When I heard that emotional causes of eating disorders are being explored by experts now, in an attempt to understand how to resolve obesity problems, I felt a sense of despair as I envisaged how superficial the information gathered might be! As whilst there may be common problematic themes within the eating disordered range, I fear the intensity of mental and emotional pain can only be felt in its entirety by the sufferer, and victim of themselves, the Fat/Thin Person. (To avoid repetition now to be referred to as FP/TP).
As often it is this intensity that remains unseen, unfelt, unattended to by experts – because the depth of shame, fear, hurt, frustration and anger can’t be expressed by the FP/TP, simply because it’s too painful for them to acknowledge! And where focus is placed by professionals on losing weight to become normal, rather than helping FP/TP become emotionally and mentally capable enough to reclaim and reconstruct their life!
I’m a FP, and have been most of my life, where as an adult I’ve ranged between 9 stone and 22 stone. I can tell you that at 9 stone although I felt abnormal (my belief system), I was accepted because I looked ‘normal weight’ so people treated me normally. Whereas when I reached 15 – 22 stone I looked fat/obese/abnormal, so wasn’t perceived as ‘normal’ by many people! So not only did I have my own self-condemnation to deal with, but also the critical view and spitefulness of other people, and the societal problems created from it, which negatively influenced the way I viewed myself and the world!
Having hovered between this weight parameter for many years, I recognised there is a distinct difference in attitude to how FP/TP are treated! So I get worried when I hear ‘normal-looking’ people who have never entered into the realm of extreme physical distortion, being regularly used as examples of dysfunctional eating disorders. Whilst I acknowledge the suffering they endured because of their personal issues, FP/TP have additional problems to contend with, because of the consequences of their physical appearance, which must also be considered vital to attend to, if they are to recover from their addiction!
Whilst the majority of the population manage their affairs productively, there are many who are unable to think creatively, because they constantly focus their attention on their failed, impenetrable cycle of weight control!
Many people have a poor self/body image, which increases internal stress levels, and which when coupled with feelings of insecurity, abuse, inadequacy, trauma, crisis events, can lead to emotional overload. Where regardless of age or gender, the person experiencing this overwhelm will naturally seek to remove, disengage from, nullify or console their bad feelings, by finding a way to regain control of how they feel! This can be through various addictive behaviours, such as using drugs, alcohol, sex, exercise, shopping or gambling, and of course eating, or not eating!
This activity is what we choose to do, based on the way we feel and think! But it rarely works the way we hope, and as we realise this, our thoughts and emotions get progressively negative, driving us to seek more comfort or consolation. This is how all compulsive addictions, mental, physical and emotional, are created and sustained!
But how can we change the way we perceive ourselves, when we seek the perfection of simply being normal? Or when we feel not good enough on every level, and there is nothing, or no-one, who can convince us our life is worth living whilst we are as fat as we are?
Diets and food restriction used to rule my life, leading to eating disorders that made mincemeat out of my confidence and personality. I followed the dietary guidelines given then, which are totally opposite to those given now! But now I’m terrified to go on a diet, in case I re-enter my binge-eating disorder days! Food craving used to rule my existence – now I’m aware that when I get the urge to overeat, something is bothering me and needs to be addressed! Most of the time I think I’m in control of me, yet I’m still fat, I still comfort eat, I still suffer depressive episodes, I’m still searching for the meaning of life!
Yet I am a trained counsellor and practitioner of eating disorders! I have all the information, the skills, the techniques – so why am I still suffering the burden of obesity? This, is the million dollar question. As just like millions of other FP/TP I know the answer is in my own hands. I know it is my fault, there is no-one to blame except me! I know no-one can lose weight for me I must do it myself. I must eat better, take more exercise, change my way of thinking etc., so why don’t I?
BUT I HAVE! I have changed so much from what I used to be, I am a different personality now, from back then! And although I’ve lost weight and kept it off for many years, even though I didn’t overeat, it quickly came back during the periods when I became overwhelmed emotionally and mentally!
