Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More On Being Ashamed

I feel better. Amazing what one good night's sleep can do for clarity and mood.

When I wrote yesterday about feeling ashamed when I look in the mirror, it was very helpful for me. Often when I write, it seems to unblock the dam or wall that is holding back some unexplored strong feelings. Once I 'say' it in writing, acknowledging what has mulled around in my head for so long, I am freed to examine those feelings and work on them.

When I look in the mirror I am not disgusted by the fat person I see. I know I am a good person with much to be proud of; I love myself. My mother was morbidly obese, and I never looked at her with disgust because of her appearance. I do not look at *others* with negativity over their looks, whether it be weight, clothing choices, hairstyle, birthmarks, or any other thing we call 'looks.' I always look for the real person. Not the cover. So why am I feeling this deep sense of shame when I look at me?

You know about how the people who were gushing compliments a year and a half ago have stopped gushing compliments. It went from practically everyone I knew coming up to me and telling me how wonderful I look, how healthy, how happy they are for me, how amazing it is that I lost over 100 pounds, to silence. No criticism, really, but just silence. No one says anything anymore, and it hurts. I 'know' what they're thinking. How sad she is gaining it back. How could she let this happen. Why isn't she still working on it? What happened to her? No, they're not all thinking that, but there was a time long ago when the words got back to me. It was before I weighed 278, back when I had gone up the scale from the 180's or so to about 245. A friend came to see me. The shock was on her face but she was gracious. And then she went back and cried, literally cried, to a mutual friend of ours, "How could this happen to her? What happened to her?" as she wondered, amazed, at the weight I had gained.

But now there is a whole new level of shame. When I got down to 175 pounds, I started hanging out with whole new groups of people. I joined clubs. I started going to events and gatherings. I made new friends at school with other parents. I created an entire new social group surrounding myself with people who had never known the obese me. It was like a new world. These people saw me as a normal weight average person... not a person with eating issues, not a fat person trying to lose weight, not even a weight loss success story. I never brought it up, so they didn't know. They never knew me fat.

And here I am fat again, and this entire social group of people now gets to see the obese me, the me that is in too much pain to participate, the me I had successfully hidden from all of them, the me I thought I had erased. I hate it. HATE it. I know, I hope, they don't think any less of me, but of course no one says anything. But I am ashamed, because my whole world is different now and I want that world back where no one knew I was ever fat.

So that's the core of it, really. Not the bulges or the ill-fitting clothes, although that's a pain too. It's that the image I had so carefully crafted of myself as a relatively normal weight average person is gone. Gone. They know me fat now. I just wanted to be normal without the badge of weight-loss-guru or formerly-fat-person that everyone in my old life had placed on me. And now, I have to figure out who I am again, what my self image really is and who I am trying to become. I will figure it out, with work. And knowing where that feeling of shame is coming from is the first step in helping me heal it.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Does weight really have to be an emotional issue for us fat folks? Isn't weight loss or gain related more to physics, chemistry, and biology -- things like calories, physical activity, metabolism, carbohydrates?

If physics, chemistry, and biology are the main causes of our weight loss or gain, are we just distracting ourselves when we indulge in a lot of emotional drama?

Maybe we all should cut back on the carbs, cut back on the calories -- and cut back on the drama -- and focus on the physics, chemistry, and biology.

Things that people said to us years ago shouldn't control what we do to ourselves today. I've received -- and said -- lots of unfortunate comments in the past, but those old memories don't have any calories.

Anonymous said...

I hear you Lyn, but keep in mind that silence doesn't necessarily mean silent criticism. When I lost 150 pounds I got a flood of compliments too, but those have since stopped even though I'm still maintaining my loss (I weight about 140, and have for the last 3 years). People don't keep giving compliments forever... eventually they get used to you.

I know your situation is a bit different since you've gained a fraction of the weight back, but still, don't take the silence too personally.

Lanie Painie said...

I'm in the same boat, although I hadn't experienced quite as much success as you did. It's frustrating. Sometimes I wish there was just that one friend who loves me enough to say "hey fatty - what the hell are you thinking?"

Today I decided that *I* have to be my own best friend and do it for myself.

Time for a do-over. Good news, we get as many as you need!

the chip monk said...

