Thursday, July 25, 2013

Letting Go of Obesity

When I was a very little girl, I absolutely adored my mother, as most little girls do. I remember one time when I was 3 or 4 years old and got lost, and a kind stranger tried to help me. "What does your mother look like?" she asked. I replied, "she is the most beautiful woman in the world!" And it was true, to me, anyway. I saw her like that.

As I got older, my relationship with my mother began to falter. She was rather obsessed with religion, and I tried so hard to be obsessed, too. Everything was about Jehovah, and pleasing Him, and devoting myself to Him like my mother did. But she was also becoming obsessed with food, and her figure showed it. In just a few years, she went from a svelte hot 70's chick to a very obese, sluggish mother. She was very possessive of "her" food, and I just could not relate. Even in my pre-teen years, I still tried to be like her: begging to wear her jewelry and shoes, toting my Bible with me everywhere I went, developing my odd sense of humor. But once I was a teen, subconsciously I think I was trying to outshine her. I knew more about religion than she did. I was far more physically fit and stylish than she was. I grew my nails out like hers, and I became more popular and happy than she was. And when we parted ways by her choice over religion, I moved on and away while she stayed and stewed in her own discontentment and unhappiness.

As I've written so much on this blog, I spent years trying to rekindle a relationship with her. I called, I wrote, I reached out to her and was rejected, but I never felt anything but love (and the accompanying hurt and disappointment along with hope) towards her... until she died. When she died, all kinds of anger and resentment and bitterness bubbled up out of nowhere towards my mother. I started having very angry, ugly thoughts towards her. Instead of the beautiful, loving mother she was when I was small, I saw and emphasized the bad. I focused on how she loved alcohol more than she loved me... on how she tried to commit suicide and take me with her. I became livid over her rejection and her accusations against me, and the way she hurt me and my children. And while I worked through a lot of that anger and hurt over the past 12 years, I also developed a sense of "I am not like HER" coupled with my own rejection of her, post-mortem, that became unhealthy and started to affect me in a way I never expected.

I rejected her after her death because she rejected me first. After she was gone, I decided that she was not my MOM because she decided I was not her daughter while she was still living. And while I consciously felt I had forgiven her and gotten past it, I have just recently discovered that I have not... not truly. Because in my rejection of her and all of her ways, I was also rejecting part of myself. And subconsciously, the little child in me has been screaming for re-connection with that beautiful, much-adored mother who rocked me to sleep in my footie pajamas. That desire for connection has taken the form of obesity and food obsession.

For all the choices, there has been a consequence.

I am not like you. You could not cook to save your life, but I am a wonderful cook and baker.
I am not like you. You were a promiscuous young woman, but I waited until I was married for intimacy.
I am not like you. You were obsessed with pleasing God, but I rejected Him to a great degree.

Until recently.

I did not acknowledge my angry rejection of God and religion and church, because I felt kind of bad about it. I stopped going to church a long time ago, began hanging out with mostly non-religious folks, and married an atheist. I put the Bible on the shelf and let an inch of dust settle on it. I am not like you, who prayed ten times a day. I didn't pray at all. I stepped away from the 'crazy' I saw you as and I decided I did not need any kind of religious nonsense in my life.

All of this, I was doing to reject my dead mother the way she rejected me.

All of this, to say "I am NOTHING like you!"

But the inner child wants her mother. The subconscious cries out for that missing bond, that thing that says "See? I AM like you, I AM your daughter, please love me... please accept me because we are alike." And the thing I subconsciously chose, the one thing I embraced into my life to be like her was weight. Weight and food.

All this time, I felt hints of it but didn't understand it. She struggled most of her adult life with her weight. She was probably in the range of 220 pounds (at 5' 3") by the time I was 7 or 8 years old, and she went up and down, back and forth between 210 and 250 for her entire life. She was ALWAYS on a diet.. always going to Weight Watchers or eating cabbage soup or counting calories (except for the times in between, when she was eating bags of chips and boxes of chocolates and taking me to McDonalds for Big Mac meals) yet she never lost the weight and kept it off. She died obese after decades of being on a diet, lamenting being fat, wishing for thinness, but never making the full changes to get there.

And this is the part of her that I somehow internalized and have been manifesting all this time.

I have finally come to accept that I do not, I cannot hate my mother. I cannot reject her without rejecting myself and my children and my children's children. There are parts of her that I can reject: the alcoholism, the emotional desperation, the extreme religiousness. But I have to let myself love my mother as she was, and forgive her and let her rest in peace.

I have to accept that there is a part of me that wants to be like her. Part of my healing is to examine all the things I have been shunning and the things I have been creating within myself and to CHOOSE the ways I am like her and am not. I have recently let God back into my life... not in a crazy, obsessive kind of way and not even in a churchy, religious kind of way. But I've started to pray again, started to talk about God again, started to let Him back into my life again. And with embracing that spiritual side of myself, I do relate to my mother in a way. Perhaps this is the way I can say it: "See? I am like you. I am your daughter. You taught me to love God, and to pray, and to forgive. We are alike."

