Recovering Big

Recovering into a Bigger Body Is Not Wrong

Recovering from an eating disorder in a society focused on thinness can be hard to do on its own. It is even more difficult when you recover into a body that does not conform to the thin ideal. If you are in a bigger body and have an eating disorder or are growing into a bigger body as you recover, you are definitely facing additional challenges of weight stigma.

The Stereotypical Eating Disorder Recovery NarrativeRecovering into a Bigger Body in Eating Disorder Recovery in Los Angeles, California [Image description: a larger woman with a head covering depicting a potential fat person in recovery from an eating disorder]

The stereotypical eating disorder recovery narrative recounts an emaciated young white female who recovers into a thin idealized body. But this is far from representative. There are many people with eating disorders who are in bigger bodies or who recover into bigger bodies. This can be really hard especially when there are few models for recovery in bigger bodies.

When the only image we have of recovery is of a slim body, people who recover into bigger bodies may struggle with feeling like they are doing recovery wrong. They may even be told by other professionals that they are doing it wrong. Indeed, many professionals have reassured eating disorder patients they would “not let them get fat.”

Bodies are Diverse

Recovering Big in Eating Disorder Recovery [image description: drawing of a larger man in recovery from an eating disorder in Los Angeles, CA]Just as a reminder: people who binge eat can be in any size body, not just a large body. And people who have anorexia and restrict (without bingeing) can be in any size body, including a large body. And not everyone in a large body binge eats or has an eating disorder. Bodies are meant to be diverse. There have always been fat bodies. A person’s body size is not an indicator of their eating, their eating disorder, their health, or their worth.

Encountering Weight Stigma

Shira Rosenbluth, LCSW, eating disorder therapist, posted this on Instagram on May 25, 2021:

 “I want to talk about what it’s like to claw yourself out from the depths of hell of an eating disorder relapse and become fat again, only to be told by family and medical providers that it seems like you’ve now “gone to the other extreme.” I want to talk about how it can still feel unbearably torturous to eat even though you’ve done months and months of recovery and you’re back in your fat body and then have people ask, “are you sure you need to eat that much?” I want to talk about what it’s like to experience self-doubt with every single bite you consume, in a world that tells you that you’re obviously doing something wrong if you’re fat. …I truly don’t have the words to articulate the hell of living with an eating disorder and then have people tell you that you’ve gone too far with your weight gain when every pound you gained in recovery was an agonizing battle in the first place.”

It’s not fair but people in larger bodies often have more difficulty accessing treatment, being treated appropriately in treatment including being given enough food and supported in stopping excessive exercise, and getting insurance to cover treatment. You likely fought hard for your recovery. You may have felt your eating disorder was less valid if you were not as thin as others. If you recover into a fat body, you may experience real oppression like Shira.

Embracing Your Bigger Body in A Fat-Phobic WorldRecovering into a Larger Body in Eating Disorder Recovery in Los Angeles, California [Image description: image of a nonbinary fat person representing a potential client in recovery from an eating disorder]

If you have recovered into a fat body, we want you to remember that your body is not wrong. Being fat is not an indicator that your recovery is any less valid or that you have done recovery wrong. What’s wrong is a society that reinforces thinness as the single ideal. It may be tempting to think about losing weight but remember: food restriction should not be a part of anyone’s recovery, and restriction can lead to relapse.

Instead, focus on standing up to diet culture and learning more about weight-based oppression. The onus for change is not on the individual. Society as a whole needs to change. We must all work together to challenge the thin ideal.

Focus on appreciating your body and its resilience. Learn to cultivate self-compassion. Be prepared to advocate for yourself and find providers who are aligned with Health at Every Size®. Finding fat-positive communities either online or in real life can be incredibly affirming.

We understand this work is hard. Standing up to diet culture is challenging but it can bring you peace and freedom you have never known. And our team is here to support you on the journey.

Body Positive and Large-Bodied Instagram Accounts to Follow

Finding bodies that look like yours can help. Check out our post on Diverse Body Positive Instagram Accounts.

For Support Recovering in any Size Body in California

We are able to provide HAES®-based psychotherapy to individuals in person in Los Angeles and virtually throughout California.

We provide therapy for people with atypical anorexia as well as other eating disorders.

Please reach out to get started.

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