Have a hug.

Maybe you could try doing this "backwards".

Forget the scales. Forget dieting. Spend a lot of time and energy and if needs be, money, on investing in your mental and emotional health with an eating distress specialist. (You clearly suffer from this, which can't be solved with dieting.)

And allow the food issues to resolve themselves, over time.

You think it can't happen. It can, and does.

Taryl said...

There's a lot wrapped up in our identities and appearance, to be sure. But you should realize that fat or thin, you don't lose credit or kinship with people who you have a real interest or connection with in things like clubs and activities. Seriously! I know you feel the weight of shame and frustration, but only you are making that lead around your feet and heart, preventing you from enjoying yourself fully.

Deal with the weight, but I actually agree with the first (though somewhat tactless) anonymous poster - I know food and emotions are very intertwined, but can I say how very much I have benefitted from divorcing the two a bit and dealing with the weight as a physical and hormonal issue and the emotional seperately? It gave me permission to still be beautiful and happy, even while dealing with my biological issues. I was giving myself way too much mental flogging and giving the scale far too much value in connecting my self worth and happiness to my appearance. I see you doing the same.

Anonymous said...

Reading your article was very interesting as I feel like I'm having a bit of an identity crisis along with my weight loss. I, too, have lost a significant amount of weight, met my now husband and during the dating years gained it all back and more. He met me as "normal me" and then had "fat me". Luckily for me, he loves regardless of what the scale says. Now I'm back to being a more normal weight me and I don't quite know what to make of this person who runs 5ks, tries to make exercise a priority more days than not, and tries to eat whole foods, not processed. Who am I? I tried on clothes the other week and when they were fitting comfortably in a smaller size, it sorta freaked me out. I now, it's a good place to be, I'm not trying to be a complainer while successfully losing/maintaining...I just wanted to acknowledge the difficulty with identity...who is this person? Thanks for sharing your journey.

Anonymous said...

I think we tend to worry about what other's think far more than we need to. Most people are pretty focused on themselves.

timothy said...

i dont think weight ever has much to do with pysics it's truly, for me, an indicator about how i'm valuing me at this moment in time. we all know how to be thin but our emotions over-rule our gosh darn heads. once you get rid of the emotional baggage the physical baggage will drop off too! just keep at it darlin i know you'll figure it out cause you're smart and resourseful too! xoxoxoxoxo

LHA said...

I have been both very obese and pretty much normal, seesawing through my adult life. It is amazing how people treat you differently when you are a more normal weight! It is a gift beyond belief when that happens and you can feel part of the majority of people who aren't ashamed to walk into a room.

I also find that I treat myself with more respect when I am smaller. That I can do something about! There is no reason to feel shame for gaining weight. It did not turn you into a bad person overnight or cause you to change who you are inside. For me, finding a way to feel good about even "fat me" is helpful in controlling eating because too much grief and sorrow over how we feel about ourselves can sure lead to a binge.

Lyn, don't be ashamed and don't give up! You are still quite a bit lighter than when you started this journey and you have so many great things going for you. I'm pulling for you and the rest of us too!

Karen said...

The beauty of multiple weight loss and maintenance attempts is that you know what does work and what does not.

I know you know what you need to do, since you've listed your goals and some of your road blocks.

Now to put a plan in place and carry it out. Good luck and don't be afraid to build a team of people to help you.

Friends and neighbors to take your kids-trade babysitting. Doctor and or counselor to work on some of the road blocks, blood pressure meds while you loose the weight so you stay safe during the weight loss, shoes for your PF etc- fill in the team members as needed, in the order of the tasks.

If money is an issue, the thing that may have to come first is additional income streams. Yet another team, but very worth it, IMO.

One path could lead you down others that help you do what you need to do.

Sometimes you can do it by yourself, some times you circle the wagon with the team. Put yourself first and it will all fall into place.

Safe travels. You can do this, if you choose. If you don't choose, your health or illnesses will force you to choose what comes next.

It might be nice to have a bigger set of choices yourself, from a place of health and not from a place of illness. Time is critical- IMO.

Karen P

PaulaMP said...

