Strong Not Skinny: Lifting Weights in Eating Disorder Recovery

The first time I attended yoga I was fifteen years old. I was the youngest person in the class by at least ten years. I started to practice yoga amidst eating disorder recovery, as I attempted to leave behind excessive exercising, and build strength instead. Strong not skinny is my greatest mantra. And it really did make a difference. It started with yoga, and the more I went, the more I built not only strength but confidence in myself, my body, and my abilities. Within three months, my hands could rest flat on the floor with straightened legs, I could downward dog with heels down, and I attempted my first headstand. I felt the most confident about my body that I had for years. I also felt a part of a community, as my local gym had a wonderful atmosphere and even more wonderful instructors.

It wasn’t unaccompanied by its own set of anxieties though, especially as I built muscle in new places, and mistook it for fat – particularly around my glutes and calves. But my stomach was lean, not concave, and I had kick ass obliques. I was proud of how far I had come, especially because of where I had been.

Yoga was just the beginning of my strengthening journey. After that, I started to do Les Mills classes – Body Balance, Body Pump and CX Worx. They are all set to music, and are high energy, high impact classes. The more strength I built, the more empowered I felt.

When I moved away for study, I could no longer afford the gym. I continued to do yoga, but doing it by myself to a YouTube video once a week, or cycling through all the sequences I could remember, wasn’t the same at all, and not nearly as rewarding. There was simply no encouragement involved. As I lost strength, I felt worse. My depression got worse. And it had an impact on my eating disorder too (lots of things did, but this was just another contributing factor). As I lost muscle, my metabolism slowed down, and I fasted more often, and for longer. Which only precipitated binge eating and the compensatory behaviours that followed, and so the cycle continued.

Twenty eighteen is the year I returned to the gym, and to Body Pump. Already, after four weeks of being back in that sweaty, empowering environment, I’ve noticed the difference. Not only do I feel leaner and stronger (and a little sore too, which is encouraging), but my metabolism has begun to increase again as muscle mass returns. Muscle memory also helped with this.

This is why I encourage people trying to lose weight, or struggling with disordered eating, or tried to lose weight and slipped into disordered eating, to reduce their cardio, and pick up some weights.

Because it’s far better to be strong than to be skinny.

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The headstand shots and above photograph were taken in Nepal 2016; on hillsides, mountain tops, roads and bridges, in the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara and in the Annapurna Mountain Range.
Other image credit to Rupi Kaur

 

5 thoughts on “Strong Not Skinny: Lifting Weights in Eating Disorder Recovery”

  1. I relate to this so, so much. When I was in the throes of my eating disorder I was also the strongest and most fit I had ever been, and when I stopped exercising I felt so similarly to you. I grieved the loss of my muscles, I had so much pride for how strong I once was. I still feel disappointed, but starting late last year I got a new gym membership and hopefully one day I’ll be even stronger than I was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. so great to hear that you can relate. that is why i share my experiences after all. if you keep repeating it eventually it will become true – strong not skinny. strong my skinny. strong not skimmt

      Like

  2. you are one phenomenally bomb human being. oh my gosh. how much you inspire me, how much i relate to you, and how much love i am sending your way. my god how much it IS better to be strong rather than skinny. and as hard as it is to hear, the truth is that a bigger body wholeheartedly DOES bring a bigger life. it is where we are capable of LOVE AND JOY AND PASSION AND LEARNING AND BECOMING AND BEING. and the road may still be difficult, but i feel that you know in your heart the direction your soul needs to go. go there. leave the sick and lonely comfort of “skinny” behind. you have much more amazing places to go. 💙💙 i am supporting you ENDLESSLY.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thanks lovely. I also relate to you on so many levels and in the truth and honesty of your eloquent and strategically bolded words. i try my best to put things in perspective, and i am DAMN proud of my headstand capacity, and it’s something i was NEVER strong enough to do before. here’s to finding strength (physical and emotional and mental) amidst recovery ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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