Trying To Lose My Baby Weight Triggered My Eating Disorder

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The postpartum period is difficult for any woman. There’s so much pressure to get back in those pre-baby jeans and so much talk about showing off that fabulous post-baby body. It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos and fall into unhealthy habits. Most of us want to reclaim some semblance of our former selves after we’ve had a baby. We want to tone up, slim down, feel like we could possibly (maybe?) attempt a bikini in public again. So, what do you do when you’re not allowed to focus on any of that? What do you do when you’ve had an eating disorder and post-baby rhetoric is a trigger?

That’s where I found myself a few months ago after giving birth to my second child. I’d developed an eating disorder after my first child was born. A lifetime of body dysmorphia and an obsessive relationship with food collided with the desire to lose baby weight and ended with me hunched over a toilet purging a few Big Macs. I spent the first year and a half of my baby’s life attending weekly meetings with an eating disorder specialist where I learned about self-acceptance and respect for my body, how to separate my worth from my weight, and how to eat mindfully. While I was doing this, I had to stop dieting and surrender my scale. I had to learn how to be comfortable as I was, in size 14 jeans when I was used to wearing a size 8. I had to stop obsessing about numbers and what they meant about my value as a human being. I had to leave the world of dieting and weight loss behind completely.

Healing was slow, but it happened. To my surprise, I didn’t gain a ton of weight when I stopped dieting. In fact, I didn’t gain any at all. My weight remained stable the entire time I was in treatment, and my ideas about health and fitness began to change. I realized my obsessive attempts to control my body were doing more harm than good and that my body was perfectly capable of regulating itself if only I’d back off. The urge to exert control over it was still there, though, and it was tested when I became unexpectedly pregnant with my second child.

Eating disorders are all about control.  Allowing your body the space to create a healthy human being is the ultimate exercise in surrendering control. The first few months of my pregnancy I was a slave to my cravings, mostly because I couldn’t keep anything down. After that, I vacillated between wanting nothing to do with food and wanting to eat everything. My weight gain was minimal, and I tried not to focus too much on the numbers or on what would happen once the baby arrived. I tried to remain in the moment and do the best I could for my body without obsessing.

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