There are many words that can strike terror in the heart of someone who struggles with compulsive eating and body image. Obese. Overweight. Massive.
My inner concept of myself as small and helpless, and at the same time too large and obese, creates so much emotional confusion. Am I a hippo in a world full of birds?
I want some simple reasons with simple answers:
"I eat because I'm hungry." Okay, then eat more, just make better choices. "I eat too much because I didn't eat this morning." Okay, eat breakfast. "I eat too much because I'm bored." Okay, find some good hobbies. "The cafeteria doesn't serve healthy choices." Okay, bring your lunch.
There don’t appear to be any simple reasons, just complex and largely subconscious automatic thinking and acting. Am I attempting to create a big self in order to protect my little self? Am I creating a big self to keep others away and let my little self survive? Or a big self to expand the world of my little self, like a protective bubble that allows my little self to be bigger? Am I just addicted to overeating for some as yet unknown reason?
Growing up with messages about how a woman should look, is that the reason?Bombarded with unacceptable and hurtful messages about a woman’s “place,” is that the reason? Being the oldest, is that the reason? Being smart and academically oriented in a school filled with rough kids who didn’t want to be there, is that the reason? Being called Tomboy and told that girls do not…is that the reason?
I always thought of myself as chubby, fat, and overweight, but one day came across a picture of my family when I was about eight years old. I was shocked to see that I had not been overweight as a child. So what happened? I got older and faced the inevitable conflict because of expectations that were not compatible with my true self. I struggled to form my own path, but kept falling back into inherited patterns that did not serve me well. I said yes when I wanted to say no, and no when I wanted to say yes. I am sure all of the above contributed to this dysfunctional way of relating to food and that there are plenty more reasons I have not yet discovered.
Breaking out of behavior patterns is difficult at any stage of life, but at 71 it is hard not to just say, “Oh, well, I’ve managed to live this long without changing, so why bother?” If I have to deal with each and every reason, unraveling the tangled skein of my inner life slowly and patiently, do I even have time or energy left to tackle this massive task?
If I must have a “bucket list,” I want it to be full of items such as “Spend a month in Tahiti” or “Write a Best Seller,” not “Visit therapist three times a week forever!”