Face it, if you kept off all the weight the compliments would have stopped by now any way. Like somebody else said, most people are focused on their own lives and not monitoring our every bite and chew and what size we are today. Surely you are not the only person in these groups who put on some weight?

lisa~sunshine said...

When I lost my weight.. my comments were so encouraging and I loved it...
I kept my weight off and my comments stopped but i've still not reached my goal.. Now my comments are from people telling me to NOT lose anymore.. these comments come from people who I was once larger than and am now smaller than..
I think people relect stuff on themselves.. or at least this is what i've gathered from my experiences..
For me.. the importance comes from what I feel I need to do for myself.. I had to take myself out of the comparing to others.. and worrying about what others thought.. and to only think about what I want for me...

16 blessings'mom said...

Lyn, I really admire you. I also to write for the perspective it brings me. You have a gift! I love how you write. Being stuck after losing 50-something pounds of the 100 I set out to lose, stuck for months...I am frustrated beyond belief. But I know I am not alone, and this weight loss battle is a mental thing. One of the hardest things for me is how much more my husband seems to like the smaller me. It is real that in general,bigger people are not treated as well. And it hurts. We all want to be loved and accepted, and praised. Those pats on the back for getting smaller are so nice for the ego, but then I wonder, wait, aren't I the same person? It is all very confusing to me too. But I am thankful that I have had these sufferings because I think it has helped me be a more merciful person. I know how hard it is to be heavy and afraid to sit on anyone's chairs, and I know what it is like to always reach for the biggest possible size on the rack, and hope it is big enough. I am in the middle now, still way too fat, but not even close to bikini material. I think I really need to work on being content whatever the scale says. Although I haven't given up hope to lose more...Sorry for such a long comment, but your post was very thought provoking, and I just want to tell you that I think you are amazing! Hang in there!

Della

Amy said...

I agree with Timothy. It sounds like there have been a lot of stressful events that have been happening for you this year. As a mom, I know how taxing it can be when your kids are having health or other issues, and I do not fault you for putting them first. Once things settle more for them, you will have more energy to focus on your own journey a little more. Nothing is permanent, good or bad. And many many people agree that the most attractive atributes of a person are their smile and a positive attitude.

Lyn said...

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts. I agree, whether the weight goes up or down or settles, the compliments do stop. We don't lose weight for the compliments. And when I am at my goal if no one ever compliments me again that is fine with me! But exploring the mental state of regain and shame I have been feeling is part of letting go of that negative feeling. For me, the mental part has been half the battle. I would never have lost 100 pounds nor kept the majority of it off without doing the mental/emotional work. I think that's something I'll continue to do for life... bring my feelings into the light rather than stuffing them down... while *also* doing the nuts and bolts work of weight loss and getting healthy.

Deniz said...

Don't, don't, don't! Stop with the shame! Please!

You are still the Lyn so very many of us are proud to know (albeit having never met). You are still the Lyn who has achieved so much. You are still the Lyn who we look up to for common sense and a sturdy approach to shifting excess pounds and you will always be this Lyn.

A gain does not redefine you, in the same way that the weight you began your journey at did not define you. Taryl is right about the kinship aspects - if a friend is really a friend then mere pounds don't matter.

I'm glad a good night's sleep helped put this in perspective, but please don't give up and don't let it get to you. You are still our Lyn!

i should be full said...

Wow, this post speaks to me. The silence! Oh my gosh, the silence! After I lost 92 pounds my mother sent me check for $25 dollars with a note saying I should go get a manicure or pedicure or something to make me feel good about my accomplishment. A year later, when I'd kept it off she did the same thing. Then when the weight came back on (after being pregnant with my son) the notes stopped. The silence was humiliating. This acknowledgement that I'm not where I want to be.

Now, four years later I'm still not where I want to be. And the scale is creeping up again. I think you are right, that I have to get past the shame before the scale will move. I'm not ashamed of me, I'm ashamed of the weight, the numbers on the scale. I wish they weren't a part of me, but they are. So, I guess that means I need some acceptance too.

Thanks for posting.

psychochef said...

I really appreciate your honesty. You are a good writer. Hang in there. Keep self-reflecting, keep working toward your goals, and keep writing! Thank you for sharing. It takes a lot of courage.