So my therapy appointment went well yesterday. My therapist told me I have a completely distorted body image. That I do not, in fact, look like a fat slob. She said I looked radiant yesterday. I chalk the radiant up to several things. 1) I'm drinking water like a dying man in the dessert. Yes, I have to pee like every 30 minutes (why do I have a bladder the size of a grapefruit?). 2) I've worked out in the morning every day this week (except for Monday when we were flooded in). 3) Acupuncture.
When I told her I weighed 185 pounds, she had no idea. She said she thought 150-160, max (of course, she is quite tall and has a substantial body, and I'm guessing she doesn't obsess about what women weigh and how that translates to what clothing size they wear--like I do). I told her when I weighed 150-155 and was in size 8 clothing, I still thought I was fat. Yes, I had great clothes, and I could wear anything I tried on at the store. I got compliments all the time. But the little tag in my clothes didn't say "4" or "6." So I felt like I still had weight to lose and still wasn't thin enough.
RANT: Ever notice that a lot of the female TBL contestants who go home have the caption under their before and after pictures that says they "hope to be in a size 6 by the finale." Why is a 6 the end all be all anyway? I have ALWAYS wanted to be a size 6. For one month in 2008, I was a size 6. I couldn't maintain it. It was just too restrictive and too much work.
Anyway, when I pulled one of my favorite size 8 dresses out of my son's closet a few months ago, I was agog at how small it is. I. was. thin. as a size 8. I had no idea. I still thought I was fat because I had a tummy pooch and wide hips and saddle bags. Obviously, if I were wearing size 8s now I'd be thrilled.
OR WOULD I?
I frankly don't know. The whole deal is (as my therapist and I discussed), if you can't be happy with yourself NOW and see yourself as you really are NOW, then why in the hell do you think your brain is going to magically fix itself and SEE things the way they really are just because of a number on a scale or on the tag of a piece of cloth?
We've talked about this a lot over the years in blog land. We dubbed it "fat head." Thin body, fat head. Vickie wrote about making the inside look like the outside on her post about anger. It's a powerful post that's not specifically about fat-head syndrome, but it does reveal how our insides have to be worked on, too, if we want our outsides to stay healthy.
Which segues nicely to the my next topic: the Geneen Roth book When Food is Love. I could not put it down. I plowed through it, cried a lot, was shocked at how awful some women were treated as children, dug deep into myself to find those boxes where I was treated badly as a child. I read it on my Kindle and didn't bother to highlight anything, so unfortunately I don't have a coherent review to give you. It was SO RICH with information on WHY I am the way I am with food (and relationships too, by the way). I plan to read it again, and take my time, and journal through it. I will share details when I do this.
The general point I want to share now is how she said you can't heal compulsive eating (or drug addiction, or any other unhealthy coping behavior) without first moving through the pain you are trying to cover up with your compulsive behavior. Not avoid the pain or go around the pain--move THROUGH it.
I have nice tidy little boxes inside myself where that pain has stayed for 25 years. I didn't want to open them up. Ever.
But after I read the stories of women who suffered way, way, way more than I ever did--and they not only survived opening their own boxes and then going through the pain; they also healed their compulsive eating disorders and started living their lives with joy--I knew that I couldn't keep the boxes sealed up any more.
Thursday morning I woke up at 3:30 am. I had fallen asleep on the couch reading her book, and when I woke up all I thought of was reading more. I read for two hours, came to a particularly moving part of the book, and I broke down.
I found my boxes, opened them gently, looked at all the ugliness inside. It's hard to describe what it was like. I let myself really look at my memories and how horrible they were. I put them in the context of what they were--child abuse, at the hands of a boy who was six years older than me (I was with him from age 12 to 16) and at the neglect of my mom and dad.
