I would love for life to be fair.  For good people to get good things, and bad people to get what they deserve.  But life isn't like that.  Luck generally doesn't care what kind of person you are, and much of what happens to you in life is a matter of luck.  Do with that what you will, but luck rarely creates "fair" situations.

It's perhaps a little infantile, but many things about my recovery seem unfair.  What's been irking me lately is my supposed need to gain a few pounds even though I'm already at a healthy weight.  It seems horribly unfair that my weight seems to settle naturally at the very tippy-top of what the charts say is "healthy" when lots of other people get to recover and stay thin.

It's total ED thinking, I know, but it's still true.

Which is why this blog post from Judith Beck rang true for me:

Their sabotaging thought? "It's so unfair that I can't be as thin as I want." This idea brings them significant emotional pain. Often they are preoccupied by a sense of unfairness. Instead of being proud that they were able to lose and maintain some weight loss, they feel a great injustice. "I worked so hard, and I have to continue to work just to stay at this weight [which is unsatisfactory to me.]" How sad that they feel so negatively, when to lose weight at all is such an accomplishment.

I often say to them, "Yes, you're right. It is unfair, but it seems to me like the greatest unfairness is for you to suffer for even one more day because of this terribly painful idea that you have that you have to be thinner -- an idea that makes you obsess, that makes you unhappy with yourself, that creates a negative frame of mind, that doesn't give you peace with yourself."

I often give them the following analogy: It's like someone who's a good runner who says, "I have to make it to the Olympics." He becomes obsessed with running, he's unhappy with himself, he doesn't have good peace of mind, and so on. Maybe he's a good guy and doesn't deserve to suffer, but he does suffer because he has the realistic expectation that he should be able to make it to the Olympics. And on top of it, instead of accepting the fact that he just isn't built to be a world-class runner, he's preoccupied with the idea that it's unfair, which makes him feel deprived and a little bitter and puts a negative edge on much of his day-to-day experience.

Of course, there is lots more we talk about in terms of fairness. (For example, by and large, many dieters have unfairly positive lives compared to many other people in the world.) But this initial discussion, which implies that dieters have some control over their suffering, via their thinking, is an important start.

Now, truth be told, I think the premise of her last book (which teaches you to "think like a thin person") is a little ludicrous.  I'm not convinced in the slightest that thin people think differently from fat people.  However, there is still wisdom in the above snippet.

Recovery isn't fair.  Here's the thing: it doesn't need to be.  Maybe it's not fair that I've survived long enough to work on recovery.  Lots of things aren't fair, and letting just another unfair fact get in the way of my recovery seems rather petulant and childish.

This isn't to say that I've magically made peace with my weight.  I haven't, not really.  But I'm starting to try and make peace with knowing where it needs to be.

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Anonymous said...

I soooo needed this post tonight. Thank you!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

if it's not okay to say that this ride is painful then i'm out. it isn't fair, it is painful presently and i get it. i get really sick and tired of sucking it up and keeping a smiley face for everyone so lately i've just been real. at least in the 'appropriate' places.
just because people have it worse doesn't mean that i can't say it effing sucks.

Katie said...

Ugh, fairness. I give up on that idea ;) but no, recovery doesn't FEEL fair. It feels awful and painful and terrifying. That doesn't mean that it will always feel that way, but in the moment who cares about the long term?

I don't think your thoughts sound infantile Carrie, they sound like typical thoughts for someone in recovery, and they can cause a huge amount of pain and distress. Not infantile - just symptoms. You are not a bad person for feeling that way, and if you stick with this you won't feel that way forever.

I Hate to Weight said...

i get really mad that my natural weight is on the high side. i think my life would be better if i were naturally quite slim.

but i do get over it pretty quickly. my life is good, i have a job, a cute little apartment, it's spring, i have great friends. and not one of those friends likes me any less (or any more) because i my set point is 8 pounds more than i'd like it to be.

and then i look at my HEALTHY body. i get my period every 28 days, my mammogram was clear, my colonoscopy was fine, my eyes are healthy..

thinking this way didn't used to help me. i was just pissed that i wasn't "blessed" with thin genes.

but it is possible to change thinking. which is really nice

Anonymous said...

Yes the (un)fair thinking has been a crux at times in my recovery. Accepting that I need to be at a weight I don't "like". It is the first symptom I am walking the relapse cliff side.

But when my head is not deep in that space I see that I have legs that allow me to run and ride fast when I eat well. A body that managed to carry and birth two kids. A smile and eyes that radiate. That life can be amazing regardless of my perceived fairness about body size.

