This post was written and submitted by Ryanne Mitchell, LPC.
There is a goal that can stop recovery in its tracks. This goal tries to disguise itself as something “healthy,” while in reality, it is serving illness. In eating disorder recovery, this is the “goal weight,” sometimes called “ideal weight.”
I’ve heard patients in and out of treatment discuss their willingness to recover “as long as I don’t go above x pounds.” Or patients in larger bodies experiencing eating disorder treatment as yet another diet to follow in order to reach x pounds. Treatment team members themselves often perpetuate this stumbling block by asking the patient to set this arbitrary number, or setting it themselves. The root of this is trying to appease the eating disorder to keep the patient in recovery or outright blinded by weight bias. Not a fan. It just seems to perpetuate the myth that health and weight are the same.
As long as there is a goal weight, there will likely be relapse. I’ll say that again. As long as there is a goal weight, there will likely be relapse. Here’s why:
Goal weights are often set while in the midst of disordered thinking, and no person can accurately predict a goal weight – truly. That is because a person’s weight will continue to shift and change over the course of their life, which is actually a healthy process for all bodies.
Sometimes in recovery from restricting, your body will go over what you may have thought was its natural set point to repair and reset metabolic processes. If you are holding on to a goal weight, the eating disorder may shout and throw a fit. You will fall back into thinking your body must be controlled instead of cared for.
Having a “goal weight” may set you up to think that something is wrong with your body if it does not turn out to be your body’s preferred place. At the same time, not knowing your weight at all brings uncertainty and uneasiness to the eating disordered mind, so many people and professionals continue to use it as part of recovery and treatment. Notice how this may have felt for you to have a number such as a goal weight as part of your recovery. How did that number impact recovery? How is it still impacting you today?
Weight gain is very often a sign that your body is being cared for, nurtured, and nourished, although we are taught in our diet-obsessed culture it is not a healthy sign. You will gain health, vitality, and greater self- love with a nourished body and brain. Because lower weight DOES NOT equal health. Likewise, a higher weight DOES NOT equal poor health.
Most importantly, all of your thoughts about ideal weight are meaningless when it comes to the body’s work of healing and recovery. The body will weigh what it weighs when you are consistently taking in adequate nutrition for recovery, no longer doing any eating disorder behaviors, and moving and exercising for fun and function instead of punishment.
Set recovery goals that are about the life you want to live, rather than another tether to the disorder that is trying to take your life.
That is recovery resilience.