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It is the most difficult part of eating disorder recovery. Letting go of the sick and emaciated body that you spent years striving towards, the safety of a ribcage that sticks from under your bruised skin, and the comfort in listening to anorexia and her sickening demands. Your body changes day to day, meal to meal, as it tries to readjust itself to a regular feeding schedule and a substantial food intake. Bloating, cramps, stomach pains and no appetite are all part of the refeeding process. But what happens after that? When your body gradually remembers how to digest something other than diet soda, and you can see the numbers scribbled in the weighing room begin to increase. There is plenty of support to get you back in a healthy, strong and functioning body, but little to none when you are faced with dealing with the unavoidable weight gain, and the new body you begin to see in the mirror.
First things first, I realised years after refusing to listen to what my body was saying (often screaming), that my body is always looking after me. It doesn't care what it looks like, it just strives to ensure I am healthy and thriving. I had to trust my body. I had to trust that even when I was so bloated it looked as if I was moments away from labour, my body would gradually digest and the bloat would fade.
There are times when your new body will feel too big, and you will feel your bones begging to poke out of your flesh again. You must ignore this with all your strength. Anorexia doesn't give up easily, and she definitely doesn't disappear when you are "weight restored." She stays as long as she likes.
You will outgrow clothes. The minute you do, chuck them. Give them to charity. Sell them. It doesn't matter. Never keep them. They are a reminder of a sick body, a sick body that your sick mind still wants.
Buy new clothes. Find a style that suits you. Invest in a good pair of jeans that are comfy and cause confidence. Go to charity stores—a new wardrobe doesn't have to be expensive.
Accept your changing body image. Some days you will wear oversized sweats and that's okay. Just keep working towards the day where you feel able to rock skinny jeans and a crop top, if that's something you'd want to do.
Stop body checking. Just stop. I know it is difficult and it is a part of your illness, but when you catch yourself checking for weight loss or weight gain in a reflection ask yourself why. What am I achieving by doing this? Am I ever going to be happy with what it shows whilst anorexia is in control? Spoiler alert, the answer is no.
Get rid of the scales. This may be unhelpful in some cases, but for me it was what helped my recovery the most. The scales were hidden from me and I was blind weighed when I began treatment. It wasn't my choice, and I'd spend days searching for the scales (I even tried to weigh myself using the kitchen scales, and looked for an app that would allow me to weigh myself using my Ipad). However, not knowing my weight was gradually a relief. No matter the number that I saw, I'd always strive to see it decline. And it took away that power from anorexia.
Listen to empowering music. This is the most incredible confidence booster and the thing that picks up my mood when my body image is not the best in the world. Notice the strength your recovering body has when you dance across the kitchen, and appreciate the energy that didn't exist until now.
Follow body positive pages. Instagram is overflowing with powerful people promoting body positivity and diversity. Get rid of any pages or people that leave you feeling inadequate, or pages that trigger you. There is no need to feel bad - if somebody is triggering you, it is ok to unfollow.
Note all the things your body can do. Take you places. Travel. Dance and spin and jump and laugh and cry and appreciate that your health and happiness will be found in weight gain.