Shortly after having made this journey to simply improve my health through eating better and quitting my daily diet of fat and sugar crammed carbs, I became over focused on a picture of myself looking slim. I opened it up and stared at it for prolonged periods and I don’t know why. I don’t want to be slim like that. I want a strong, healthy, curvy body. I’ve also bought a mountain of clothes for this fat body that I’ve not worn yet but if I lose that much weight they will be beyond adjustable! And I won’t lose that much weight anyway so why the obsession? I’ve even sent it to two people like it was evidence of something. Evidence I had been slim, I could be slim, I could be in control. Clearly if I’m showing that I must think it’s more desirable.
I realised how much shame I have for being fat. I always say to people randomly “I haven’t always been fat” when it fits vaguely in the conversation. It’s a shortcoming, it’s regrettable. It’s feels like I am saying “I haven’t always been ugly”. Why does it matter to them? What does it mean for me that they know? It’s high on the agenda currently that people aren’t fat shamed. I fat shame myself. I guess there is the amount of social conditioning around the way people look, what look is more pleasing to the eye. And it’s weird, often as I go about my daily business I don’t know I’m fat. I still feel slim and pretty until I glance in a mirror and see I am old and ugly.
I wonder if some of it related back to care. Being fat does not invite care, you are cushioned and protected from the outside. But to me it is uninviting. If you look thin you look more like you need to be held, hugged. As a fat person I feel like a monster reaching to hug someone. I also feel like I am the person providing comfort and sometimes I want to receive it. It’s another complicated conflict. A puzzle behind something that seems simple. People who have held me have hurt me. If I have this protective layer I am less likely to be hurt. But then I am less likely to be loved. As I have withdrawn socially (partly through circumstances), I have been less hugged, less loved and have increased the likelihood that that it will be perpetuated by becoming fat. I have accepted food as the only thing there for me.
I don’t think I would make a conscious decision to eat to become unattractive. But I read somewhere that survivors of sexual abuse/childhood emotional abuse, eat to avoid dealing with difficult thoughts/feelings/memories. Maybe I’ve eaten my way to avoid the thoughts, feelings and memories associated with 11 years of sexually coercive behaviour from my husband. He trained me as his expert dominatrix and then worshipped me whilst I carried out a range of depraved acts upon him. It became like a job, a job I didn’t want, I was his slave with the illusion of being his mistress. An unpaid prostitute. At other times he would be rough and selfish, hurt my body, again with no concern for me as a person, his supposed soulmate. He would also humiliate me and shame me to increase his coercive control. Living with him was an abundance of suffering out of the bedroom too. Living with his moods, the silences, his abandonment, the blaming of any difficult circumstance on me and complete refusal to take any responsibility for it. The confusion, near constant anxiety and erosion of my self esteem. Whilst being told all of it was good for me, the sex, the character building. It was dreadful.
I hadn’t planned on talking about those things here. But I think I may have maintained my memory loss of all those things by initially escaping into travel and fun times with my daughter, at others being triggered into Bipolar episodes, by online shopping for beautiful clothes but comfort eating and making an ugly body to hang them on. My fat is my protection, maybe that’s where the conflict comes from, the conflict of actually sort of liking it when I’m alone and don’t look in the mirror and still wanting the increased attention and care of being thin. If it wasn’t for my personality, I think I’d go by completely unnoticed in the world. People don’t seek to speak to you when you are fat and ugly, people seek to engage when you are thin and pretty. But when I engage with people in shops or cafes, it is as if I forget that I am fat and have a confidence that I wouldn’t if I were looking in the mirror. So we both proceed in talking, as if I were not ugly to look at. My chat outshines my fat.
I haven’t weighed myself for about 3 years. It’s too upsetting. I know roughly what I weigh as the Doctor weighed me but I know any change won’t be significant yet and before now it could only be depressing to weigh myself. I used to be obsessed with weighing. Especially when the figures were going down but even then it was distressing if the rate of loss wasn’t quick enough or went up. It would either trigger a restrictive regime I couldn’t maintain or a depressing bingeing relapse. Then I would carry the shame of having gained weight, the shame of having not been able to maintain the regime and the shame of the food I ate after.
I don’t think my mother’s attitude to weight helped me. She’s always encouraged weight loss and there was a period even as an adult where she often said “You’d be gorgeous if you lost a few pounds”. Her emotional and physical abuse as a child left me without that important role model and person to understand and be able to support and I don’t have that as an adult. Mum’s are important throughout life and I don’t have anyone offering similar things. Mum’s do it differently anyway if you have a good one. Having a bad one works actively against it. She taught me to give to others without end or boundary, accept moods and rage from the one you love. And don’t worry if people turn you insane with gaslighting because that is what she did. If your Mum does things you think they must be acceptable from someone who loves you. And of course she has taught me how important it is to be slim and beautiful. Or you will not be loved as much or regarded so positively. Always be pleasing on the eye.
30-50% of people who suffer any type of childhood abuse suffer eating problems and sexual abuse is particularly linked with Bulimia. 60% of people who have experienced Domestic Abuse have an eating disorder. I didn’t really stand that much of a chance of having a normal relationship with food. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have one and that is my goal. I will live longer which I will need to do if I want to have a shot at life, a real shot, free from trauma and free from abuse. Filled with loving relationships and as much balance as I can generate. Not the splattered canvas of distress, chaos and abuse that my life has been. I’ve achieved things, positive things have happened but happiness has only ever been very transient and tended to come from external factors not from within me and certainly never sustained. I’m tired of being resilient, I just want a nice life!
But I have made a reasonable start. I have eaten lunch every day, the goal set by the dietician and on many days have had 3 meals of some sort. When I’ve slipped it’s not been big but it’s usually been in response to feelings. I’ve not thrown in the towel. I’ve noticed it, examined it and moved on. I’ve realised I eat to get out of my head and into my body, to get comfort from my mind. I need to work on other ways to do that. I lack self love and self compassion so I need to explore how I am going to develop those. And as I was writing this it struck me that I don’t speak to myself very nicely.
My experiences have left holes in me. The hollow of having an abusive mother and the gaping gunshot wounds, littering my body, some still bleeding, from those who have abused me mentally, physically or by treating my body as if it belonged to them to use. But I will fill the holes that need to be filled and heal those that need healing. It will be a work of love to heal what was taken and cultivate for myself what was never there. To fill the holes with something more life giving and sustaining than unhealthy food.
I am encouraged that my perfectionism seems to have taken a back seat. I think this may be an indication that success is possible. I am not over reacting if I slip. I do not need to follow it with an excessive response, a damaging response. I have grown from my history of Eating Disorder. I have more skills now, I am calmer and more accepting of my humanity, the enormity of my undertaking given my 30 year history with food and the circumstances under which I am trying to tackle it now. And in that sense I suppose I am starting to develop self compassion. I am able to forgive myself when things don’t go to plan. I’ve never been very good at that before. I am being gentle and kind with myself about this and open to whatever each day brings. And whilst I still have apprehension, I also have hope.
See my other posts on Bipolar Disorder, Grief, Childhood Abuse, Rape, Domestic Abuse, Living with a Narcissist and recovering from Eating Disorders. More every week!
Love Alice X