Weight Restored and Still Struggling

Tips to get you through a rough body image day

This is not a long blog. Just a quick response to many of my clients recently struggling with body image. It’s the typical story. They have been in treatment long enough to gain the necessary weight and still feel “awful” in their bodies. Now what? 

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How do you manage the strong critical voice that tells you to return to behaviors in order to feel better?

How do you tolerate that level of distress?

These are hard questions. They are the questions I promise to devote more of my time, insight, exploration, and experience to. I want to offer you better answers. I see body dysphoria (body unease and dissatisfaction) as the number one reason my clients return to behaviors.  

Here is the best I’ve got for you today:

  • Know that it will pass

  • Recovery eventually includes a love of your body and your Self….it just sometimes takes a long time

  • Decode it. In other words, use your body image as the informant that it is. It has a story to tell you about what’s really going on below the surface of your skin

  • For more tips on how to decode your “fat feeling” go to my February 2018 blog

  • Continue  nourishing your brain adequately in order to heal any body dysmorphia that remains. A starved brain is a brain with skewed perception

  • Stay off the scale. Stop body checking. These only feed ED and allow it to grow stronger. There’s nothing like a number on the scale to feed your inner critic

  • Know that the desire to lose weight comes with having an ED (and also in part simply with our Western culture). That desire is just that…desire. It is not a fact, and it does not need to be acted on. Losing weight won’t make life better.  It won’t make you worthier, and in many cases, it won’t make you healthier (but rather, the opposite)

  • One day at a time practice letting go of your desire to lose weight. Recommit to self-care first thing in the morning, and throughout the day. That means proper nourishment, proper physical activity, and compassionate self-talk 

  • Use the tools your therapists have taught you. Many of you have been given a tool box full of coping skills. This is the time when you need to practice these tools

  • Utilize the power of the 12-steps. The first three steps can be done numerous times a day if necessary. With body image, it goes something like this:

Step 1: We admit that we are powerless over our desire to _________ (lose weight, alter our body, get more muscular, or fill in the blank with your version)

Step 2: We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves (or greater than ED) could restore us to sanity

Even if you do not have a belief in God or a Higher Power, coming to believe in a Healthy Self that is more powerful than ED, in which ED can be integrated is profoundly helpful

Step 3: We turn our will and our lives over to the care of this power (Higher power, Healthy Self….)

In other words (and I did this for years), when that obsession to lose weight hits, take a deep breath, pause, and repeat. “I am powerless over this feeling”. “I have another part of me that is logical, healthy, wise, and sane”. “I trust in a God/Goddess or Higher Self that can remind me of the truth and restore me to sanity.

And then comes a quick prayer. For many who follow the 12-step program this is the 3rd step prayer which goes like this: 

God, I offer myself to Thee - To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. 
Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. 
Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness 
to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. 
May I do Thy will always!

For me it could sometimes be as simple as “please relieve me of the bondage of Self. I let go of my desire to lose weight”.

  • Adopt a new definition of beauty. Make it your own. Not your critic’s. Not ED’s. Not the culture’s (easier said than done). Imagine what it would be like to give more value to what’s inside of you. 

And finally, remember, there is no one exactly like you in the whole universe. You are unique, and you are special. You have value that goes far beyond your body or what you look like. You have unconditional self-worth and depth that is worth discovering. The more you recover from your eating disorder, the more you recover of yourself. Let yourself be surprised, intrigued, excited, and loved.  


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How the Light Comes

I cannot tell you
how the light comes.

What I know
is that it is more ancient
than imagining.

That it travels
across an astounding expanse
to reach us.

That it loves
searching out
what is hidden
what is lost
what is forgotten
or in peril
or in pain.

That it has a fondness
for the body
for finding its way
toward flesh
for tracing the edges
of form
for shining forth
through the eye,
the hand,
the heart.

I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you,
though it may seem
long ages in coming
or arrive in a shape
you did not foresee.

And so
may we this day
turn ourselves toward it.
May we lift our faces
to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies
to follow the arc it makes.
May we open
and open more
and open still

to the blessed light
that comes.

—Jan Richardson

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