As someone who struggles with her weight (and my relationship to it) and has for my entire lifetime, this issue is always on my mind. It is my sincerest hope in sharing this part of my journey with you, while learning how to finally, effectively deal with it, it can help you too.
Growing up as a young child – the baby fat was called “chubby” and I remember going on my first diet at the age of 5. Somehow I knew that this weight translated into me not being good enough, loveable enough, deserving of love etc., I have learned as an adult this is just how the brains of children work and when left uncorrected, remains the same.
Then when you add in abuse, the body takes on a whole new meaning, that gets really confusing. The body is the one thing that is keeping you alive, but it is also how you are being hurt. In some cases the body is the only way you receive love and affection. In other cases the line between love and sex gets confused as it is tied into our value as an individual. Thus yet another battle begins. There are so many elements here for consideration, but for purposes of this post we will stick to the “basics” to illustrate a point only.
At some point, our only option is to control our bodies in whatever ways we can – typically food, drugs or alcohol are the first things to control – either over or under consumption. At this point, it truly isn’t about weight per se, it is about feeling some sort of safety, control within ourselves, when we truly aren’t safe from others.
At some point and dependant on the duration of the situation without aid or healing, the methods become more deeply ingrained and the need for control increases. For some this develops into anorexia and/or bulimia, for others it becomes about weight gain. As someone who feels throwing up is a fate almost worse than death, that wasn’t my choice to control. I was surrounded by drugs & alcohol so I avoided them as well.
My anxiety binding method was food, the food that ultimately helped me to gain the weight that would become my “mask”, my suit of armour or protection. I believed that if I was overweight, I would be unattractive and thus safe from being hurt. I also believed that even if I did get hurt, it would hurt less as there would be more of me to go through and would perhaps dissipate by the time it got through to my heart. But what happened for me when that didn’t work, was then I went on a binge to lose the weight, thinking being slim wouldn’t be their cup of tea, so I would again be safe. That didn’t work either as obviously my beliefs of the weight having anything to do with being hurt or abused, were incorrect as most abusers do what they do because of their own illnesses, that has very little, if anything, to do with our appearance at all.
This back and forth did nothing to prevent me from being hurt by others and then in fact added a new element for me to address and heal. The fact that I didn’t or couldn’t trust myself or my body- to be or feel safe in it, nor could I do anything to protect it – so I started treating it like it was my enemy, disconnected from it – so I wouldn’t feel anything. Needless to say this also ties into issues with self care, but that will remain for another post.
As an adult this relationship with my body is something that I am still working to correct and in fact re-connect. I know that I need to learn how to trust myself and my body, no matter what size, so I will feel safe enough to lose the “mask”. I know I need to heal the mistaken beliefs that my body betrayed me, by being attractive & available to be hurt, no matter what I did. I know these pieces are held within both my body and my mind. I know that I cannot do this work without dealing with both.
I think this is another example of what I was referring to in my earlier post about Authenticity & Trust – for someone who has never truly experienced this battle, how can they truly understand and help? I know that too is potentially another mistaken belief, but there is also some validity in my request for understanding and supportive assistance. Just like the type of empathy and compassion I can share with my clients, from a true place of understanding.
I am working on creating a course to help with this so we can work on this together, in yet another way. In the meantime, I invite you to stay curious about how being in masks really serves you and who you would be without them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what we did to survive, but perhaps it is time to do a review, to see if those methods serve us anymore. That is the first step towards healing, hopefully in a healthy, permanent & meaningful way.