Weight Weight Weight

14 Feb

Since I wrote about my body image struggles the other day, I’ve felt so much better. I’ve been so focused on alcohol of late, I haven’t had the mental space to get to grips with the noise that’s going on in the background about food and weight. I don’t want to focus too much on it and get distracted from the really important work, which is staying sober, but I think it’s important to start to address.

The therapist I go and see actually specialises in food and body image issues, and I started seeing her to deal with those problems, all the while opting to ‘forget’ to mention my alcohol problem to her. Since I came out about how much I was drinking, all our work has been focused around that. For me, the two problems are so interconnected, exploring the reasons why I drink also helps me explore why get caught in the starve binge cycle, or chronically under ate and overexercised.

I don’t want to over-simplify a very complex issue, but for me my preoccupation with weight comes down to 2 key things: a lack of self-care and a preoccupation with what other people think. I’ve realised throughout this whole crazy getting sober journey that I have NO IDEA how to be kind to myself, how to rest and be still and nourish myself properly. I’ve always been addicted to over-achieving and staying busy. I was an academic over achiever and studied round the clock all the way through school until I graduated. When I started running I fell head over heels in love with it and went crazy on that. I learnt the power of being thin, the attention and admiration it got me and took it to extreme lengths. And then: drinking.  My drinking was secret to preserve the external image that I wanted to portray, to look like I had it together whilst secretly falling about.

All of this behaviour wears me down emotionally, but on the outside, makes me feel like I look successful, driven and accomplished.

I love having this blog and AA because for the first time, possibly in my life, I can let the mask slip.

I wrote the other day about how I had a real mental wrestling match going on between feeling strong and healthy and feeling like a whale. I think this is in part because I’ve got two dialogues going on: what I think of my weight and what I imagine other people think of it.

I REALLY care what other people think about my size. Weight has always been a huge area of discussion for my family. My dad was very overweight when I was young, and then lost a lot through running. My mum has always been stick thin, but really prizes being thin highly. Every time we go to a family event they appraise everyone in the room “ooohh Tina has lost a lot of weight, James is looking a bit big isn’t he?!” etc etc.

I have so many specific memories of comments made around my size when I was younger. I was very slim- I did ballet 4 times a week and played lots of sport at school, but my Dad used to jokingly call me “thunder thighs.” Once I commented on my weight to him, looking for reassurance that I was slim, and he said “well cut back on the Mars bars then.” I didn’t even eat bloody Mars Bars.

When I was between 16 & 18 I exercised less and went on the Pill, both of which resulted in me putting on weight. Not tonnes, but enough to look bigger than I was. My mum was quietly horrified, and made comments about my stomach on several occasions. I was being fitted for a ball gown whilst in my first year at university, and she said I had “quite a bit of back fat.” When I look back at the size I was then, I was a UK size 10-12, (US 6-8) and not as athletic as I am now, but by no means fat. Slim but not toned.

When I discovered running and healthy eating, the weight steadily came off, much to the delight of my family who showered me with praise. My sister who has always been naturally big has received lots of teasing about it and comments on her weight and has recently fasted herself slim. She received the same plaudits from my parents. I get insanely jealous when I look at her…

That’s an aside. Back to the chronological story…. So, taking up running coincided with me meeting my (now ex) boyfriend who was very preoccupied with weight. I got slowly thinner and more restrictive with my food over the years, and he loved it, pinching my hip and proudly saying “there’s nothing there!”

When my eating issues got really bad, and my hair started to fall out, he used to call my “baldy”, faux affectionately. He once said to me “I don’t understand how you’re not thinner, bearing in mind how little you eat.” I was having CBT for my eating issues and he didn’t engage with it, didn’t acknowledge there was anything wrong.

My parents by this time were really worried, but he didn’t see there was anything unhealthy about my behaviour and weight.

When my boyfriend moved away for 6 months, I started drinking, as I wrote about in a recent post. I also started eating again, and getting back to a healthier weight.

My boyfriend was horrified- I remember us being on holiday and him walking behind me, giving me the once over and saying- “wow, you’ve got bigger.” “Where?!” I asked. “All over” he told me.

