“Now it’s time to do the one thing I know you want to do the least,” she told me, looking me square in the eye. “You’re going to have to eat the food.”

My heart started to race.

Sure, I wanted to branch out and eat new foods. But did I want to risk gaining weight? Did I want to risk losing my “fit chick” reputation? Was I really ready to give up my white-knuckled belief that I needed to eat gluten-free (even though I wasn’t gluten intolerant)?

My brain screamed no. I was clearly not ready to risk losing the “perfect” body I had spent so many years creating. It’s just not logical.

Simultaneously, my heart screamed, Yes!

My intuition was yelling, Yes, I want freedom! I want to eat my fear foods! I want to finally gain some weight so that it’s not so scary! I want change!

I looked at my mentor sheepishly, trying to decide if she would be able to call me out on my bullshit if I said I wasn’t ready yet.

Yup, she would.

“OK. I’m ready,” I announced.

Two years later, I sit here writing this and weighing at least 15 pounds more than I did when I was in the throes of orthorexia and fitness modeling.

My biggest nightmare came true. I gained weight.

The thing that I feared for so many years of my life, anxiously obsessing over how to avoid it, had happened. The thing that kept me in the kitchen bulk-cooking 25 chicken breasts, an entire bag of brown rice, and 11 pounds of broccoli so I would “stay on track” came true. The thing that motivated me to be at the gym twice a day, rain or shine, in sickness and in health, became my reality.

I gained weight.

Today, I receive hundreds of emails from girls around the world asking me, “How do I accept weight gain during eating disorder recovery? How can I be OK with it when it’s against everything I used to believe?”

The question is one that I remember used to circle around my own head every single day when I was striving to recover from my own disordered eating.

Here are three reasons why weight gain is not the end of the world:

1. Gaining weight allowed me to gain life.

When I was in the fitness modeling industry, I was fighting my body every single day. I wasn’t allowing my body to take its natural shape.

Instead, I woke up every morning filled with anxiety, wondering how I was going to stick to my perfect meal plan (oh no, I’m supposed to go to a party later and need to eat my chicken breast and brown rice every three hours or I’ll die!), how I was going to distract myself from hunger pains (do I still have some sugar-free gum?), and how I’d make it to the gym twice in a day (I am so freaking tired)?

When I finally allowed myself to stop partaking in these rigid routines, I began to make room in my life for things I actually enjoyed.

And guess what? I started to do those things. I started to meet friends, old and new, and try new foods. I started to rest when I was tired. I started to date myself and figure out what I liked.

Yes, I did gain weight — because I was no longer dieting and exercising twice a day — but it was weight that my body needed. This weight turned out to be the key to having a life, and that’s a trade-off that I’ll never regret.

2. Gaining weight showed me how little importance weight has over my life.

The whole reason why we put so much emphasis on weight gain in the first place is because we are taught to: We are taught that weight gain, “laziness,” and “fat” are bad, while weight loss, “skinny,” and “disciplined” are good.

It’s no wonder we constantly wonder what people are thinking about us, if we look like we have gained weight recently, or if we need to take part in our friends’ diet camaraderie.

When I finally gained weight, I realized that my value and self-worth didn’t change at all. If anything, I became smarter because I could finally see all of the lies I was being told about my body size.

I could finally distinguish my True Voice from my Inner Mean Girl Voice.

Nothing about my weight gain inhibited me from doing anything I loved, either. In fact, when I was at my smallest, I did almost nothing. I stayed indoors crying about my body, anxious about the unknown, and dwelling in my own isolation.

Now, I go out and party, dance, create, love, grow, and simply put, live. Gaining weight was a crucial part of the process that took me out of my bedroom and into the world.

3. Gaining weight upped my fitness game.

When I was at my “leanest,” I didn’t have a period. I couldn’t sleep without sleeping medication. My digestion was a nightmare, my mood swings were unmanageable, my bones were frail, and my skin bruised like a peach.

When I was doing bodybuilding shows, I was weak, cranky, and tired. I had alarmingly low levels of energy — so low I could barely stay awake.

Isn’t it ironic that I, a fitness competitor, was neither “fit” nor “healthy”?

When I started to eat intuitively during recovery, I also started to move my body intuitively.

When I gained weight, I also gained strength. I stopped lifting weights religiously — because I hated it. I began doing CrossFit instead. Eventually, I moved on to pole dancing. My current favorite is yoga.

I started to have fun with my workouts instead of seeing them as a way to change my body.

Gaining weight isn’t a necessary part of disordered eating recovery for everybody, but it certainly is common.

And to be truthful, the calmness I have developed at the thought of gaining weight is fairly new to me. Before I gained the weight, I was terrified at the thought of ever weighing more than I did. But actually letting it happen opened my eyes to what could come out of it — to all of the beauty that those 15 pounds would hold for me.

If you’re going through disordered eating recovery, I implore you to not focus on the weight.

Think about all of the things in your life that you want and miss. Focus on those aspects of recovery. Think about the people you want in your life, the conversations you want to have, the laughter you want to experience, the adventures you want to take, and the sense of peace you want to live by.

All of these things are possible for you — and they may be closer than you think.

This article was first published by Ravishly {see here}.

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