Figuring It Out

I finished re-reading Geneen Roth's book when Food is Love a few nights ago and something about the second time really got inside of me.  There are so many lessons that I overlooked the first time, so many things that put a lump in my throat because sometimes the way she shares the pain from her childhood (and others') hits really close to home.  I feel the grip of my past wanting me to shut up and be a good girl, stop whining and be responsible.  It has taken me thirty years to see that food was never the issue, my weight was never the issue, I just used food as a way to take care of myself, my fat a barrier against what was too painful to examine.  I was a child, I was trapped in a situation that was unstable and frightening and often made me feel lonely, empty, powerless, small.  With food I try to fill those holes. 
I wish I would have known this sooner, the compulsive eating isn't what's hurting me.  "Compulsion is what we resorted to when we felt we didn't matter to the people who mattered to us."  That line is one that chokes me up because it hits a really tender spot in me.  That is how I felt, and it is one of the fables I have built my compulsion around because it is how my mother made me feel sometimes and that made me feel like I didn't matter all of the time.  I realize that I have made excuses for her actions, she was young and accidentally got pregnant, she was in a tough relationship with an alcoholic husband and two kids less than 2 years apart, my sister and I fought like boys and expected the world from them.   But making excuses for her means that her actions were acceptable and my wanting attention and affection were not.  It's not okay that she treated me that way.  Children need positive interaction and reassurance.  There were times when my parents would get in a fight after midnight and my mom would come in our room and tell my sister and I to pack a bag of belongings that were special to us.  We would be given a large trash bag and we had to shove clothes, toys and stuffed animals in at breakneck speed.  We knew we were going to grandma's house, we knew she would cry silently as she drove the half hour in the middle of nowhere, and we knew something bigger than us was deciding our fate.  I remember asking my sister, "Are we ever going to see Dad again? ". We always came home again the next day, and things would be rocky but my dad would retreat to the garage to tinker on a car or drink beer with some buddies, and my mother would be edgy and silent, we knew not to get in her way or ask for too much.  Walking on eggshells so that we would not become the scapegoat, the reminder of how miserable her life was.  
It hurts to remember these things, it makes me angry that I didn't have a voice and spent my childhood tiptoeing around my mother because she was too proud to admit she had issues that were much bigger than her.  But part of the healing process is to grieve over what was lost and realize that the only one who can give me what I need is me.  I lost stability, comfort, the feeling that I could be or do whatever I set my mind to, the feeling of unconditional love, the sense that I mattered, the sense that I am smart, the sense that I have a right to be in the thick of things and not feel like I'm in the way, the sense that I am right regardless of the choices I make, that I am lovable, that I matter.  But worst of all of them, I lost my right to have a voice without getting smacked sideways into Tuesday.  I lost those things but I never grieved for them and moved on.  It is like an inter-life karma, until you find a way to stop letting these things affect you emotionally, you will keep repeating painful (and potentially fatal if we are talking about yo-yo dieting) patterns.  Restricting and depriving don't work because our eating is protecting us, it's a distraction because we feel like the real things that made us turn to food for comfort will be too much to bear, if we are expected to sift through those things and face them head-on.  Losing weight won't make my mom give my 5 year old self more attention or affection.  Losing weight won't make my dad stop drinking when I was younger.  Losing weight won't make my husband love me more or my customers less crabby. I can't change the past by my actions today, but I can use my past to change my future.  I can decide to give myself the things I lost all those years ago.  I can realize that I already have, in my remarkable husband and kids, some of those things right in front of me.  Healing can't start from anywhere else but in me.  It is a process of discovering what missing and putting those things in place.  It is giving myself permission to speak about my needs, having a voice and rewriting the story I thought I already knew the ending of.  It is permission not just to eat, but to be nourished and take pleasure from life and be loved and love others without fear.  Fat is just a thing, it cannot give or take things from me; its a blanket that I'm hiding under.  But sometimes when you go beneath the blanket, you find a whole dark world to explore.  I'm ready for this expedition.  


  1. This is so brutally honest and raw. Thank you. It is also beautifully written. I identify with many of the feelings despite having different circumstances and it was helpful to read your thoughts. Again, thank you.

    Best thoughts, wishes and hopes for your expedition...

    1. Thank you, A. I always knew there was something deeper than will power that was standing in my way, I just had no idea how to figure out what it was until I started reading this author. It makes sense to me that a huge portion of people with body-image or weight issues have bad feelings about themselves that stem from childhood, but we keep reacting to that pain even as adults. The only way out is through, so they say. Sometimes you have to go into the dark places in order to find the light.


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