But I didn’t care enough to do anything about it. I was enjoying drinking too much, and it was hugely liberating to be able to eat again.

I left my job and had a month long holiday before I started my new one. I went off on a trip to the other side of the world where I ate normally, drank shitloads and had a ball.

I came home maybe 4 pounds heavier (and looking at photos, slim still) and again, my boyfriend was horrified. He started instigating weekly weigh-ins, saying “you just need to get back to the weight you were before holiday.” When I eventually refused to do them, he called me a quitter.

Meanwhile, my mum told me they’d cheered when they saw me after this holiday, because my weight was up.

I split up with the boyfriend, the weight issue being a major factor, and still see him occasionally, always worrying that he thinks I’m fat. He’s really thin now, and looks drawn and weak.

Enough on the details, but is it any wonder I feel like I’m constantly being weighed up by the eyes of others?! When the most important people in my life valued weight so highly? And in the case of my parents, still do.

One of the questions I’ve been asked by several family members over the past few 6 months is “how did you put on so much WEIGHT?!” as if I was the size of a house. I’m a toned, fit, UK size 12. I could lose some body fat, yes, but seriously, I’m not overweight. Just not skinny.

Society is a bit fucked, isn’t it, if loved ones feel it’s appropriate to make weight seem so important that it’s easy to believe that the love of others is contingent on you maintaining a certain size. I struggle with the idea that any new man will love me unless I’m thinner, which is bollocks, because if he doesn’t, he’s not worth my time.

Phew. It feels good to get that all on paper and out of my head.

For me, my sober journey is all about finding out how to be unashamedly me. No booze, no starving myself, just working out who the natural me is. If I’m designed to be around the weight I am now if I eat well and keep up my exercise, then that’s something I’ll have to come to accept. If I’m honest, I don’t want to accept it, and may not have to, but hey, I didn’t want to accept I’m an alcoholic and that’s worked out ok so far!

14 Responses to “Weight Weight Weight”

  1. wren1450 February 14, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    So much of your story is mine. My mother, also, was thin to the point of emaciated and equated thinness with worthiness in a person. She, too, was horrified with my weight fluctuations over the years. Recently, a friend sent some pictures of us taken in high school. I have always hated having my picture taken, so I stuffed them in a drawer without even looking at them. Finally, I had the nerve to take a peek…..and I was lovely! Not fat (not thin, mind you, but certainly not fat). I felt sad and angry that my self esteem has been so wrongly skewed all of these years.

    My mother is gone now, but I can still see her cold, disapproving eyes. I so admire you for your post and applaud your very healthy weight and acceptance of it. That is my next project to tackle after I am on the road to sobriety a bit more.

  2. iamsobernow February 14, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    I”ve had a negative body mage my whole life. Even when I was at my thinnest, size 4, I was constantly vigilant about gaining an ounce. Since I can’t run because of my knees, I walked miles each day. I was smoking and drinking through it all but all I really cared about was being thin.

    Flash forward to non-smoker, non-drinker and I’ve gained weight. More than I wanted to and it’s not comfortable. I want to work on that but at 70 days, I don’t think I can handle the still cravings for cigarettes, the sobriety journey and a weight loss program.

    I love what you’ve written here because I think it’s a common feeling. I believe that our weight is given far more importance in the way we value ourselves and the way we’re valued by society than is mentally healthy.

    Good for you for losing the “loser” boyfriend. What a jerk!

    Joyce xx

  3. themiracleisaroundthecorner February 14, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    Some background comments: your family and ex have way too much to say about the subject of weight, and it floors me that in this day and age people still make comments like this to anyone, let alone a woman.

    Having said that, here is something that has worked for me in the past when I am riled up by someone having an opinion on my life. I imagine what my reaction would be if they were to tell me that my aura was turning a different color, and how could that have happened (you know what I mean, like the air around my body, like a spiritual guru might notice)? If someone said that to me, I might politely respond, but I would not emotionally engage with the comment, because I don’t see the aura myself, I don’t believe that most of the world would agree with the statement, and that it is simply the opinion of one person.

