Monday, May 19, 2008

The Weight of Weight
Part 2

This is a long post. I thought about dividing it up for my short attention span lovelies. But it needs to be all together - if you've ever struggled with your weight, this post will mean a lot to you. I promise you, IT'S THAT WORTH IT. And I didn't even write it… so it's not like I'm bragging.

Two entries ago, I talked about how I am sick and tired of having a double bubble butt, cankles, muffin top and the fact that Angelia Jolie, pregnant with twins, has a lower BMI than me.

But now I want to change and take off the sad fat suit that I put on in the throws of grief. So two entries ago, I wrote Melanie, one of our awesome-est readers and a therapist, a letter hoping she shine a light on what I can do to get back to me (the skinny, fit, boys-look-at-me me.) Reading that post is a good idea before plunging into the rest of this post.

Melanie's reply starts here:
Man, do I just want to sock your dad for asking such a question! His question about you being "normal" (meaning "thinner") by summer just PISSES ME OFF. I'm sure your Dad is a fabulous person.. but seriously?! You ARE normal. The weight doesn't change WHO you are. It just shows us how you feel.

Back to your question - I think there's little doubt that this is emotional weight. These pounds (which we all struggle with - myself included) are our own defense system against whatever pain has hurt us so deep.

Loss. Grief. Shame. Loneliness. Embarrassment.

There's an enormous list of uncomfortable feelings that lead to emotional eating. Some of us learn to emotionally eat from a family member (I should thank my own Mother here..) or just find a food that finally makes us feel satisfied.

Well.. at least temporarily satisfied.

We're lucky we didn't turn to harder drugs.. and we're lucky that this way of coping is reversible.

We're damned because you can't totally avoid food. You NEED to eat. Food can be devastatingly luring. "Filling" in more ways than one. Chocolate cupcakes as band-aids. Lemon tarts instead of emotional well-being. Dive into a pit of pudding - you'll feel amazing!

Unfortunately.. you'll never find love, happiness, or self-esteem at the bottom of a plate. Nor will any food taste more amazing than self-esteem feels. We know this stuff. Plump ladies are THE MOST WELL-READ POPULATION on weight-loss.

We know it ALL.

Your brain knows one thing, and your belly knows another. You DO have a brain in your belly. Your enteric brain - found in your gut. This brain controls your eating, that nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach, and the butterflies that appear when your crush enters the room. Having a "nervous stomach" means you're familiar with this second brain. The belly-brain that argues with your above-your-neck brain. ...and your Belly Brain has never read a weight-loss or self-help book.

Guess which brain Loss and Grief mess around with?

I hope you said "both".

So there's David's death... family issues... boyfriend issues.. job issues.. etc. There are probably even things we don't know about yet. We DO know that your family isn't the best at teaching healthy emotional expression. It sounds like you're very afraid to speak up over there. Speaking out is scary - so we start speaking IN. Things go IN. Emotions turn inward, and we stuff them down out of habit - and with a NY-style cheesecake. All the pain, we keep it in. Ever wonder why you curl up on the fetal position? You're brining it in. Trading the gym for your bed? Bringing that pain and frustration inward.

Eventually this bad habit backfires. Inward turns outward. Jeans that will no longer button. Shirts that you tug down over a belly, and avoiding mirrors. Now we're feeling bad about inward AND outward things. There's no safe hiding place anymore.. and we start falling apart. We hold onto old habits, and read self-help books. We hide under the covers... with the box of Oreos. Screw the gym. We're headed inward and outward.

Eventually we're PUNISHING ourselves.

We say mean things when looking in the mirror.. when trying on clothes in a dressing room.. when doing laundry - because now the jeans fit tighter. We hide from the gym, because we don't want to subject the skinny people to our wobbling blubber on an elliptical machine. We just bash the HELL outta ourselves in a way we'd never allow anyone else to do. We are by far the meanest people in our lives. Our brain suffers... and our belly-brain goes haywire.

I know this answer has been hella-long.. and I'm afraid to say that there's MORE.. but I think the first step - the VERY first step - is to forgive. YOURSELF.

There's no need to further punish yourself for the things David can no longer enjoy. There's no need to punish yourself for your family's chaos, for the ex-boyfriend, for the loss of the job. That stuff cannot be changed by any amount of self-punishing. It just IS. Accept, and forgive.

Now look at yourself naked.

Oh I mean it.

Go do it... or I'll kick your ass. Find a mirror where you can see ALL of you.

WHEN you do this (because you WILL do this) - you need recognize all of those mean thoughts that you rattle off almost unconsciously when you see your image. Hear them ALL. Hear what you do to yourself. That'll be the easy part.

The tough part is next: Now you have to see that the weight is pain. It's not "bad person pounds". It's not deserved punishment. It's your pain -on the outside.

Now.. what do you do with pain? Physical pain is easy.. but this emotional shithole pain is much more difficult. The first thing that you should do is stop treating yourself like crap. That's not helping ANYONE. In fact, it's encouraging other people to treat you like crap too. Look, you won't even take your aching muscles to the gym anymore.

So today.. after you confront yourself in the mirror.. you're going to start treating yourself like you'd treat yourself if you were thin. You are no longer permitted to beat yourself up based on weight. Give yourself every benefit, compliment, and happy thought that you think the thin version of you deserves. Be kind, be considerate, be forgiving, and be accepting.

There's NO DIFFERENCE between you as a thin person or a plump person. You're the same person!!!! There's no sense in saying "Well, I'll do that when I'm thin." "I'll treat myself to blah blah blah when I'm thin." Treat yourself well NOW. Treat your butt to new workout pants, and hit that gym with the vigor you had before, when you wanted an awesome body to match an awesome life.

Start there. See what happens. and I swear.. GET IN FRONT OF THAT MIRROR. You cannot confront what you cannot acknowledge.

Let me know how it goes.


That blew me away to the point that there are no words... But I will find them. My next post will be about taking Melanie's advice. I hope you do, too. DON'T MAKE ME BE THE ONLY ONE GETTING NAKED IN FRONT OF THAT MIRROR, 'kay? We're all in this together.

P.S. Melanie's awesome blog is

A disclaimer about this post from Melanie:
“My reply to Adventure Girl's letter is NOT a therapy session. You'll be able to tell by the tone of my reply. While being a therapist is my day-job, it's left at my office door. I am not her therapist. I am someone who has been drawn in as I read her posts. My advice is given as a friend, who doesn't have the same story, but enough of the same plot lines and characters to understand. No one told us life would be easy. :)”

This blog is dedicated to being fearless.