Later today I am going to meet up with a friend who, like me, has been obsessed with weight, diet and body image most of her life. A few weeks ago we confessed to each other how embarrassed and horrified we were that although we think of ourselves as two fairly smart, modern women, we cannot shake the mental storms of constantly being obsessed about how fat we are and what to do about it.
In life, it seems to me that the best way to fight those inner, closed-circuit, self-destructive thought patterns is to get them out in the open. Once you talk about and laugh about your personal “crazy,” the power is taken out of it. Then, once your thinking reverts back to that negative loop, it easier to identify it, laugh it off and tell yourself, yup, this is the kind of thinking I am prone to but no, I am not going to indulge in the “crazy” right now. We agreed to meet up every so often to pinpoint all the “crazy” and hopefully make progress on it together.
I have rarely met any woman, in any part of the world, who does not have “fat” issues. Some may spend an inordinate amount of their mental energies and daily routines in getting and staying thin. Some may be involved in trying NOT to be caught up in cultural norms citing thin equals smart, good, healthy, better than, etc. They may be rejecting the obsession with thinness that most modern cultures have, but they are still thinking about it, quite a bit. No matter what a woman’s personal relationship to fatness and thinness is, I venture to guess it occupies a lot of their time and energy.
This week my friend and I decided to fess up to how many things we have not done in our lives because we felt we were too fat. It is a pretty painful and SUPER embarrassing fact that from teenage years on, I believed that because I was not super thin that I could not participate in something. Like, somehow I was just not worthy of a particular life experience because I had a few extra pounds on me. I can think of many specific examples of this warped decision-making, especially as a teenager: who I felt comfortable talking to in high school, what parties and social events I attended, who I dated, what sports I did or did not play, what clothes I wore, what beach I went to and when, etc, etc. I made actual decisions that dictated the quality of my life back then all based on the fact that I was anywhere from fifteen to thirty pounds overweight and I equated that with not being worth much. So sad.
Later in life, in my twenties and early thirties, I think the decision-making based on my size was less of a black and white “I won’t go here because I’m too fat thing” (although getting dressed to go out at night was always agonizing). Unfortunately, the self-hate around not being thin became more of a subtle over-arching philosophy that I was always going to be “less than” everyone else. Deep down I believed I was never going to be able to have everything I truly wanted in life because if I were fat and couldn’t figure out how to be thin, then I didn’t deserve happiness. I became one of those “hide under the heap of everyone else” people which certainly is not the personality I had as a child before I was conscious of being larger than my peers. The more hopeless I became, the more weight I gained.
Let me point out that this negative paradigm I was subscribing to wasn’t necessarily conscious. It has taken the last few years filled with soul-searching (or reflection, or deep thought – whatever you want to call it) for me to be able to articulate all this, even to myself.
When I lost 100lbs about two years ago people began to treat me very differently, much more positively and like I was this awesome person because I had done the impossible. Things like jobs fell into place where they hadn’t before. I was now at a weight deemed healthy by the medical field and my self-esteem and outlook on my life did improve some. But, initially, I still couldn’t shake that black pit feeling inside. I had gained a healthier body but not the inner strength and self-confidence that is determined not by a lower number on a scale but by an inner knowing that I am worthy, that everyone has the right to pursue happiness, that my good deeds and intentions in the world are what make me valuable.
Over the last two years that inner self-confidence has grown from activities not at all related to weight loss – from deep analysis of my past, from working hard on my relationships, from spiritual practices and from experiencing what somehow I never believed I could experience: having my daughter. Who knows why being fat made me think I was unworthy or somehow unable to take part in basic life cycle experiences like having a happy partnership and a child, but I know for me, embarrassingly so, it did. Now, I feel called to explore and challenge these issues so that I can live the last two thirds (hopefully) of my life free of the self-hate and though it sounds cliche, it is extremely important to me to NOT PASS THESE ISSUES ON TO MY DAUGHTER.
I hope that by continuing to create The Program and as I lose the pregnancy weight I will be able to find that healthy relationship with food and with my own self that I have been working for these past few years. I am glad to have this blog and my friend to help me do this!
What is your crazy thinking around fatness, thinness and weight loss? I’d love to hear about it!