    It sounds to me like the exact same thing with your weight. For the record, I WISH I weighed what you did, I wish I had the same enthusiasm for fitness, etc. And I’m sure I am not alone in that wish, many, many more women would look at your size and fitness level and be envious.

    So really, the criticism seems to be coming from a select few who apparently don’t have any sense of personal boundaries. The reality is that their opinion is not overall public opinion, and does not reflect real life one bit. You know in your head that you are a healthy weight, you are working with a therapist to internalize these thoughts, so now all you need to do is turn off the noise of these “well-intentioned” people around you.

    You’re moving in the right direction, and I appreciate you writing about it!

  4. lucy2610 February 14, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

    I come from a ‘fatist’ (my made up word for people who are hypercritical of weight particularly having too much of it) family too so completely hear you. For me the love from them felt conditional and that’s what makes it difficult to like/love yourself for who you are. If it didn’t feel like I was loved unconditionally then how can I feel that way about myself?

    • FitFatFood February 15, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

      It’s scary how prevalent it is…

  5. Dionne February 14, 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    Oy, can I relate. I’ve watched my parents fad diet my entire life, up and down and up and down the same 30 pounds. The diets change (these days it’s South Beach) but the results never do. I can always tell when they’ve started something new because the comments start again. When my mom is at her skinniest, it’s horrible to walk beside her in a public place because she comments on anyone that walks by. *sigh*

    However, as I get older I feel less angry and more sad about their approach because I recognize how much they’ve been influenced by society and their own parents, and I know that for my mom especially, she’s rarely happy with her body. I don’t agree with their mindset, but I do feel compassion. (Some things become less painful as we get older. I quite enjoy my 40’s, personally.)

    One of the things that motivates me to work on a healthy lifestyle is I want to model something better for my daughter. She’s 8, and we have simple conversations about how our bodies like to move, like to get enough sleep, like veggies and ice cream, and how wonderful it is to run and sing and tickle and hug and do all these awesome things.

    • FitFatFood February 15, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

      Ahhhh it’s so important to remember those things 🙂

  6. Birdo February 15, 2014 at 8:17 am #

    It’s so sad how many of the people reading this recognise their own parents and ex partners in what you have written. My husband, who is amazing and frankly far too patient with me, often says that what I eat and what I do is only up to me, and that other people don’t care about what I eat and do as much as I think they do. I agree with the first bit rationally but sadly all my experience suggests people ARE attending to and judging what I eat and what I do. The difference in character between our families couldn’t be bigger, and my husband is every inch as laid back, accepting and reasonable as I am self-conscious, self-critical and constantly striving. Families eh?!
    There’s no easy solution, only the continual act of caring for yourself that is recognising how you feel, the thoughts that have set it off, and whether those thoughts are reasonable in the present situation or not.
    My adult weight has varied by 76lbs over time, and I cannot say that any of those weights has been happier or less happier. So I feel in more of a position than most to say that body weight is no arbiter of feeling good or less good. Also, my weight has no correlation with success – academic, occupational, relational, whatever. Whenever my feelings get really bad, I keep coming back to these facts. And sometimes my rational mind can’t do a damn thing about my emotions, but sometimes this helps.

  7. Chris H February 15, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    Another great post. Be encouraged. Keep going.

  8. Sober Learning February 15, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    I call it my addictive brain. If I have one glass of wine, I have to have the bottle. If I lose one pound two would be better, if I take one sleeping pill, imagine how well I would sleep with two.
    I too, had a father that would call me “thunder thighs”, among other lovely “compliments”. I never think I am thin enough, and god forbid the scale change from my “ideal” weight.
    I am a work in progress as well.

    • FitFatFood February 15, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

      I think we all are 🙂 And this movement in a positive direction is a great thing, even if that movement isn’t towards tangible improvement but acceptance 🙂

  9. transformingcharlotte February 23, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

    I just discovered your blog and it is my story, too. After reading just a few posts, I feel I know you, like you, and am on your side! You’re doing fantastic.


    • FitFatFood February 24, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

      Thanks Charlotte! Look forward to reading your blog too 🙂

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