Fairytales and Magical Thinking

I just read a comment that presumably I think BMI 19 is not healthy.

I also see that there are women on the forums who are not “force feeding” themselves and eating intuitively all while having no regular menstrual cycle (check out this post if you want to understand more about the distinction between eating using intuition or suppression).

Just to be sure everyone is clear on the concept that is fundamental to recovery:

There is no body mass index that is unhealthy or healthy.

 Onion: Flickr.com
 Onion: Flickr.com

You have an optimal body mass index that is yours and no one else’s.

You can only be healthy at your particular optimal body mass index, and no one else’s.

You will maintain your optimal body mass index if you are not restricting your food intake, not unduly sleep deprived, not facing unpredictable and unmanageable levels of stress, and not on prescription drugs that can impact the pulse rates and levels of various hormones that support your optimal metabolic state.

Chances are you will most likely not approve of your body’s optimal body mass index point. 

Everyone wants to be BMI 18.5 to BMI 20 and only about 4% of the population is naturally going to be in that range.

If you are naturally BMI 19, then Yay for you!— you are both socially acceptable and at your body’s healthy weight.

But for the other 96% of us, we either live at the body mass index that is right for us, or we give up health for social acceptability.

If you are restricting your food intake, and/or you are creating additional energy deficits through exercise and workouts, then one of two things will likely happen:

You will fall below your body’s optimal body mass index, or you will start to rise above your body’s optimal body mass index.

Yes you read that right. Which way your body mass index gets pushed to try to keep you alive as you restrict is dependent upon how your metabolism reacts to energy deficits. And your body may react differently if you have gone through many cycles of restricting intake to try to be at a socially acceptable BMI.

Are you supposed to eat when you are not hungry? Are you supposed to feel this full and bloated? Are you supposed to ease up and eat intuitively?

You are supposed to test your theories and try to uncover whether you are simply immersed in magical thinking and desperate to believe in fairy tales, or not.

And the trick is to identify which fairy tale has you in its thrall.

Are you eating intuitively with no menstrual cycle? Are you just eating healthy foods but finding yourself thinking about food pretty much all day long? Are you convinced you are at your body’s optimal weight set point but finding that you are cold all the time with low blood pressure and other somewhat sinister medical symptoms swirling around the edges of your life? Are you eating with absolute abandon, but only as long as you can get out for your daily run. 

Then chances are your magical thinking lies in believing you are not restricting when you are.

Have you just started eating recovery amounts of food (1-4 months in) but sure that it is too much and that you are forcing the food in? Are you bloated, stuffed, uncomfortable and nauseous but find yourself reaching for more food? Are you exhausted, in pain, and dealing with symptoms that you never had when you were restricting food intake and exercising regularly? 

Then chances are your magical thinking lies in believing that your eating disorder anxieties are right when they are merely noisy because you are in recovery and healing.

Are you many more months into recovery and have gained upwards of 40 or (way) more pounds? Are you still struggling with exhaustion, pain, aches and swelling even though it’s been more than 6-12 months of being totally dedicated to resting and re-feeding? Are you sure that you have overshot your optimal weight set point by miles and miles and yet nothing seems to be budging or shifting in terms of your shape let alone your weight?

Then chances are your magical thinking lies in believing that a recovery process has a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory end. 

Are you as terrified now of creating an energy deficit as you once were of eating? Are you preoccupied with thoughts of the physical damage throughout your body and terrified that you won’t get your recovery effort right and the damage will not reverse completely? Are you worried about not having food nearby at all times or perhaps having to go a half an hour without food because it might mean you are setting your recovery effort back?

Then chances are your magical thinking lies in believing that only a perfect recovery effort will result in remission. Falling prey to this kind of magical thinking is rare, by the way. 

And if you have found yourself in a space where you think and feel most like Kerrie or Gloria , then you have put your fairy tales and magical thinking on the shelf to embrace a reality that has ended up being more spectacular and kaleidoscopic than when you were constantly blinking away all that fairy dust stuck in your eyes.

Stay curious. Investigate your assumptions. Uncover your misunderstandings. Test your theories. You will figure it out.