So, if we enter my mind, being the mind of a FP, we will see why it is so hard to feel optimistic about losing the part of us that keeps us safe and protected! Where instead of crashing when we fall, we bounce back into our self-abusive, comfort zone world of oblivion, isolation and safety!
I hate my body as it is! I try never to look at it, but of course I do. When I catch sight of myself in the mirror I abhor what I see. The hangover (or apron as they call it now), the stretch marks. The fat belly is the only thing I really see when I look at myself. That’s because as a child, attention was always drawn to ‘her fat stomach’, where I wanted to die of embarrassment in clothes shops, doing P.E., swimming etc. So, true to form, I’ve created the self-fulfilling prophecy where I hated my tummy so much, that’s what I I’ve become – my big fat, blobby belly! Mind you, when I used to get regularly beaten up by a local boy when I was a child, I wished my stomach was even fatter, so I couldn’t feel the pain of his punches so much!
Because I hate my body when it is fat, which overwhelms me because my thoughts constantly bombard me with hateful comments about it, I have dissociated from it by ignoring my body as though it doesn’t exist! And although I have normal physical sensations throughout my body, my awareness remains in my head and I ignore physical pains, etc! This lack of self-interest means that most of the time I’m guilty of self-neglect, where although I keep myself clean, I rarely visit the doctor, hairdresser. I rarely wear my nice clothes, I rarely go anywhere special – in fact I’ve become a sort of recluse! And yet when I’m thinner, I’m the total opposite. I take care of my looks, my hair, myself. I love wearing my nice clothes and take a real pride in my appearance – and I love going out to socialise with others!
In fact I love being thinner…..!
I love being able to wear a swimsuit, skimpy clothes, feeling the air on my body – wow it’s so great to look and feel nice! I love the shape of my slimmer body, and the feel of my skin. I love how I can move around without effort, and how energetic I feel most of the time. How my mood is somehow lighter, I’m more friendly and people respond to me in a likeable way. I love feeling good about me! And I envy people who a
Mentality - How Changing
Your Mind Can Change
Your Life and the
World! by Chrissie Batten
re normal, who feel this way about themselves all the time!
I hate being fat!! The drudge of carrying all this weight around with me each minute of the day. The breathlessness, the pains in my knees as I climb the stairs. The frustration I feel with and about myself! The way I hate my body, myself, my life! I hate the way I beat myself up constantly about not doing what I know I should be doing! And as I get older, I hate the prospect of what the future holds for me if I’m unable to lose the excess weight! I hate feeling bad about me- I’ve felt this way for soooo long!
Because I know we feel better about ourselves when we nurture ourselves, I know that if I felt better about my fat body, and looked after myself a bit better, my esteem would increase, leading me to become more optimistic, energetic, spontaneous and carefree! But feelings of depression linger along with the fat, weighing me down, mind, emotions, body, spirit and soul, making it really hard to motivate myself to fulfil anything other than basic survival needs a lot of the time!
The depression is a really hard challenge to master, as when I feel I’m going downhill I start to panic in case I have another breakdown. So I have to start remedial work straight away to steady myself. This usually works now, thank God, where I use various techniques, including EFT, to identify my main issue and release its energy from my system!
However, as all FP/TP will know, along with depression the main problem is fear and anxiety that eats away at the centre of your being, day after day, night after night! Where however hard you try to think of tomorrow as a new day, a new start, irrationality provokes negative thoughts that ensure your heart and mind are never calm, serene, pacified, hopeful. But simply waiting for the next surge to erupt that will dictate your next pang of guilt, shame, regret, anger, worry or despair, that needs to be attended to one way or another! And because your mind is so tired, the body weary, your mind seems unable to identify anything new that can help, so you do what works best for you at that time – eat, sleep, go into panic etc.!
