O***y Day, weight stigma, and triggers

Content warning: eating disorder and intrusive thoughts.

I’m going to start by saying how grateful and happy I am to have found the online ED recovery community. I have learned so much from being a part of it, and have been at times overwhelmed by the welcome and support I have received.

However, there have been just a couple of times when I have felt uneasy, and not quite able to pinpoint why. The last couple of days have clarified where those feelings came from.

Yesterday evening I listened to the first #TheBigEDChat, organised by some of my favourites on Twitter. The subject was Diet Culture and Weight. I’m not going to lie. The first 20 minutes were difficult and triggering, and I know I wasn’t the only one to feel that way.

Later on, I came across the #BeatWeightStigma campaign, highlighting the weight stigma in the UK’s biggest eating disorder charity. Horrified at their stance on o***y, I joined the cause.

But this was all fine. I’m used to comments from people, often well meaning, who do not understand the experience of those in bigger bodies, and I don’t let it get me down any more. I’m used to weight stigma in the medical community. I’m 7 or 8 years into my recovery journey now. And after all, I will never understand thin people’s experience fully either, because I haven’t lived it.

Then this morning I awoke to World O***y Day, and the second I looked at my phone, I saw an article from an ED charity about the similarities between eating disorders and o***y. It was all downhill from there. I had hit my tolerance limit. Here are my feelings, thoughts and actions from that point.

Disappointment and anger. I posted a couple of tweets. Then regretted them because I didn’t want to upset anyone. I stopped myself from deleting them, because I am entitled to my feelings. And because how I was feeling showed that weight stigma causes harm.

Today was my day off, but I had plans to meet my work colleagues for lunch. Without thinking about it, I skipped breakfast, falling back into old habits of “compensating” for food later on.

I went upstairs and showered. I looked in the mirror, hating what I saw. Body checking, I turned sideways to see how big my stomach looked. Of course it looked enormous. I wanted to slice it off; I’ve hated it my whole life.

I chose oversized clothes to hide that stomach from view. It was the only way I’d be able to leave the house when all I wanted to do was hide until I can lose some weight, make my body palatable to all those people pathologising it online. I don’t feel safe, I feel vulnerable. I want to cancel, but that would be letting them win.

I finish getting ready and start driving to the office. I notice intrusive thoughts I haven’t had in a long time (they always popped up when I was driving – the ones that told me to turn the steering wheel the wrong way).

I got stuck in some roadworks for ages. I am simultaneously furious and relieved. Because I am going to be very late, and because that means I will miss the food.

I arrive after everyone has eaten. I have a good time and enjoy chatting to everyone, mostly distracted from the thoughts I had earlier. I accept a slice of cake. I check social media a couple of times, relieved that no-one is upset about the tweets. I take some leftovers when I leave to have for dinner.

The entire journey home I am bombarded by thoughts about stopping to buy binge foods. I actually need a couple of things, but decide to shop tomorrow. It’s not safe to go into a supermarket today.

I get home and realise I am dehydrated. In my ED days, I used to avoid drinking sometimes so my stomach would look smaller. I hadn’t even noticed I had done it today.

So I’ve drunk a couple of glasses of water, had those leftovers, written this blog post, and chatted to a couple of friends. I’m finally feeling more like myself and less like old, ED me.

Because these were the thoughts of old ED me. Less powerful, and not acted on. But they are still there, lurking in the dark corners of my mind, waiting for those triggers so they can try to take hold again. And yet society, and even eating disorder charities want me to invite those triggers through intentional weight loss.

If my set point were lower, if I had recovered into a smaller body, I would receive nothing but praise for what I have accomplished. But it isn’t, and I haven’t. I am fat, so I have to accept that I will have to face weight stigma for the rest of my life.

Even so, I will not let the ED thoughts, diet culture or weight stigma win. I deserve recovery, just as everyone with an ED does.

Sending love and strength to everyone affected by today’s anti-fat rhetoric.

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