Friday, July 11, 2008

What Are You Afraid Of?

Have you ever wondered if there is some underlying reason you are not losing weight? Do you think there may be a subconscious reason you sabotage yourself when you try to lose weight or when you have lost a certain number of pounds? I have heard people mention this. They might lose a few pounds, or even a lot of pounds, and then when they hit some certain weight they go bonkers and eat their way right back up to fatness again. They wonder, "why do I keep doing this to myself? WHY am I sabotaging myself?" Well, maybe there is a reason. Maybe there are several reasons.

For me, I had to really face some irrational fears I have had in the back of my mind. It took losing small amounts of weight, many times, before I sat down and examined what was holding me back. I asked myself:

What are you afraid of?
What do you think might happen if you lose weight?
How does being fat benefit you?
What do you fear from being a normal size?

If you can sit down and contemplate these questions HONESTLY, maybe you will find some reasons you hadn't thought about before. And once you know your fears, you can face them, and overcome them.

Being brutally honest with myself has been hard. It is a little difficult to admit some of my fears here, but I am going to do it because I think I cannot possibly be alone in my thinking, and I want to be honest about what types of thinking I have had to overcome. So here goes.

1. I have always had this irrational fear that there is going to be a huge, worldwide famine and lots of people are going to die of starvation. Part of this fear came from things I was taught in my childhood religion. I was a thin kid, and I have to admit I never thought much about it back then. But truly, many times as I was "going on a diet" I would get this thought: What if I lose all this weight, get to goal, and then there is a famine? What if I have no fat on my body to spare, and I die? All the skinny people are going to die first, and the fat people will survive. My luck, the famine will hit right when I am at my thinnest. I don't want to die in a famine. So I better hold onto this weight. It is like food storage on my body. And besides, after I survive the famine, then I will be thin. (As crazy as this sounds, I still think about it sometimes. But I decided that storing up 130 pounds of FAT on my body is not going to do me any favors, famine or not.)

2. I am afraid of being assaulted, kidnapped, raped, or murdered. What does this have to do with being fat?? Well, how many 300 pound women do you see getting abducted and raped? Seriously. It's not like they're out jogging alone in the park at night. At my top weight, NO ONE was going to jump out and carry me off into the bushes to be raped. And yes I KNOW it happens, obese people DO get raped, and certainly get murdered, but in my own irrational mind the weight is a protection. Maybe I thought I was not attractive enough to be abducted, or maybe I was just too heavy to be "taken." I get downright SCARED sometimes when I think of weighing 130 pounds and being small enough for some guy to just grab me and TAKE me. SCARY.

I didn't fully understand this fear of harm until I was sitting in a room during a mediation with my ex-husband over a visitation dispute. I won't go into detail, but I married my first husband when I was pretty young. He was older. I was 140 pounds, tops, when I married him and he was a very muscular man in his 30's. After a short time being married, he gave me reason to be afraid of him. Being 140 pounds was a detriment to me. He could easily pick me up. He could "move" me where he wanted me to be. He could knock me to the floor. He could prevent me from going where I wanted to go. He could hold me and I couldn't move. Eventually I divorced him, and it's been many years since I have spent time in his presence. When we sat in mediation a couple months ago, I had an epiphany. The way he was talking, how agitated he was becoming, triggered a feeling of fear in me. But this time, I felt relatively safe because of my SIZE. It dawned on me, sitting in a chair listening to him rant, that he could NOT pick me up... he probably could not even shove me anymore. As a matter of fact I outweighed him by a good 60 pounds and I could probably shove HIM or pin him to the floor with the sheer force of my body weight. Knowing this made me feel safer. The weight had become a grounding protector to me.

When I look at skinny women, sometimes I think, "she would break if she fell down." A lot of women have a waist as big around as my THIGH was when I started this journey! I get the sense that those women are in danger. If someone whacked me with a machete, I might be OK. There's a lot of fat protecting my vital organs. But those skinny chicks... they would get sliced in half! Someone could punch them in the stomach and destroy their innards. Me? I am cushioned. I am safer, sturdier. That's how I have felt. I want to be solid and large, not frail and thin enough to blow away and cease to exist in the blink of an eye. It still bothers me. I am not over this fear, but I am losing weight anyway. I will be taking some martial arts self defense classes when I am under 200 pounds.

3. What if I lose all the weight and then I am unhappy? What if I lose all the weight, and I still don't have many friends? What if I get to my goal weight and then I have nothing else worth doing with my life? Losing weight takes a lot of focus, time, and energy. Do we use it as a distraction from living? Do we blame our weight for our unhappiness, our empty love life, our lack of social life or a great job? Well what IF... there is something else wrong? Something deeper that we don't want to face. We never have to face it if we never lose the weight. Thus we sabotage ourselves to stay safe from our fears. I do still worry that I will get healthy and then my life won't be any better, but that's a chance I am willing to take. I am getting over this one, because life is SO much better already, with the energy and better health I am enjoying.

Take the time to ask yourself what YOU are afraid of. Once you figure it out, you can reason with yourself, face the fears, and find solutions. And lose the weight for good!


cindy said...

