Oh Yeah Baby, I said it. Fat!
F A T
I know there’s a huge movement in our society that makes us feel compelled to hate our bigger, rounder bodies and feel ashamed of being overweight. But giving into it, will only lead you to a dead end, your refrigerator; seeking the comfort of food.
Rather than getting sucked into society’s pull to hate ourselves for being fat, let’s understand what is going on that is causing us to overeat. Would you agree with me that –There’s a part of you that is feeling emotionally starved. Something has been taken from you and you don’t know how to get it back. And you’ve been trying to fill that emptiness with food. But have you wondered why it often feels like no amount of food will ever be enough to satisfy your hunger.
Understanding the Roots of Your Food Obsession
What you need to be able to overturn your urge for food when you’re not hungry is an awareness of what part of you is feeling emotionally starved.
If you want to break the food equals comfort connection, you have to find new ways of comforting yourself besides eating.
Perhaps for years, you’ve been unconsciously using food as your crutch and now it may be catching up with you. Your body could be rebelling and you may be facing a chronic illness.
You feel anxious and desperate and have sworn to yourself and others that this time it will be different. You won’t give into your cravings and you’ll just eat healthy foods. And then something happens to upset you and you run back to your old ways of eating. Don’t blame yourself. Change is hard and it will take time. Stress is your problem, not food.
As long as you have unmet emotional needs that are stressing you out, driving your hunger, you will continue to struggle with overeating. Awareness is your best friend.
When did the foods you love become so forbidden? Maybe as a kid you were told you couldn’t be trusted around food. Perhaps, like me, well-meaning people stood over your shoulder and counted your M&Ms®, rationed your chips or cookies, and eventually put you on your first diet.
What you need to understand is that somewhere along the way you got your wires crossed and started thinking about food as more than just a means of filling a hungry tummy.
All those messages your brain received that made food seem alluring yet forbidden monkeyed around with the delicate balance in your body and mind, causing you tons of stress. Perhaps for you, food took on so many unnecessary burdens because it was no longer just associated with pleasure, it was also getting linked up with pain.
In order to overturn that rotten apple cart of defiant and disordered eating, you have to develop a take or leave it attitude toward food and realize that it’s just food. When you can do this, you can have chips and other foods around in your home, and not feel a compelling urge to eat them until they’re gone.
Living to Eat?
I’d venture to say that years of wanting what you’ve been told you can’t have through dieting has led you to feel helpless and overwhelmed by your cravings. You may have found yourself living to eat, instead of eating to live.
Perhaps, like me, you thought your fight was with food. Maybe you’ve been feeling like you’ve been at war with what you eat. And your life has revolved around food and your addiction to it ever since. Perhaps because you struggle with temptation and you can’t seem to stop eating and giving into your cravings, you decided you are a lost cause and somewhere down deep you have even quietly surrendered and reconciled yourself to being fat forever.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Food is not your enemy. And you can resist temptation. I’m not suggesting that you toss out all your favorite foods. Instead let’s not even focus on food. Let’s go beyond that and think about what food gives you. Love.
Maybe there have been times in your life when you didn’t get the love you wanted. I know what that’s like, and the advice I want to share with you is this:
Now it’s your turn to give love to yourself. You have to start nurturing yourself more, commit to yourself and stand by you, no matter what.
Because fat is so deeply despised in our society and the media has us believing that only toothpick thin models are beautiful, you have been conditioned to look at your body and think of yourself as a fat person.
You see, you’ve been led to think of yourself as your own worst enemy.
And now it’s up to you to reclaim your power by questioning and doubting all the reasons why you’ve been feeling so ashamed of yourself. As a kid, you may not have had a voice or a choice to stand up to the bullies in your life, but you do now. You don’t have to continue to accept other people’s hurtful opinions and put downs of you or your body. As an adult, you can create new limits and rules for yourself and your life.
My Own Experience Being in a Bigger Body
At 228.4 pounds, I am obese. As a fat woman myself, I know it’s not easy feeling okay in a bigger body. There are many days when I just can’t push the needle high enough and boost my own confidence meter. Those days end up being what I call, “Low Self-Esteem Days.” But I know the secret. Food is not the issue, and my size is no reason to apologize to anyone.
On those days when I feel fat and sorry for myself, and look in the mirror and don’t like what I see, I sometimes give in and have a pity party. I may eat over it or not. But more often, when I look at my mirror and see myself as bigger than I want to be, I remember my fat has taken care of me. The fat on my body is the armor I’ve built up from years of feeling unsafe and later lovable.