I do not have to be an alcoholic to be connected to my Mom. I do not have to be promiscuous. I do not have to be obsessive about religion, or a bad cook, or a bitter wife. And I also do not have to be obese.


timothy said...

how interesting that we both explored our childhoods today! it's true you can't hate your family and have a healthy outlook because hating where you come from is a type of self-hatred. choose to forgive and to be better than the sum of those parts. you are NOT your mother you choose to move beyond the hurt and limitations and become a better person. thank you for bein a light shining in the world! xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

As I read this post, the following Scripture verse came to mind:

"Even if my father and mother abandon me,the Lord will hold me close." Psalm 27:10 NLT

That verse has been true for me; it is true for you, too.

Thanks for this post. It prompted me to revisit my own issues regarding my mother. Again.


Marc said...

Hi. I got you on my blog roll and try to read yours every time it pops to the top of the most recent published. I had "mom" issues for years but they didn't have to do with her obesity or religion. My mom was morbidly obese and had psychological issues with nude exhibitionism. Not publicly, but with only one of her six children. (me) The rest of my siblings were very jealous of me and thought I was the spoiled child that got to be alone with mom for car trips across town, and I stayed in the house when the rest of them were sent outside. I wasn't allowed to tell or complain. was warped! She had very adult conversations that were age/relationship inappropriate with me when I was only a little child. I knew ALL the facts of life by the time I was in the 2nd grade. These are not happy memories. There were plenty of other things that went on in our home, but this is your blog. Sorry for your messed up childhood.

Rads said...

I had tears in my eyes when I read this. You are a wise soul and you are so on the right path. Much love to you.

MargieAnne said...

I stand in awe. Your self discovery and openness in your blog is very moving.

This kind of revelation is life changing.I wish you all the best as you come to terms with the changes in attitude work out in practical ways.


Lou said...

You are so brave. I really admire the way you come out with things directly from your heart.
The bad childhood thing: you are not alone. My mother was schizophrenic (funny how easily I spell that.)It colored my entire childhood. It was the flame that lit my obesity. It still burns today. She is gone, but the damage which she (unwillingly) caused is still going on. I won't go into detail about the nuttiness I have witnessed as a kid, but let us just say that at an age when I should not have known such things, I was familiar with cops, psychiatrists, ambulances and mental institutions all because of my suicidal mother. When she finally accomplished her suicide after SEVEN tries I was 18. I have spent almost four decades distancing myself from that event and those that preceded it. Like you, I have become a sane and protective mother to three now-grown kids. I have a responsible job and have (on my second try)found a good husband. Yet, the absence of that maternal love and bond in my life is still felt. A wise woman said to me,"You have to be the mother you never had." It brings tears to my eyes for both of us. I want to try to embrace the good.

Deniz said...

Beautiful! Just beautiful.

Chris L. said...

Reading through your archives, I have seen signs of religious fervor in you, but transferred from God to Food: becoming increasingly strict, narrow, and orthodox; turning food choices into a philosophy complete with a strict set of rules the breaking of which amounts to sinning and leads to punishment; intense focus on the minutiae of those rules; and most of all, imbuing whole categories of food with characteristics like "evil" to be shunned. It becomes, essentially, a belief system the moral principles of which cannot be questioned. Grams of carbs substitute for angels dancing on the head of a pin.

All of that can feel like a very comforting haven in a sea of chaos. But I think transferring this spiritual fervor back outward, and away from what is basically inanimate and value-neutral, can only be healthy in the long run.

Darcy Winters said...

As I sit here thinking about your post after reading it - I wonder if some of the things you said are my problems as well. I really connected with the religion comment because my mother is a die-hard Catholic and I have felt "angry" about religion for quite some time now.

Thanks for such a thought-provoking post!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you have really done some great thought on the subject. If your mother was an alcoholic, may I gently suggest that you consider attending Al Anon meetings? There are ones that focus specifically on the issues of individuals who grew up in alcoholic homes (aka adult children of alcoholics). I only bring this up because I go to such meetings and have found them to be helpful. I want to make sure you are aware of this resource. Peace to you.

Sheryl C. said...

Your post gives me a lot to think about relating to my father. My prayers are with you as you continue toward healing.

LHA said...

Lyn, my heart goes out to you for the struggle you have had with accepting your mother and the problems surrounding that relationship. Every child deserves a happy childhood and I am sorry you missed out on a lot of that.

My own childhood was very happy and my parents gave their all in raising me. Life wasn't problem free, but love was always there in abundance and that trumps everything.

My obesity problems don't seem to be connected in any way to traumas in my past, unlike so many of the bloggers that I read. I was lucky! Good luck with your quest to make things right in your own mind and accept the things you can't change about your past. I love reading your blog, and thanks for sharing this with us.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this deeply introspective post. I too know that "mom" issues are playing a major role in my life and I admire your clarity and insight.
I hope you feel free. hugs.

Margaret said...

It's great that you can see that conscious "choosing to forgive" doesn't effect subconscious needs/wounds. That's progress.

beerab said...

Hey Lyn, that's very big of you. It's hard to forgive things like that, but I think it's the path to healing. *hugs*

Anonymous said...

Hey, Lyn.

I linked to this post on my blog. If you would prefer that I had not, let me know. I'll gladly unlink you. :)