The Food Thing – Part 2: the Weight Thing and the Body Image Thing

I’m really touched by everyone’s kindness and support in response to my first post on the Food Thing. Thank you all so very, very much. 🙂

Now… on to Part 2: the Weight Thing and the Body Image Thing.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been overweight. I was an overweight child who grew into an overweight (morbidly obese) adult. I had a short period of knowing what “skinny” was like in my early 20s, but I was basically addicted to amphetamines at the time, so I’m not entirely sure that counts.

When I was a child/teenager my father would berate me for being fat. He’d yell at me and he’d yell at my mother for letting me get so fat. Then he’d take me out during school holidays and buy me a “treat” (always food) – just so he could berate me some more.

As I was writing this I caught myself saying that my mother never really made any direct comments, but I realised that’s not true (why do I feel this constant need to say she’s ok, to protect her?)

In reality she’d tell me off for eating, make comments about “fat people”, tell me I had to lose weight if I wanted to wear “nice” clothes and give me diet books for Christmas/Birthday presents. She even once gave me a plastic jogging suit that looked like a cross between a giant silver garbage bag and a spacesuit. It made me feel like a complete freak (though it makes me cringe and laugh all at the same time now). She still makes comments about other people. We might see people while we’re out shopping and she’ll say things like, “Look at that. How revolting!” or “that’s a big one!” or “how can people let themselves get like that? It’s disgusting!” She even said my therapist is “big” (she’s not) – “but she has got nice shoes” (she does, but what sort of thing is that to say? Geez…)

In all, I grew up believing that fat is bad; fat is ugly; fat is unlovable.

I also grew up believing my body was ugly; that it was “bad”. Both my parents made comments about it, and for a time my father used to spy on me in the shower and laugh. He always laughed at me if he saw me naked. This when I was just hitting puberty – like any kid needs that. Even as an adult he’d say things like, “look how big your stomach is. My god!” or “your b00bs are too big”. Endless f***ing mockery.

My mother used to comment on my legs – my “tree trunks”, my “thunder thighs”, etc. I don’t think she meant it maliciously, but the effect was the same. Only a couple of months ago she suggested I have plastic surgery to reduce breast size, adding that I could have a tummy tuck and thigh reduction at the same time. Thanks, Mum. *Sigh*

All of this left me believing my body is hideous, alien-like – something to be scorned and ashamed of. Even now I hate the sight of myself naked. And I hate it when people touch certain parts of me – even innocuous parts like my upper arms. I can’t stand it, and I have to move away.

I’m not going into all the different things I hate about my body; how I feel sick at the sight of the cellulite in the mirror, or how my friend’s little kids stare in horror at my flesh if they happen to see me getting changed. I’m just not going there, sorry. The only parts of my body I’ve ever really liked are my hands and my waist (the fact that there actually is one, and it has shape, at least when I am in shape).

My therapist says I need to spend more time looking at other people to see how everyone’s different, every body is different. Trouble is, all I see when I look around is a world full of skinny, beautiful people. And then there is me.

I always thought if I was “skinny” then I’d find love. I did, I suppose, but as my therapist says – the only good thing about that relationship is that it’s over.

Unfortunately my therapist says that the Body Image Thing isn’t unique to fat people – she’s had plenty of skinny clients with the same issues. How inconsiderate of her to shatter my illusions of skinny perfection like that!

I’ve come to realise that these Things (the Food Thing, the Weight Thing and the Body Image Thing) are quite common among survivors, though I know they’re common to “normal” people as well. My therapist says those “myths” about people keeping themselves fat to keep other people away isn’t a myth after all. Apparently it’s a ploy so we aren’t seen as attractive, as sexual beings – even if this is in conflict with our innermost hopes and dreams.

Hell, I thought that’s why I smoked?

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7 thoughts on “The Food Thing – Part 2: the Weight Thing and the Body Image Thing

  1. Hey Kerro,

    I really appreciate you writing about these issues, because it is one of those things I struggle with and I’m not sure I’d have the courage to write about if I’m honest. I think they touch on the core issues about who we are, our sexuality – body stuff is deep stuff.

    I suppose most people would put me into a ‘skinny’ category (though I’m not sure I would) – and like you say it makes no difference. I still hate my body, the way I look and feel uncomfortable in my own skin.

    This is perhaps the only issue I feel unable to take into therapy also – which is very inconsiderate of me. The reason I don’t, though, is that although my therapist is far from overweight, she is considerably more so than I am. I worry that my own fear of gaining weight and dissatisfaction with my own body will make her think I don’t like the way she looks or that I’m judging her (but actually I think she looks lovely the way she is – beautiful even).

    I am very shocked and angry at the way you were treated by your parents. Nobody deserves that. It’s not surprising you feel the way you do after hearing all those messages – but I hope some day you will be able to see through the lies they told you to the beautiful truth.

    love to you

  2. (((Kerro)))

    I’m so sorry that you were treated so horribly and given such messages about your body, and I am glad to see you opening up and sharing your feelings about these issues. In doing so, you are not only reminding so many others that we share very similar feelings, but hopefully you can acknowledge to yourself that you aren’t alone or weird, either. And there is absolutely nothing wrong or less-deserving about you, regardless of your size or shape.

  3. ((kerro))

    These issues are so hard, and so painful. People really don’t realize how easily children take in information about who they are, especially about how they look. Even a simple observation can sound like criticism to a child, so deliberate cruelty from parents, such as you were subjected to, is just phenomenally destructive.

    *thinking*

    I believe one of the reasons this kind of thing is so prevalent is because we feel so ugly and awful inside, but nobody can see that … we figure it *must* be visible, and so we project that onto the way we look. Any negative comments we receive just reinforce that tendency.

  4. I must commend you for your openness and honesty. The food issue is SO sensitive, and we don’t talk about it enough. Food is so complicated because we can’t simply refrain from it. We need it. And the emotional connections are all around us and just so profound.

    I’d like to comment on this statement:

    “My therapist says I need to spend more time looking at other people to see how everyone’s different, every body is different. Trouble is, all I see when I look around is a world full of skinny, beautiful people. And then there is me.”

    There is this show called How To Look Good Naked that addresses this issue in an interesting way. They line up a bunch of women with all different body shapes from smallest to biggest and ask the woman who is the “star” of the show to place herself where she sees herself. They almost always see themselves as MUCH bigger than they actually are. It’s an interesting watch.

  5. Pingback: The Food Thing – An interlude « Kerro’s Korner

  6. Hi Kerro,

    I understand what you are saying about your mother. I was sexually abused by my mother and my father was not abusive. But he was emotionally and verbally abusive. Especially when I was a teenager. He made me feel and believe that I was ugly. He didn’t protect me and then he went out of his way to wound me. I don’t understand that and it was something it took me a long time to get really furious at him for abusing me. Neither of them were good parents and yet it causes so much more pain to admit that, feel that, and then to feel what I felt as that little alone child. I’m sorry that you went through that with your mother. She is abusive and nothing excuses her. She owed you a level of loyalty and love, just by being your parent. She let you down in every way.

    My mother and sister were both very overweight and all my childhood and teen years I saw their food addictions and hatred of their bodies. I was terrorized and feared being fat and ugly. I compulsively exercised when I was in fifth grade because of this fear. I heard one expert in the field say that younger and younger girls do this behavior due to fear of fat. I have overweight issues due to health limitations and pain. I only wish that I could be active and painfree. It is a challenge not to want to eat for comfort. I totally agree that it is hard to manage food issues due to having to eat every day. Other addicts only have to avoid their drug of choice forever, we have to eat it every day.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Kate

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