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Commenting On A Woman’s Weight When She’s Recovering From Addiction

One of the things that seems to be missing from the never-ending narrative of women’s body image is the distinction of who it is that needs to be concerned with a woman’s body. Everyone seems to take opinion. Fashion designers, health trend promoters, family members, partners, and even potential job opportunities all take a woman’s body into careful consideration. When it comes to a woman’s body and how it looks, the concern lies in only one place: the woman herself. Even she is on a lifelong journey of creating a careful balance between caring enough and not caring too much about her body image. According to the rest of the world, however, she should be gravely worried.

Drugs and alcohol hurt the body in different ways. Each woman’s body is unique and each woman’s experience with drugs and/or alcohol is unique. As a result, her body reacts uniquely to active addiction as well as active recovery. Drastic weight gain, weight loss, muscular atrophy, changes in skin condition, hair condition, nail condition, and other appearances will shift. For women, who live with a daily pressure to look a certain way, which they are taught is the definition of how they feel, their changing bodies and appearance is uncomfortable. Working through the mental narratives women develop from all over their worlds is a tough journey. When that struggle is amplified by the opinions of the peanut gallery- that is, the people who feel entitled to comment upon a woman and her body- the experience can be triggering.

Family members and loved ones make comments out of good intentions. A woman who gained an “unhealthy” amount of weight during her active addiction is congratulated when she loses it. A woman who might have lost too much weight during her active addiction is congratulated when she gains it back. Women heart helpful comments like “You look healthy!” and “Recovery looks good on you!”. Simultaneously they hear less helpful phrases like “I’m so glad you gained some weight back,” or, “You must feel better now that you’ve lost weight”.

A woman in recovery is feeling good because she’s ceased the destructive and fatal use of mind altering substances. She’s discovered a self-esteem she’s never had, an inner beauty that shines radiantly, and a purpose in life that transcends any she’s known before. She doesn’t need to be beautiful or not-beautiful by anyone else’s standards. She is free.

Discussing the paradox of complimenting a woman on weight loss, Vogue author Mary Wang cites sociologist Afshan Jafar who studies body ideals and their effect on females. Jafar discovered that the act of “thin-praising” weight loss is as damaging as “fat-shaming” weight gain, which are often communicated through those well-intentioned offerings from others. More importantly, praise and compliments for any kind of body image “…works as a big motivator” for females to adhere to those relentlessly unrealistic beauty and body image norms.

Villa Tranquil offers women in recovery a unique opportunity to continue their treatment in a healing and supportive environment. Our transitional living home in Jupiter Farms, Florida, provides a serene and spiritual environment for women to advance their recovery and their lives. Call us today for information:  (561) 294-0427