If I had a nickel for every time I felt lousy about myself because of my weight, I would be rich. Filthy, stinkin’ rich. Like, Bill Gates rich.
Feeling unhappy with my body and my weight has been a running loop both in the background and in the forefront of my mind most of my life. Every morning, when I get out of bed, my thoughts immediately go to my weight. What did I eat last night? This determines how I feel about myself, and how I will relate to people and the world that particular day. Once I know whether it’s a self-loathing day, or a feeling-good-about- me day, then I decide what kind of eating and activity day it should be. I may be watching my diet closely, eating with wild abandon, taking an exercise skip day, or staring at a tough workout. And if it’s a big girl, watching my diet closely and facing a tough workout kind of day, lookout. You’d be better off just forgetting I exist, because nothing you say to me will be right, and I’m going to not like you the same way I don’t like myself.
Wow, this all sounds very unhealthy and sad, But I don’t consciously think these thoughts. They are automatic, like breathing. Forty years can do some damage.
I’ve been anywhere from five to fifty pounds overweight since I was a kid. I remember very clearly the day I was in my pediatrician’s office and I saw the word “obese” on my chart. There it was, in black and white. I was twelve. Since then, it’s truly been a rollercoaster. I’ve had seasons where I’m comfortable and like how I look, and spans of time where my weight had me so uncomfortable my skin would crawl. I’ve done every diet and exercise program that exists. I own clothes from size 4 to 12, and I’m short. I know every look-slim trick in the book. I’ve been at a normal weight for my height for never more than six months. I’ve done this maybe four times over the course of my life. And the quest to get back there…..well, it never goes away. It is my first and last thought of every day.
This is just an excerpt of my personal collection of thoughts related to my weight and body image. You may recognize some of them if you’re like me, and I’m sure you’ve more to add.
What can I eat today? Do I need to exercise harder today? I need to save calories for _____ later tonight. How much do I really want to be thin? If I wanted it bad enough, I would just shut my damn mouth. What am I going to be able to wear today? My arms are too big for that shirt. Just wear a dress so you don’t have to worry about hiding your hips and butt.. Is my image in that photo how I really look? If I look fat, I won’t be taken seriously at work. You’re destined to be overweight, just give up. You’re kind of a loser, not being able to drop those pounds, you have no discipline, you’re weak. You’re unattractive. You’re lazy. If I go to that event, will they notice my weight is up? Of course they will. Forget it, I’m not going.
Everyone agrees the holidays are a time for overindulgence with food and drink. This can be really rough if you’re struggling with your weight and body image. You want to indulge and enjoy all the yummy things the holidays bring, but with every bite, you analyze. You examine. You judge. Sometimes the food doesn’t even taste good going down. The worry can suck the fun right out of it. And let’s not forget about the alcohol. It goes hand-in-hand with holiday fun, but the drinks contain even more calories this season. Yes, very special, pretty, garnished, high-calorie drinks, that trick you into not caring how many butterballs you’re shoving in mouth. Cheers. Hope you’re having fun, because if you didn’t like how your clothes fit you tonight, just wait until tomorrow morning.
So now that I’ve convinced you I’m an expert on the subject weight and body image from personal experience, you should know I’ve also spent many years working with the surgical weight loss community. Between my personal and professional time spent trying to lose weight and with others doing the same, I’ve found we share a lot of the same self-destructive thoughts and emotions. And most of it just isn’t talked about, because it makes us feel shameful and embarrassed.
Look, most of us know the benefits of living at a healthy weight. We even know how to lose weight, and where to get help. But it’s hard. And the older we get, the more difficult it becomes. Most of us aren’t asking to look like a cover model, we just want to feel good about ourselves and be happy. And I think talking about those really personal, self-defeating thoughts can help. If coming together in a support group to share diet and exercise tips and celebrate our weight-loss wins helps so many, why wouldn’t talking about the ugly side of it help, too?
Sharing our stories makes us feel like we’re not alone. Belonging is an essential human need. When we belong, we feel loved, and can operate from a place of love, even if that love is for ourselves. Box checked, we belong, we’re loved. Now what?
Talking and sharing make it real. It takes the thoughts out of our heads and onto the table, where, they kind of have to be dealt with. Talking with others often helps us to confront and reconcile with what we’re struggling with. This can lead to breakthroughs for many people, some that can lead to lasting change. Perhaps from sharing your own or reading someone else’s story, you might be motivated to commit to one new healthy habit. Maybe you’ll be inspired to hire a health coach, or go for that walk. Or just maybe, it will help you let go of negative self-talk once and for all and love yourself just a little bit more. xo Karm