A woman in my group made an interesting comment the other day and I’m still trying to process it. I’ve known for some time that, at least in part, my eating is a form of rebellion against my mother. P’s comment brought me up short. Is part of the reason I continue to fail that I am afraid of letting my mother win? Is it? I really don’t know. I guess I am afraid that if I lose weight and become healthy, she will think that the consistent humiliation techniques were fruitful.
I have been trying to get to the root of my issues with food and, I’m afraid, it takes me to the negative experiences in my life. People (primarily my mother but others as well) used fear and humiliation as methods to “encourage” me to lose weight. In my memory, I remember only one real attempt to teach me to eat right.
When I was 11, a favorite teacher took me under her wing and took me to Weight Watchers. In those days, the diet was so regimented that I’m not sure it was really even healthy. But it was an attempt.
Through the rest of my life, I remember attempts to teach me to exercise by a family friend, attempts to teach me to stay away from “bad” food, and attempts to severely restrict my diet. I have been encouraged to try every diet, new and old, every new diet pill that comes to market and to have my stomach stapled, banded, or bypassed as each new procedure has been introduced. All these suggestions from people who “love” me. Name calling has also been tried – both by people who care and people who are simply out to be mean.
I have had “baby fat”, been “pleasantly plump”, “plussy”, chubby and fat. In high school and college, my mother called me “the heavyweight” and allowed my sister to call me a “beached whale.” One day, mother decided that I really needed my eyes open and told me that I wasn’t even fat anymore – I was obese. You know, the word that strikes fear into the heart of every teenage girl.
For all the fuzzy memories in your life, there are some that remain galvanized in a person’s memory forever. I was standing in the kitchen one summer day. I had on long denim shorts and a big, floppy shirt. Cause, you know, fat girls don’t wear tight clothing or, really, even clothing that fits. We are supposed to hide the fat. And we wear black because it’s slimming. These are universally accepted truths. Anyhow, as I was standing in the kitchen, my hands in my back pockets, my mother looked at me and said “Margaret, you are TOO fat to be sexy!” What that did to my 15-year old psyche is difficult to really know.
I can tell you that I spent the next 20 years of my life trying to prove her wrong. I did, in my mind. I can never ‘prove’ it to her. If a man found me attractive, it was because I was a whore and had sex with him – whether I actually had or not. My best friend from childhood came to visit and we wanted to go out with my cousin, Jeff, and his friend, Tony, whom I was dating at the time. Mother told us we couldn’t take the car, we could go stand by the road and wait for them to pick us up “like the whores we [were]”. In my mother’s eyes, there was a reason the men I dated were with me; there was no way I could be sexy. The irony is, I spent all that time proving she wasn’t right…I know that she’s wrong but I believe her anyhow. And that messes with my brain.
I’m not just writing all of this for the pleasure of seeing it in print. I keep hoping that as I get it written, I will write out some of my anguish and some of my desire to eat. I know there isn’t a singular reason – certainly not an easy cause. The reality remains, however, that until I deal with what lies inside of me, everything I try will fail to achieve any lasting results.
A woman in my group made an interesting comment the other day and I’m still trying to process it. Is part of the reason I continue to fail that I am afraid of letting my mother win? Probably. The next question needs to be – Do I have the strength let her win?