In this week’s episode of “Heavy,” the A&E show about people who are tackling their eating disorders to combat morbid obesity, one of the participants spoke of how her teenage daughter was ashamed of her size to the point she didn’t want to introduce her to her boyfriend.
It both broke my heart and made me mad that this child would be so thoughtless and uncaring to her mother. As a parent you never want to be a source of embarrassment to your child. You want them to be proud of you in the same way you’re so often proud of them – just because they’re yours. I can imagine this mother’s heartbreak as I would have been devastated if my children ever expressed as openly to me their disgust about my size as these girls had to their mother.
But of course, my kids never would. My kids were raised with a healthy respect for me as their mother and care too much about me and how I feel to ever be so hurtful. My sons rarely saw me cry because of their behavior, and if they did it crushed their spirit and broke their hearts.
Shame should never be used as a motivator for weight loss. People who overeat to the point of morbid obesity obviously don’t have any real self esteem. We eat in a destructive way that is to the detriment of our health… nothing you could say is worse than anything than the things we’re already saying to ourselves.
In fact, if anything shame has been the deciding factor for my weight *gain.* No one does shame like fundamentalist religious folks who make you feel like a low-down dirty dog sinner just for having some posters on your wall. In my book Dirty Little Secrets I go into great detail about how the shame spiral in this type of environment leads to all sorts of self-destructive behavior as the leading cause of addiction.
Shame, I’ve done. As you can tell by the numbers on my scale, it ain’t workin’.
If you could hear what goes on inside my brain, what has been recorded for a lifetime over my never-ending chatterbox, it might surprise you to find it more hateful and more vitriolic than anything you could ever even DREAM to say. And believe me, I’ve heard it all… even from those who were supposed to be my friend.
People don’t even really try to hide fat biases. Not really. They cloak it under the umbrella of a “joke,” but there’s an underlying malice there that suggests we should be ashamed of ourselves for letting ourselves go so badly.
In other words, we need to be ashamed because we’ve caused YOU to feel disgust or discomfort.
It’s like the gym teacher in the 10th grade who couldn’t figure out why I would “want” to be fat so badly I wouldn’t push on and try to do things I didn’t think I could do. Because of this he used things like humiliation to motivate me, thinking that the peer pressure from the others he punished for my decisions would stir a fire under me.
It drove me right from the class and the school itself.
Even with Dan, who was raised by a militant father and had a very black and white view of the world couldn’t understand why I would ever want to be heavy.
Not so ironically I would end up gaining enough weight to be just like those women he used to disdain, and make me swear I wouldn’t be like.
Shame leads to low self-esteem, which leads to overeating, which leads to a bigger size… which leads to more shame.
It’s a cycle that doesn’t work. At least not for me.
I was reading earlier about director Kevin Smith, who lost 65 pounds after his humiliating walk of shame off of a Southwest airplane last year because he was deemed “too fat to fly.” Maybe for men it works out a little differently, maybe they don’t see being overweight as the inherent moral failure like we women are supposed to. Maybe they need a little shock to the system in the form of humiliation to get them moving.
For me? I would have just gotten fatter and never tried to fly again.
Shame doesn’t work for me because I’ve internalized my own brand of shame since I was four years old. That shame has re-wired my brain to believe I’m not good enough to belong to the world of beautiful, successful people. If you try to use shame in order to get me to change, all it’s going to do is feed the beast within.
So having said that, I thought it was important to establish that I’m not losing weight because someone made me feel ashamed for how I look. I’ve actually been fortunate enough to surround myself with an enormous support group who make me feel empowered AS IS, many of whom have made me feel beautiful and sexy and all those things “the world” probably would be shocked to learn someone like me can feel.
These are folks who will love and accept me through all my changes, who make me feel better about who I am and by doing so encourage the positive changes toward my own personal success no matter what that happens to be. They’ll love me the same at 165 pounds as they do 284.
They see something that is beyond the scale… so they’ve inspired me to look deeper within and find it too.
Success for me isn’t about being thin and more socially accepted by the world at large. It isn’t about fitting into a certain size. The reason I’ve decided to lose weight isn’t because it’s a moral failure to a world that can concern itself with how much a celebrity weighs as a headline.
The reason I’ve decided to deal with my weight is because I have something to prove to MYSELF… not to anyone else. Quite frankly, I owe nothing to the world around me that seeks to compartmentalize me by something as superficial as how I look.
If you’ve rejected me because of my size, you aren’t worth me at ANY size.
But I owe myself better than what I’ve done with my body thus far. I owe my husband and my kids the ten or so more years I’m robbing them of by being so self-destructive and – frankly – selfish and self-centered.
I am stronger than what I’ve allowed myself to be thus far. I owe my dreams 100% of my effort and my focus, not some lazy lip service that says I can have a dream but I’m not worth any real goals.
So by fixing this one thing that I always felt was beyond me, I can become the force of nature my husband believes me to be, the one I know I can be… where nothing and no one can stop me from living the life I know is carved out especially for me.
I don’t need to be thin to do that. I don’t need to be “socially acceptable” to do that.
But I DO need to be empowered to do that.
And the way I know I empower myself best is to fight this lifelong battle and finally win. I’m stronger than my problems. I am stronger than my addictions. Everything that has attempted to bury me through my life I can rise above.
I have everything I need to overcome my obstacles, as proven by the fact I’m still standing after all the things I’ve been through.
For all the shame the world has tried to give me, I have a much better gift to give myself. One of self-esteem and empowerment that says I can do anything I set my mind on… and I deserve so much better than what I’ve settled for all my life.
And that’s why I’m losing this weight.
There will be those who still want to impart shame on me during this long journey because of their own discomfort. But ultimately I get to choose whether or not I need to internalize it. Personally I think it speaks more to their moral failures as people than to my own failure to ‘be thin’.
Anyone can lose weight.
But no one can be as perfectly me as I can be, as I was born to be…
And frankly… that’s entirely too kick ass to feel ANY shame.
My food journal, courtesy of Sparkpeople.com.