I pushed even further back, when my world was first truly shaken when I was in second grade. My mom had taken my sister and me from our house in the middle of the night while Dad was at work. She'd filed for divorce, she said, and we needed to leave. I didn't want to leave my home or my daddy, and I told her so. She said, "do you want your daddy to come home and find the divorce papers and still be here? Do you want to be here when he's angry?" I'd seen my dad throw a coffee cup at a wall twice. I'd seen him push my mom to the floor. He never hit her, or us, but when he got angry, it was terrifying.
Dad found us soon after, staying at the home of a friend of my mom's. He stood on the stoop of the house with a gun in his hand, threatening to kill himself if Mom didn't bring his daughters back to him. I couldn't see, but I heard. I heard Mom screaming at him to please go away and not do this. I heard the police officers come and handcuff him and take him away. I heard the stories from the adults talking of how he was in jail. I didn't know if I'd ever see him again.
My parents got back together after 3 months of separation. We left our house and moved to a small town to live in a small trailer. Mom and Dad were never really happy together. They fought a lot. I got in the middle of them too many times to count, to stop their arguing. I got straight A's in school. I stayed out of trouble. When Dad was in a bad mood (which was a lot), I stayed out of his way and stayed in my room, by myself. He put TV's and telephones in our rooms because he loved us and wanted to spoil us. I think he did it because he didn't want us to be in the same room as he was, and he felt guilty.
Dad gave me a car when I turned 16. A 1972 green Chevelle. It was my ticket to freedom. For whatever reason, my then 22 year old boyfriend (who was very poor, very ignorant, had a seriously messed up family, had never graduated high school, didn't get his GED, and worked as a dish washer at Busler's) thought I'd decided I was too good for him now that I had a car. I didn't think that, but Praise God, we just sort of unraveled and were over, much like how we started--without my active consent.
I got very, very chubby in those four years. We ate junk food together, a lot. I bought men's clothes from the Dollar General that were big and boxy and ugly. (My therapist said I was likely trying to disguise my blossoming body to avoid male attention.) I didn't do anything with kids from school. I was an 8th grader with huge hickies on my neck; he liked to mark me. I hated those stupid hickies. I hated myself for having them.
I was embarrassed and humiliated at what my life was. I lived in a trailer with arguing parents and had a boyfriend who should have been in jail for statutory rape instead of washing dishes at a truck stop. I thought my parents either didn't love me, didn't have time for me, or approved of the situation. In reality, I think they were so wrapped up in their own crappy lives and were seriously dysfunctional themselves (my mom was 12 when she first met my 18 year old dad), and they were relieved I stayed out of their way and didn't cause trouble. Whatever the reason, I was abandoned as I child to forces that were beyond what I could control.
Control is a big issue for me, too. When we talked about the compliments issue, and about how I like the attention but am uncomfortable with it at the same time, she said I may have gained weight as a way to control the attention. If I'm heavy and perceive myself as invisible, then I'm controlling other people's response to me. Strange as it sounds, it really did get to be almost unbearable, listening to people at church every Sunday say how great I looked and gee, what's your secret? If it had stopped soon after I reached 150ish pounds, it would have maybe been okay. But it went on for well over a year. It got really old.
Nobody asks me about my weight or my body now.
I am going to get to my natural weight again, which may be 155 or 135--who knows. But I'm going to get there much differently this time. I feel well armed--therapy, acupuncture, hindsight. I am motivated by how I look, and by what clothes I can wear. But I'm more motivated by the ease of my life at a healthy weight.
The sheer logistics of being overweight is a lot of work--what will fit me today? do I have the right pair of Spanx for this outfit? how huge does my butt look in these pants? holy cow, these pants don't even fit anymore.
I don't want to eat ice cream anymore because I'm comforting myself or pushing down emotions or keeping the boxes sealed tight. I want to be able to eat an ice cream cone with my kids at Baskin Robbins and feel the same joy they do.
I want to LIVE my life, and not have to make myself numb anymore. No more guilt. No more shame. I want to be open to joy and love.
I don't have to be a 12 year old in a 41 year old body. I can move through the pain. And move on.