On weight regain and my inner critic

Part of me wants to tell you what it has been like to gain weight. The fact that I’m larger now than I was four months ago is fairly central to my existence at the moment. Why not talk about it?

Well, my inner critic will tell you why not. Admittedly, she’s an asshole, but sometimes she has a point.

(An asshole = someone who has been hurt in the past. My inner critic has had a rough go of it.)

Still smarting, she reminds me that my blog was founded more on sobriety from alcohol than disordered eating. Your readers aren’t interested in recovery from restriction, she says. Most of them can’t relate. What if you alienate them?

Or worse, she says, what if you alienate the people who technically can relate? People who have also struggled with disordered eating, but who don’t feel as free to forgo dieting and gain weight as a result? It’s common for disordered eaters to live in larger bodies, after all. As a smaller-bodied person who gained weight – and remains relatively small after the fact – I can’t pretend to speak for them. Sure, my mind used to tell me 24/7 that I’d better watch what I eat, but the people close to me weren’t telling me that. Doctors weren’t telling me that. I've had an easier time than many.

And yet: when I sit in women’s AA meetings and look around at the many hungry women – women whose sobriety from alcohol is intact but who never experienced relief from dieting – I can’t help but think I’m onto something. That this topic matters here. The tables are littered with cans of Diet Coke and La Croix. No one takes candy from the basket. Offerings of sugar-free gum are snatched up like winning lottery tickets. Our conversation is meant to be confined to recovery from alcoholism, and it just isn't. We allude to restriction, to mindless eating, to confused or resentful relationships with our bodies. In a group of alcoholics, it seems like food matters.

This is what I tell my inner critic, anyway. Because I want to talk about it.

As a newcomer in AA, I couldn’t fathom the people who’d been sober for five or ten years. What must that be like? Aren't they bored? What do they care about now?

As a newcomer to recovery from disordered eating, I was similarly aghast by the people who declared they had gained weight and no longer think about food. I couldn’t imagine a self without hunger, with a neutral relationship to food, a self who didn’t constantly waffle between staving food off and cramming it in. I couldn’t imagine a self who simply wasn’t interested in controlling the size and shape of my body. For whom those thought were simply a relic of the past.

In the last four months, I’ve seen real changes, changes that were scarcely conceivable to me even a day before I gave up the fight. I no longer fall asleep thinking about what I will allow myself to eat tomorrow. I no longer hang on to skinny clothes. When the number on the scale increases, I no longer launch a plan of attack. I am not entirely sober from disordered thoughts or self-criticism, but I am sober from dieting and restriction.

Many people suggest that sobriety from disordered thoughts is unachievable, that disordered eaters in recovery will always wrestle with these. Given the degree of progress I’ve made in four months, I’m inclined to question this. After working a program of recovery from alcoholism for 4+ years, I no longer have the urge to drink. Ever. Who am I to say that criticism of my body won’t one day disappear? That one day, I won’t just handle food like a normal eater?

Perhaps doing the work will work. And, as it's often said in AA: if it doesn't work, I'm sure the disease of disordered eating will gladly refund me my misery.