This is an addendum to my original post back in March when I made the decision to gain some healthy weight for my health. I discussed it in detail here, but in brief, it was a hard decision to make and hard thing to talk about (and achieve!) in a culture so focused on weight-loss and dieting. It also put me in a vulnerable position, as people are quick to judge others in terms of their bodies, food choices and lifestyles.
I’m glad I did because the outpouring of support was outstanding and it was my most popular blog post by far. Many of you related directly and others of you might have different goals, but could understand and respect the situation in different ways.
So what happened? Well, I am here to report that I have successfully gained 15 lbs. and the weight-gain train is still going strong.
How I did it: Obviously eating more and decreasing my activity. This was hard and difficult at first and I felt extremely full, bloated and uncomfortable for the first couple of weeks/month. However, after that, my body caught on pretty quickly and I was (and still am) hungry ALL THE DANG TIME! This was interesting to experience myself, because my eating disorder clients go though this during their weight restoration phase of treatment. Once your body’s metabolism levels out, it goes into a hyper-metabolic state where it utilizes tons of energy to repair the body. It is not uncommon for an underweight anorexic to be placed on a 3,000+ kcals/day meal plan. I was surprised I was experiencing this phenomenon, because, at the time, I felt like I was eating enough and was satisfied. Obviously I was not, because my body latched on and was saying “give me all the food” and I eat significantly more now then I ever have before.
How I’m doing physically: Definitely went up sizes in everything. Chest, hips, butt, legs, waist..all of it! All my clothes fit tighter now and I had to donate all of my jeans because I cannot fit in them anymore. While this was difficult at first, I have grown to love my body and feel more “womanly” now. I have boobs and curves now and it feels great and healthy! Women are meant to have fat, and while I don’t denounce women with a six-pack (good for you!), I know I feel happiest when I don’t. That being said, I know for a fact (thanks to a fancy machine) that I have gained a significant amount of muscle in addition to some fat. I can’t stress enough the fact that my activity has decreased, but I have increased muscle mass. Goes to show the power of rest and that more/higher intensity is not always the best.
How I’m doing mentally: It was rough at first mostly because, again, I was going against the grain of what everyone else seemed to be focusing on. I also felt guilty talking about it to a lot of people in my life due to their own struggles with losing weight or history of disordered eating. I did not want to focus on weight in an effort not to trigger someone I cared about. While I felt good and strong some days, I also had days where it was difficult for me to experience not being able to fit into my clothes. Even my stretchy workout clothes felt uncomfortable. I also had bad body image days where I felt “fat” or gross in my own skin. Goes to show I am human and everyone has these days. I am able to combat these thoughts with the facts (I am building muscle, muscle requires more energy and weighs more than fat, etc.) but they still present themselves sometimes, unfortunately.
Lessons I’ve learned:
–Your hunger cues will take awhile to come back, but they WILL come back. The longer you’ve been under-fueling, the longer it will take for them to normalize, but the best thing to do is keep trucking through and eating.
-Your body is smart and you have to trust it, even though it will be hard at times
-It will be hard not to compare yourself to others
-It will be annoying to eat a lot and all the time
-Eat when your body tells you, not when society says to-I went from 3 meals and 2-3 snacks to eating up to 7-8 times/day because my body was hungry! I was building muscle and required more energy.
-You will feel a million times better after you gain the “healthy” weight :).
Where I’m going from here: I am still in the process of seeing where my body’s natural set point is in terms of weight. I am still finagling my meals and foods to accommodate my higher metabolism and energy needs. For instance, I have recognized I need to beef up all my meals, but especially breakfast. So now I use a whole banana instead of half, more milk, and add an egg to it for more calories and nutrients. I also have noticed I need a nighttime snack even if I’m not necessarily hungry for it or else I wakeup in the middle of the night hungry and need to get up and eat. I am still learning and some days are frustrating because of it, but I am confident that my body knows what it is doing. The best thing I can do is listen to it because it got me this far already!