PJ said...

I'm massively impressed that you can even look at your weight without having a meltdown. That kind of progress should not be overlooked. To be able to look at your weight and think about it objectively, even if you don't like it, is recovery in action!

Kellie said...
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Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I have been struggling with the same exact thing. Although I am technically a "healthy" bmi now, my RD wants me to gain more. I have not had my period yet and ED is loud, so I know deep down it's true, it is just hard to know that I have to gain more when I am at a healthy weight. I needed this post more than you know.

Ashley said...

That's the funny thing about individuality...some of our bodies just really don't like being forced into fitting the American "thin" ideal. I wish I didn't have the voice in my head telling me that I look better in size X than size Y.

I actually cried when my RD initially told me that my ideal weight (according to the charts) was about 25 pounds LOWER than I expected it would be, given my weight history... It was like she was telling me that I'd been overweight since middle school--something I knew to be totally untrue.

Hang in there. Gaining weight does suck, but when I think about all of the women I consider beautiful in my life, I realize that very few of them are celebrity-thin. They're beautiful because they're full of energy and warmth, and they're obviously comfortable in the rounder bodies they happen to be living in. :)

HikerRD said...

@Ashley Sounds like you need a new RD. If she is simply looking at "the charts" and not at your history re weights and your health, there's a problem.

Radically accept that yes, perhaps it's "unfair". Then appreciate the positives of changing your thoughts, behaviors, and yes, your weight, as many of the commenters suggest.

Consider this--sticking with your personally UNhealthy wt. may seem fair. And so would the resulting amenorrhea, fatigue, hair loss, low body temp, low heart rate, distorted thoughts, irritability. Is it worth it?

Anonymous said...

Awesome point, HikerRD!!!! (I am the first anonymous)

I could lose weight and still be "healthy"... but, when I'm at that low "healthy" weight, I am cold, all of my thoughts are circular, I count over and over again. That low "healthy" weight doesn't result in a healthy life. My healthy life comes with this weight - that my tx team likes and that I am learning to appreciate.

Anonymous said...

all the allusions to the BMI made me think of this. NPR ran it in 2009- Top 10 Reasons Why the BMI is Bogus. here's the link:


another challenge is to get AWAY from the numbers game and at least try to focus more on where our bodies feel healthy. if you can actually remember a time when you felt healthy that's a good place to start.

HikerRD said...

@azhe'n Yes, BMI has its faults (see http://dropitandeat.blogspot.com/2011/02/where-bmi-goes-wrong-lessons-from-cupid.html)
But it is risky to try to trust how you "feel" while in a disordered place. Many will report they feel quite fine, even at an objectively unhealthy weight. It is sometimes only once they start restoring wt and health that they can appreciate just how much better they could feel.

Anonymous said...

of course- i guess i should have qualified what i wrote. feeling 'fine' and feeling healthy and good and fit to me are not the same.

Sarah at Journeying With Him said...

Wait--life isn't fair?!!!!!
*Mind blown*

JK. Carrie, as usual you have described a step of recovery with wisdom, honesty, and humor. I completely agree that letting go of "fair" is essential to moving on in recovery. My sister and mom are at the thinnest end of the healthy BMI spectrum naturally and have roaring metabolisms, while my dad and I have slower metabolisms and larger body frames. I also have chronic illness, while my sisters and brothers are healthy. At times in my life, I have been really resentful of these differences, but I've learned to just accept that this is my bod. This is what I've been given, and I can either become bitter and frustrated or I can make the choice to accept it and enjoy what it has to offer me.

It's interesting--at first, I worked on not getting mad at the unfairness. Then, I worked on acceptance of what I have. Now, I am at the stage where I can actually appreciate what I have without effort (sometimes. Definitely not all the time.)

To me, this shows that there may be stages of acceptance of certain recovery truths. You've already passed the first stage by refusing to let this reality get you off track. IMHO, you can still be pissed off for quite a while :) I won't judge.

hm said...

Not fair that when I eat, my bloated stomach sticks out further than my boobs. Not fair that I feel so much more mentally balanced and normal when I don't eat so much. Not fair that if I want to resemble social normalcy I have to starve myself to keep my social anxiety in check. Fuck fairness.

I think I'm not past the whole bitter thing yet- if you're there, I'd appreciate reading more blog posts on that and trying to get there through literary osmosis. I'm not opposed to trying- feeling bitter sucks.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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