Weight issues

I went out clothes shopping today. Something I try to avoid doing and would gladly never do if it wasn't for the increasing scarcity of suitable clothes in my wardrobe. And now summer's here, I really have been forced to acknowledge I just do not have enough clothes that fit me, are comfortable, look decent and don't make me look completely out of place in the hot weather.

Clothes shopping is basically the only time in the year that I see myself near naked in a full-length mirror. And I'm usually in for a nasty surprise, as I am confronted once again with my wobbly figure.

And today I suddenly realised: I have no self-image. As in: a mental image of what I look like to other people. I basically avoid mirrors, and when I do see myself, I try to concentrate on my face and hair, not so much on my butt and stomach. And I wondered: how is it possible for me to ignore the kilos of extra fat I carry around with me every day?

I suppose I had what could be called a revelation: I never developed a healthy self-image as a child. And I learned to just block any image I did have out of my mind, as it was never a pleasant one.

As far back as I can remember - around the age of 5 - I vividly recall my weight being an issue. I was taken to the doctor because I was "overweight" and used to sneak food up to my room at night. And from the same early age, I was constantly
told by my mother that I was overweight, that I shouldn't eat this or that because I would get fat. Food became a forbidden thing. With hardly a distinction between meal times and any other time of the day. And a consistent lack of consistency when it came to reinforcing any clear message: mum would bake cookies and let us eat the dough, but watch over the cookie jar like a hawk and remark that we would get fat as soon as one of us went to eat a cookie. There was obviously some invisible limit in her mind, between what we were "allowed" and what she saw as over-indulgence, but that line was never clear to me. Nor were there any clear rules about when we were or were not allowed treats. It is highly likely she made remarks about my weight at times when I was eating out of hunger, and at other times - when I maybe wasn't even hungry - she would offer a treat. In the end, I would take any treat on offer, hungry or not, as I wasn't sure if my next request for food would be met with a negative comment or not.

My mother's nickname for me at the time was "Miss Michelin", in reference to a well-known advertising figure made out of car tires.

And so began my ongoing love-hate relationship with food.

Today I realised, thinking back to old pictures of myself: I never was a fat child. I definitely wasn't skinny, but I wasn't fat.

But as a kid, at a very early age, I was taught to think of myself as fat. And to consider food to be a bad thing. Something to feel guilty about. And a way to punish myself or to defy other people.

I defied my parents during their divorce. If they didn't love me enough to stay together, I would disrespect their request for me to stay away from "forbidden" food. I gained 20 kilos in a year at age 10. A punishment to myself for not being a "good enough" reason for them to stay together.

I defied my boyfriend after he cheated on me. He didn't deserve a good-looking me, and I wanted him to see me hurt myself because of what he'd done. Food is a great way for me to hurt myself. I gained 30 kilos in 6 months (after losing 15 in the previous 4 months in the initial shock). A punishment to myself for not being "good enough" for him to stay faithful.

In between these 2 major traumatic experiences, my weight was actually quite stable. And, again, looking back at pictures at the time, I wasn't skinny, but I wasn't fat. I varied between a size 38 and a size 44. I wasn't a model, but I was healthy. Although the image I had of myself in my head was so warped, so negative, I saw myself as a huge blubbery person. And was constantly reprimanding myself whenever I gave in to any desire for food, perpetuating my mother's criticisms even though I was no longer living with her.

Today, shopping for my size 48-52 clothes, I realised I have no idea how to build a new image of myself in my head.
I am now severely overweight, and it is damaging my health.
I need to acknowledge my body as it is today, and make the necessary changes to get back to a healthy weight. And then learn to love myself at that weight, even if I still don't look like a model.

I actually don't know what ideal image my mother had in her mind all those years ago. I do know she still makes the exact same comments now as she did then, and still "allows" me to indulge only when she has decided it was ok to, whether I feel like it or not. Luckily I am not subjected to her influence more than a couple of times a year - and in every other aspect we have a very good relationship. But she has now turned to the next generation - my sister's son - and is re-enacting with him the same things we went through in our childhood.

1 comment:

Dahlia46 said...

Reading through your old posts, I felt very emotional reading this. Elements of it are very familiar to me e.g becoming over weight as a child due to problems with parents and never really dealing with my poor self image.

Also using food as a punishment and a way to evoke reactions from other people close to me.

A very poignant post...

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