This is a question I get more often than one might think. And I think it is a good question. Weight does not just suddenly pop up and it is not like I do not want to be healthy and look good when I stare back at myself in the mirror. Believe it or not, I have thought about why I keep gaining weight for more than 25 years. I have roughly 100 hours of psychology hours behind me, several bad habits and eating disorders behind me, along with 10+ books about weight loss and about 10 different fad diets under my belt (anything from Weight Watcher to electricity run through my body).
My husband asked me this question a few days ago, as we were talking about when I was anorexic with a tendency to binge. This was the time, I was skinniest. I was 130 lb. So not insanely skinny but still lower than the average I should have been at (144 lb). More about this later.
This question got me thinking. I am probably not the only one who has had this question asked and I am sure a lot of you are asking yourselves this very question, but you might be to polite to ask (my husband is not). It is, also, an important question to ask one self when trying to lose weight as you need to dig in and learn about your habits more deeply than simply “I should not eat that”.
Everyone has their story and no story is better or worse than others, as we are all different and react differently to what we are exposed to in life that build our habits. Mine started in early childhood and simply kept getting reinforced through my childhood. Once those habits have been instilled in you they are insanely hard to break. Not until I was in my 30′ did I start really understanding my habits and you can’t change them if you are not aware of them. So lesson number 1. Learn about your habits, good and bad.
One of my first memories of childhood was when I was 3-4 years of age. My parents were fighting (which were not uncommon in those days) and to spare me from the stress of the yelling they would place me in front of the TV with a small bowl of candy and they were off to the kitchen. Of course I could hear them yell anyways, which would make any child feel unsafe so I emerged myself in the TV and my bowl of candy. The reason why this exact memory is so important is that it is my first memory of what happens when I binge. I am in front of the TV or computer and sugar just goes in, one after the other. After a stressful day or if I have been in a fight, my go to remedy to make myself feel better is the TV and my bag of goodies.
This habit got reinforced throughout my childhood. My surroundings where not getting any calmer. Matter of fact, they got worse. At age 5 my parents divorced and soon enough it was time for my sisters and mother to fight each other.
As I started growing into my teenage years, I was not the rebellious type. I internalized things more than my sisters. With the insecurity of trying to find out who you are as a teenager and the fear of being unpopular started my next habit. Binging! It started out with me wanting to lose that “baby fat”. I put it in quotation marks as that was what my mom called it, although others were not as nice about it. Ever since I was a kid, I was body shamed and food shamed by pretty much everyone in my family (a few exceptions, love you dad!).
Looking back, I was not overweight, I was just not skinny but that was considered overweight and that is something I still live under today. I have a hard time distancing myself from that image and just accept that my body is more voluptuous than those of my sisters and mother’s side of the family. My dad’s side of the family had a bigger tendency to carry more weight than average but unfortunately, we did not really engage with that side of the family and my father’s mother died when he was very young so I never got to meet her. Although, I am told, that I look like her. She must have been a very good looking woman 😉
To put the pressure into perspective. When I was skinniest at 130 lb, I was still called overweight and having “baby fat”. Yes, insane, I know, but my shape and voluptuous features simple gives me the look of being a bit choppy.
This constant pressure, although, I am sure it was not intentional, drove me into my dabble in anorexia. I say “dabble” as I had a friend at the time, whom saved my life and made me wake up from what I was doing to myself, fairly early into my days of not eating or binging with purging afterwards. If he is reading this, he knows who he is and I simply want to say: Thank you!
As the pressure was still there, the habit of using food as a comforter was readily available, I instead started binging and that is how I ended up with the other side of a eating disorder – over eating.
Over eating was something I hid as I felt it was shameful. I was not supposed to eat all of those treats and foods as I was supposed to lose weight and be skinny like my friends and sisters. But my feelings were overwhelming and I could not control my urges. This urge simply stayed and I tried over time to control it in different ways. I still have the urges today but with some really capable psychologists, I have gotten some great tools to recognize when the urge comes on, why it is there and that I have a choice. The choice is harder than you think, but I am slowly learning to accept my choices. Good or bad. And I think, I am finally growing up.
After over eating for roughly 20 years, you put on weight. I have had more excuses than I can count but at least now I see my excuses and I can choose to act on them or grow up and say no.
The bigger picture of my story is showing how important positive body image is for especially young people. I hope that my blog will help people to realize that they are beautiful no matter who they are and what they look like. It is truly, what is inside that determines your outer beauty.