Tiredness becomes more of a problem the heavier you become. And I’ve realised that the less you do the worse you feel, as when the body remains inactive, the mind becomes over-active! So because overcoming tiredness, depression, negative thoughts, self-loathing, fear of the future, and a deep hopelessness inside, creates a huge burden to carry that makes us want to sit and do nothing, what else can we do at these times but doubt that life will ever improve for us? Where we believe that we don’t have what it takes to make ourselves normal, so because we’re fat we are doomed!
We have to remember that many FP/TP have lost their optimism because they don’t know how to become normal, so don’t know how to live their life. It’s true that we need to find a way to help people conquer their fear of themselves and life. But not by forcing them to reduce their weight, rather by helping them understand that fat or thin, they are worthy of their life. They are entitled to breath, to live, and to be happy. They need to realise just how competent they are, as if they can survive the way they feel because they are fat and ostracised , they can survive other emotional hurdles!
I am an intelligent, wise, competent, compassionate woman. And yet for the last few years, since I’ve regained my fat, I’ve disowned my femininity because I’ve been waiting until I got thinner. Until I could be viewed as normal! I’ve held myself back from progressing professionally because my thoughts were telling me….’How can you talk about obesity issues when you’re still fat – who would give you credibility?’. So I hid myself and my opinions, and alas my guidance, away from those who might have benefited from it, because I was too scared and ashamed to show myself to the world….!
But one thing I do know. I must not allow myself to continue doing this, because we have a nation of children who are growing up with the same problems I had when I was a child. So something has to change, otherwise they will grow up facing the same problems as myself and other FP/TP. So even though I am a fat person, I am writing about obesity issues. Not to provide a cure, as there isn’t one – except losing weight! But to emphasise that FP/TP put their life on hold until they get thinner – which is wrong! This approach doesn’t work to bring correction, as so many FP/TP end up dying too early, with so many unfulfilled dreams!
Of course I advocate healthy guidelines for living. But let’s take the emphasis of being normal weight, where the guidelines are changing all the time, according to whatever expert is flavour of the month! And when will government and health authorities accept that there is NO NORMAL anymore, and stop trying to fit us into categories that they can control?
I believe that instead of pushing people to be thinner, there needs to be encouragement for them to become more active by providing FREE gym facilities. The government needs to introduce legislation that restricts the amount of sugars that can be added to any food. The experts need to recognise that FP/TP are not greedy, but needy! So instead of trying to fit each and every human being into a one- size-fits-all lifestyle, which equates ‘normal’, we should encourage each other to recognise our differences, our skills, and our capabilities, instead of emphasising and condemning us for our one big fault – we are fat!
This has proven a difficult article to construct because I have so much to say on this subject and have had to be succinct. Also, it has meant that I expose some of deepest thoughts and feelings about myself, as a FP. Though I wonder if I’ve conveyed just how severe, desolate and catastrophic these thoughts and feelings can be for a FP/TP, when there are so many issues to deal with all at the same time!
I’m feeling more able to cope with my problems now I’ve learned how to cope with myself. But because I’ve suffered me most of my life, I feel passionate about the lack of understanding about what really helps people with eating disorders. It’s obvious there is no simple, quick fix for eating disorders or any other addictive behaviours. But we can try to convince FP/TP to believe that life holds miracles for them, which they are holding back from, because they are hiding themselves away behind their weight problem! We can help them find their strength and courage to allow themselves to be! This is what I’m doing now – allowing me to be me – fat and warts and all!
If we can teach people to live an active life that contains meaning – regardless of their size, they may be able to inject real value into their life, that reduces the need to emotionally protect themselves by using food to self-abuse!
More information about eating disorders can be found in Chapter 14 of my book …
Mentality – How Changing Your Mind Can Change Your Life and the World!
Written by Chrissie Batten
ISBN 9780956253200 Priced £10.99
Buy From Waterstone’s/Amazon/or my website http://www.chrissiebatten.com
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