I get mail all the time from people wanting to know how I dropped nearly 200 pounds and kept it off. Understandably, they want answers so they can apply the same techniques to their own lives. Most expect a prescription that involves me telling them what to eat. They want details on calorie ranges, protein-carb ratios, daily fat gram allotments, etc.
Instead, and in the interest of being true to my story and how I did it, I begin by telling them what NOT to eat. And it has nothing to do with food. My healing began in earnest when I decided one day, circa the year I turned 40, that I would no longer be the willing recipient of crap. That's right: No more eating it. As a fat kid turned obese adult with a crippling desire to be accepted, I'd been on a steady diet of it for decades, and I'd had enough.
You see, it was the ingestion of cutting remarks, judgmental glances, and outright insults that were really responsible for the weight. The potato chip binges were just a means to quelling my rage and salving my hurt feelings. What was really responsible for the pounds piling on was me accepting mistreatment from others and pretending to be OK with it.
Sure, it hurt when a stranger was mean to me simply because they didn't approve of the way I looked. But what injured me to the core is when the vitriol came from members of my inner circle, or as some of them liked to call themselves... "my friends."
I qualify with quotations because I finally broke through the wall of denial and woke up to the fact that anyone who claimed to love me and care for me would not deliberately insult or hurt me. I can hear some of you gearing up your battle cry for the "What about the health issues?" argument, but let's get real. If health were a valid concern, you'd also be badgering your friends who smoke, drink immoderately, go on spending binges, and I never saw that happen. I only heard these sanctimonious types recite grave would-be statistics, like me being at risk for high-blood pressure, diabetes, and an early grave if I didn't do something about my weight NOW... and by the way, how's your latest diet going?
I'm not denying health risks can be a factor, but I also had to go with my gut every time a lecture or chilly remark came my way, because they were delivered with an unmistakable cloud of antipathy, and not empathy. It became my normal, and because it started so early I didn't question it when it happened.
School years were the genesis, with mean girls who lacked emotional maturity laughing and shouting names at me. Sometimes, when my close friends were in a random mood to lash out, who was the easiest target? If you guessed the fat girl, you'd be absolutely correct.
Anyone else out there familiar with The Fat Girl Drill? You're part of a demographic that's universally looked down on, so run for cover. Compounding the emotional Molotov cocktail is the perception that the fat girl deserves the crap storm because it's her fault she's fat in the first place. Just stop overeating and go on a diet... any idiot can figure that one out. Actually that's largely untrue. If a diet were what I needed, the first one would have worked and I wouldn't be writing this blog.
The true healing of an emotional eater takes years. No one wants to hear that, but it's the truth. And when I realized I could diet no more forever, I started to heal the things that really mattered. Like friendships. Since you don't have to be Freud to figure out that the quality of your relationships sing volumes about who you are and how you view yourself, I got to work.
Out went the phony friends whose primary reason for being in my proximity was to look down on me. Yes Virginia, there are quite a few emotionally-stunted people out there who enjoy the company of those in compromised situations in order to feel unblemished and superior. I fired those friends, one by one. Some evacuated of their own accord when it became clear I'd no longer be dining on their well-meaning crap casseroles they delivered in such a pseudo-caring manner to my door. Others straightened up and decided to fly right, and they were allowed to stay. And the newfound confidence meant an influx of wonderful new friends, who didn't care if I was 330 pounds or 130 pounds.
As I was digging through old photos the other day I came across one of me and my friend Stan. He loved and accepted me exactly where I was. He saw and embraced all of my qualities: a great listener with a fabulous sense of humor; also a passionate writer, who is sensitive, impatient, intelligent, and fat. And that's a problem because...? If you cross someone off your list of potential friends because of their weight, please get into therapy, or return to it. You've got some work to do.
With Stan, I never felt apologetic or shameful of who I was. And I NEEDED this. My soul needed it, and so did the broken and betrayed heart of the little girl who just wanted to feel accepted. I needed a friend like Stan far more than I needed to count calories and fat grams. It was a phase that was absolutely crucial to my healing and emotional evolution. And of course, it had to precede any physical healing.
Take a look at the photo of the two of us and how he's looking at me. At that moment in time, what would you say I needed more: a boot camp DVD complete with seven-day food plan, or the simple resonant feeling of being loved?