I can definetely relate to #3. I've gotten down to my goal weight only to regain 20 of the 26 pounds. Life is definetely better but losing weight didn't magically fix everything else. It just made me somewhat happier and PROUD of myself. VERY PROUD. I think my mind hadn't caught up with my body (which had slimmed down). My fear when I got to my goal was that I wouldn't be able to maintain. So be prepared when you get there, to maintan. YOU ROCK LYN!

Ranaesheart said...

You are not alone in your thinking as I, too, came to a point of self-sabotage. The self-examination was the first part of the process and definitely required some answers and developing a plan to overcome my fear. The second part involved the kind, caring support of a young man halfway around the world that calmly and gently encouraged me through that period of time and celebrated in my success. Thank you for bringing this subject to light so eloquently; it is bound to help others!

Martha said...

As a young girl I was very pretty and was abused by some relatives and always felt it was my fault. I was only 4 or 5 at the time it started. Now I know better but I have built a wall of fat around me to stop the possibility of it happening again. I'm 63 years old now and am finally losing weight with portion control and a supportive husband of 42 years. Weight gave me a sense of power and hiding at the same time. Hang in there.

Ryry the Adventurous said...

Oooh the fear factor. I've talked about it with my mother at length a few times. One of mine is using my weight as an excuse to be self conscious... I felt the weight gave me a reason to be shy and not have confidence in myself, if that makes sense, heh. Acknowledging your fears... of being fat, or thin... are so important in one's journey to good health! Thanks Lyn, as always!!

Dinah Soar said...

Hey Lyn...

I had that same fear of famine..but decided I'd trust God to provide for me in that event.

Another fear I had was that something bad might happen. did. I went on a diet, lost 50 pounds, was finally happy with my size and weight...and bam..found out I had cancer. Reached my 50 pound loss in 1988, diagnosed in 1992.

But guess what? I survived. That was 16 years ago. The doctor said I did myself a favor.

And---there has yet to be a famine...and having plenty of food hasn't been a problem to date.

So, our fears do influence our choices, but often they are irrational. Examining them helps.

But the bottom line is this: we can't control the future. We can only control our personal decisions and even that is limited by opportunity and circumstance.

But there is God--I look to Him. And if he decides to allow ill to come my way I'll say with Queen Ester "If I perish, I perish".

As far as the happiness issue--happiness is a a decision. Being a normal weight does not guarantee happiness--but if being smaller in weight/size makes you happy, it makes a difference to you and that is what matters. Getting that out of the way frees you up to work on other areas in your life.

Kate said...

Wow...I really should know by now not to read your posts in public. That just made me cry. Some of those things ring far to close to the truth for comfort. I have done some soul searching and have a bit more to do but every bit helps. Thank you for your honesty and courage to post the things you do. Your strenght gives me the courage to keep going.

Lynn Haraldson-Bering said...

What a great post. I understand what you mean in #2, although my ex could still pick me up and knock me to the ground when I weighed 249 pounds, but I still thought my fat protected me. I had a lot of strange fears when I got to 155 pounds and I put myself in a self-imposed plateau until I figured it out. It still feels strange to me to be thin and I still get irrational fears of not having enough body fat or whatever, but at least now I stand a better chance of running away from a would-be kidnapper! Oh the things we think sometimes...

Vickie said...

this is a link about irrational beliefs that my therapist gave me -

It is hard to read (or at least it was for me) but it talks about some of these things.

Sometimes when copying a link - there are parts off the screen - it is best to copy down to include the blank line below - so you have it all.

Anonymous said...

I read the following quote by Geneen Roth and then my weight started to come off. I was ready to be this brave...

"It occured to me that they were brave to be thin. It was as if, in being thin, they were revealing the bones of themselves. They were wearing their insides on the outside, where everyone could see and either accept or reject them."
-Geneen Roth

NJFG said...

Wow, I've definitely been there. All the times in the past when I tried to lose weight, I'd always fail as soon as I lost 10 or so pounds- and I finally realized I was afraid to lose weight because it was just so...unfamiliar, for lack of a better word. I was actually afraid to lose weight because then I'd be DIFFERENT. As much as I hated my fat body, I was used to it. I'd had it for so many years and that was ME. I only saw myself as the fat woman who had trouble buying clothes and dreaded social situations. If I lost weight...who would I be? Someone new? It was scary.

Thankfully, I've gotten beyond that way of thinking. I've lost almost 15 pounds so far, and instead of being scared by the changes, I'm LOVING them.

Great post!

new*me said...

I will have to ponder on your question and put an answer to it on my blog tomorrow. Thanks for planting the seed :)

Pandora said...

This post really spoke to me...being fat is so much of my identity, that while I don't like it, I wonder who I will be if I lose, and whether I can meet those expectations. (I come from a culture where dressing well and looking good are important...weight has been a shield.)

I sometimes think that my weight represents presence and heft...will I suddenly be insignificant. (I know that one is irrational, but somehow I equate big with powerful.)

I think I am scared of the attention from men, I never flirted well, I am protected from that by being fat.

Finally, my fat has been a part of me for my adult life. Who am I without it? And can I ever be happy about my weight and feel as though I have achieved my goal. I sometimes worry that it will never be enough, not challenging myself seems easier at times, then finding out that I lost the weight and it still wasn't enough. (I sometimes reassure myself that if I want to I can regain the weight, which is really crazy!)

Thank you Lyn, you do such a great job of putting together ideas for us to think about. Your honesty and openness is incredible.