mouth cannot form the sounds; the wrong words tumble out, unintelligible even to myself, the aggravating unease of knowing what I want to say but not having the tools to do so underlying my every word. I feel--helpless, like I'm stuck in this body that I'm just now getting to know.

One of the biggest surprises for me in getting treatment was how little I wound up thinking about my body. Part of the whole ED thing is that everything becomes wrapped up in the body: All troubles and frustrations center around food and eating and the body. When I pictured ED treatment, I envisioned lots of seminars on body image, and instead I got none. I grew to see poor body image as a symptom of my disorder, not as a cause. This makes it easier to sort of grin and bear with myself when I have poor body image, like I have been lately: I know that my body image and my eating are separate, and in fact need to be, because one is an act that I need to do to live and one is a series of funhouse mirrors that reflects absolutely nothing about reality. But what it does mean is that I'm left with that tongue-tied frustration when I have it: I can't do a damn thing about it. I have to sit with the feeling of looking down and hating what I see. I have to let that feeling just be. I have to let it just be.

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