Over the past year, I’ve made radical changes in my eating. I’ve lost about 10 pounds. I’d like to lose another 30 pounds. Although my goal is to get healthier and thinner, I’m in no rush. The last several years I’ve endured a ton of losses and it forced me to grow up and face many of my old fears. As I lighten my emotional load and let go of the old drama, I end up craving healthier and lighter, water-based foods.
Make no mistake–I’m not a weight loss coach. I’m an empowerment coach. I’m all about self-esteem because I learned the hard way that without it, you have nothing.
I’ve been through the mill and back. It’s my personal experience combined with my professional expertise that qualifies me to share with you what I’ve learned about how to rebuild a fat and ugly self-image.
Confidence isn’t like an award or diploma that you work to achieve and it’s there forever. Depending upon what’s going on in your life, confidence comes and goes. You’ll have days when you feel great and others when you don’t. That’s just chemical emotions moving through your body.
You may have been victimized, but you don’t have to be a victim. I teach my clients how to use tapping to look at their circumstances in a more empowering way. The truth is you’re not a victim of your circumstances. And when you realize that, you’ll uncover mad self-respect. When you come from a place of self-respect and dignity, and recognize that you are worthy of health and happiness, that is the jet fuel that will carry you along to change your habits and get healthier.
Body Confidence Is Self-Love and Compassion for Yourself
At the core of body confidence is self-love and compassion for yourself and your body. Body shaming and loathing will keep you in endless cycles of hunger and binging. Maybe someone you loved taught you that being fat wasn’t okay. Maybe they shamed or criticized you and made you feel pressure to lose weight. They were ignorant and only doing the best they knew how to help you. Take the grains of their loving intentions and let go of the hurts their ignorance inflicted. Whether you learned to hate your body by people who intended to hurt you or not, doesn’t matter. By holding onto their ignorance and making their voice and values your own, you’re hurting yourself. It’s time to be kind and look at life from a different lens.
Accepting your body the size you are is not giving up. It is an awareness of where you are starting. Accepting that you are overweight and don’t want to be diabetic or face an illness is a powerful leverage for change. Knowing what you don’t want, makes it easier to know what you do want.
To begin to feel safe enough to lighten the load of the fat suit of body armor that’s been protecting you, you have to rediscover self-compassion. By doing that, you will be in a position of being able to give yourself the love you crave.
To be more self-compassionate, I want you to reconnect with an old memory of yours. I’ll bet you remember a time when you learned to think of yourself as worthless, fat, stupid, ugly, or hopelessly incompetent because you were overweight. I sure do and I’d like to share my story and maybe that will spark a memory to help you with yours.
My Big Fat Thighs: So Many Sighs Over Size – excerpted from my book, “Lovin’ the Skin You’re In: The Juicy Woman’s Guide to Making Peace with Food and Friends with Your Body.”)
Who would ever think there would be so much fuss over how we look? My obsession with my body kicked into high gear pretty early on. I remember one particular event that cemented itself in my brain as an iconic symbol for how I would think of myself for years to come.
As I mentioned earlier, my parents divorced when I was eight years old and I went to live with my mother. When I was nine, Mom remarried and took my baby brother, David, and I to live in Florida. I hated it there and wanted to go back and be with my father.
When I was eleven, after a horrific couple of years in Florida, my dream came true and I had the opportunity to return to New York and live with my Dad and his fiancée, Rosie. At the time, I didn’t know her very well so I wasn’t sure if I liked her or not.
To my way of thinking, she was as beautiful as a model. She reminded me of Cher with her bold confidence and striking features, her long, naturally curly auburn hair, big brown eyes, and petite figure. I knew Dad was crazy about her because they were always happy together and he showered her with gifts of furs and jewelry.
One day that first year back with my dad, I went shopping for school clothes with Rosie and him at the Bergen Mall in New Jersey. We had been shopping for days and now were going through department stores in the mall trying to find pants that fit me.
After having been through the entire length of the mall once, we were making our way back to the very beginning. I was exhausted when we ended up in Lerner Stores (now known as New York & Company). Dad sat outside waiting while Rosie and I combed through the racks and grabbed armloads of pants ranging between sizes twelve and fourteen.
Before we went into the fitting room, I said a quick, silent prayer that this time something would fit. “Please God help me.” We’d been through so many stores trying on clothes, and I was sweaty, tired, and hungry. I felt awful, wishing I could fall through the floor. No matter where we went nothing fit me. It seemed that every pair of pants I tried on wouldn’t budge past my fat dimply thighs. I was so ashamed of my chunky little body.
