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''I can't stop dieting just like that, I will gain so much weight!''
What will actually happen if you stopped dieting ''just like that''
''I can't stop dieting just like that, I will gain so much weight'' was my main concern at the peak of my eating disorder. I was stuck between wanting to get better and intensely wishing to stay skinny. But, every time I wanted to abandon my restrictive behaviors, I was terrified of the possibility of gaining weight.
It appears like I was not the only one who felt this way; many others who are struggling with their body image express similar sentiments. When I inquire whether they ever tried to stop restricting to see how their body would react, "No!" is the consistent answer. They look at me with ''Are you crazy?'' eyes for asking such a question. There is always a (rightful) justification for why they can't quit dieting:
''If I stopped dieting, I would gain so much weight that you would have to roll me around. Nobody wants to look like that, right?'',
''I won't be able to stop myself from eating, I will binge all day'',
''My body is different from others, I am very unlucky. If I do not control what I eat, I just gain a lot of weight''
A forced smile forms on their face while uttering the words:
''Other people have a fast metabolism, I don't. It's genetics. I drew the short straw.''.
The sentence above truly captures the root of the problem: the narrative of ''I am different, my body is different from others. My body cannot process food as easily as others, so I have to step in and take control''. I have heard this from multiple different family members, my best friends, and my clients; basically from everyone around me. How come everyone has a sluggish metabolism and a genetically unlucky and lazy body?
Spoiler alert: 99% of the time, these people do not have the ''unfortunate body'' they think they have. Though, they still sincerely feel that their bodies are lazy and unlucky. That is why they feel like they have to try harder to maintain their weight compared to other people who had allegedly won the genetic lottery.
Ironically, severely restricting one's food intake is what makes a person feel like they've got the short end of the stick when it comes to their physique: Many years of yo-yo dieting, going back and forth between the two extremes of restriction and binge eating severely disrupt the body's natural course of handling food.
Stepping on the scale every day, in particular, feeds the fear of weight gain because our weight fluctuates regularly. Though completely normal and natural, the daily fluctuations are perceived to be fat gain by the disordered mind. The mind then blames the ''unfortunate and lazy'' body, which ''cannot process food as well as other bodies'', for fat gain and the individual takes the unfortunate body to be their reality. The fear of weight gain grows stronger day by day as a result of the disruption in the body's natural functioning, which is closely monitored by the individual with a scale. When the individual wants to try to stop dieting, the daily fluctuations are shown as proof of their sluggish metabolism. In reality, if they could simply allow themselves a few months and let their bodies be, their bodies would discover a weight that feels comfortable and healthy. It would revert to its native state and resume its normal functioning.
Stopping dieting and simply ''letting your body be'' require changes on two levels: psychological and physical. The psychological aspect requires seeking treatment and working on your beliefs around food and your body image. I took care of the psychological aspect with the help of my therapist. Therapy helped me realize the valuable, worthy, and lovable aspects of myself, other than my physique.
The physical part, contrastingly, is more practical. Everything I knew about food and eating had to be relearned. I ate breakfast every day when I awoke. I ate a meal or a snack every three hours, whether or not I was hungry. Sometimes I ate what felt safe, sometimes I took a leap of faith and ate the foods that scared me.
Patience is crucial. I gave time for my body to heal, to trust me again. At first, I was scared. The idea of letting go was terrifying. There were days I was tempted by my disorder; ''What are you doing? You are different! Your metabolism sucks. A life without restrictions? Don't be ridiculous!''
My eating disorder was resistant to change. It tried negotiating with me; ''Don't eat so freely! At least work out then!'' It did so because it was aware that things were starting to change. These are all part of recovery! You can read more about the feelings I have experienced during my recovery journey here:
At first, you will be scared. Like genuinely terrified. You will want to restrict. That's normal. You might experience bloating and you might feel like eating all the time. These are normal too. The unhealthy habits you today struggle with did not form overnight. Give your body the time, the compassion, and the love it needs; then you will see how your body is amazingly capable of handling food on its own!