As I got close to the bottom of the pile I picked up speed and breathed heavily as I wrestled desperately with the buttons, buckles, and belts on each pair of pants. A couple times I even remember grabbing them defiantly from Rosie. I was so furious with myself and I kept wondering, “Why am I so fat? Why are my thighs so big? Why can’t I find pants that fit me? What’s wrong with me?”
The big sizes that managed to go up over my fat thighs were way too big on my waist. I couldn’t stand the pressure or the heat any longer. The dam burst. I started wailing and crying hysterically. I stood there in the middle of Lerner’s fitting room, feeling helpless and ugly and fat, in those damn pants that wouldn’t go up past my thighs.
I wanted to die. I’d lost all control and was completely overwhelmed. After an embarrassingly tearful display of what I considered a real lack of self-control, we walked out of the store. Silent and empty handed, we headed down the mall to have lunch at Wolfie’s, my favorite deli. Eating usually helped me feel better no matter what or where.
At Wolfie’s I loved to pick up the dill pickle slices in the barrel with the pickle tongs that the waitresses placed on our table. It was usually such fun. It reminded me of going fishing. But this time I didn’t touch the pickles and I choked down my food, probably because my stomach was upset from being too hungry and crying so much.
The silence was so thick you could cut it with a knife. After lunch Dad said I needed to get shoes, so we headed to Baker’s Shoe store in the mall. I still felt pretty raw from the meltdown that I had earlier and just wanted to go home, but I had to get shoes for school. Like my thighs, I also hated my wide feet.
As the salesman tried on shoe after shoe with nothing fitting, I looked over and saw Dad’s expression. He looked utterly disgusted. I watched him make his way over to a display called Earth® shoes. They looked like orthopedics, old lady shoes—so hideously ugly I wanted to die. Tears welled up inside me again. Could he really expect me to wear those?
He picked one up and said, “I’d like to see this in an eight in whatever colors you have.” I was stunned, shocked, stupefied. As the salesman returned with his arms full of boxes, a part of me zoned out. I could feel him putting the shoes on my feet and lacing them up, but I was lost in my thoughts. “These have to be the ugliest shoes in the world and nobody in school would wear them. Everyone will make fun of me.” I was shaken out of my reverie when Dad said, “Okay, They fit. Time to go home.”
The ride back to Manhattan was silent. Soon after we settled for the evening, I was told that since we couldn’t find any pants that fit me and we’d already been looking for days with absolutely no luck, Rosie’s sister, Aida, was going to make my clothes. I was mortified. I figured I must have been so fat that no store would carry my size. I cried myself to sleep that night.
Several weeks later, Aida came over to the house and proudly unwrapped her creations; twelve pairs of pants with elastic waist bands and big muumuu tops with ties that looked like maternity wear. That’s when it hit me: This was who I was. I was a fat girl!
Making Friends with Your Body
Every time I think of myself in those damned ugly Earth® shoes and muumuu tops, I want to hug that sad and insecure little Andrea part of me and tell her, “Sweetie, it will be alright.” Now, having that picture in my head gives me a much greater awareness of my humanness and vulnerability at a time when I was only just beginning to shape my ideas about life.
You may have been slender as a child, but you might have experienced something so painful that you lost your equilibrium. No matter if it was a death, a loss of some type, a violation, neglect or abuse, this is the part of you that triggers your desperate craving for food.
By giving voice to this part of your personality and opening up your heart to those memories and emotions, you’ll gain new power over food.
For me, it’s really helped having a bead on that little Andrea because it’s much easier for me to understand why I do the things I do. It makes it easy to be compassionate towards that desperately needy little girl in me.
This in turn paves the path to forgiveness and helps me to be open to new ways of doing things in a much kinder and gentler way. I rarely talk to myself in the same nasty way I used to. This is one of the greatest benefits you’ll ever get from learning the process of intuitive eating. It will teach you by way of changing your relationship to food how to be more mindful about treating yourself in a more loving, respectful, and gentle way.
The thing to keep in mind is that whatever internal picture of yourself you have as an emotional eater, that’s the part of you that needs more love and compassion. Despite every conscious attempt you make to lose weight and get thinner, if that part of you doesn’t feel safe, nothing you do will work.
That’s why I want you to have a clear reminder of that scared and uncertain part of you that probably believed dieting was the only way to achieve happiness.
So the next time you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see, remember the journey you’ve taken, where you come from and how you got here. If you’ve also been hanging onto excess pounds and using them as armor to protect your tender heart, be compassionate with yourself and know that change is going to take some time.