Food was my closest friend and companion. Starting in grade school, I began to use FOOD to comfort me--to make the difficult family situation more bearable. I heard voices in my head: "Ah, have some food. It will make it all better.” I listened to the voices and ate lots of food.
As My Size Increased, So Did My Separation from Other People.
Children frequently act cruelly towards anyone whom they set apart as different. I was spit on, I was not played with, I was made the object of ridicule on many occasions, so many occasions, that I just wished people would go away and leave me alone. FOOD became my only friend. It wouldn't hurt me, put me down, or call me names. I started to build a wall around myself. I thought, "No matter what you say or do to me, it won't hurt me. Just go away.” I didn't want anyone to touch me, love me, or hug me. Emotionally I was totally shut down and withdrawn.
Building a Wall Around Myself
I started to feel excruciating pain from being fat and different and rejected.
Oh, The Pain of Being Fat, of:
· Giving up on myself
· Feeling disappointed in myself and disgusted
· Wanting to commit suicide because I didn't want to live anymore (I didn’t do it because I was sure I wouldn't be successful and would end up as an invalid)
· Not fitting through turnstiles at stores
· Not fitting into my clothes
· Wearing big sweaters and other clothing to hide the many rolls of fat
· Dreading Christmas Day get-togethers because none of the clothes that anyone brought me would fit because I had gained so much weight
· Breaking down furniture (if I did fit, I had to push the fat aside so that I could sit down)
· Breaking down my car seat
· Not being able to do pull-ups or rope climbs in physical education classes at school and having to disrobe in the locker room and have people SEE my fat
· Having my weight cut out the joy of hiking or team sports
· Not getting invited to dances or other social activities
· Having FOOD be my only friend—it wouldn't put me down or call me names
· Knowing that I had bones, but never being able to find them
· Having many people tell me that "I ought to lose weight,” and telling them I would
· Knowing that people were looking at me and how fat I was
· Feeling guilty about buying so much candy and "junk" food from one store, so I went to several stores so that they wouldn't know how much food I was buying
· Wearing out my pants between the legs because my fat rubbed the legs together
· Not taking baths, for weeks at a time, because I really didn't want to look at myself
· Not feeling accepted for who I was and believing I had to earn acceptance by pleasing others and doing things for them
· Worst of all, putting myself in a big shell so no one could touch me so if they called me names, it wouldn't hurt me. As Simon and Garfunkle’s song states, "I am a rock and a rock FEELS no pain.”
I wanted NO ONE to touch me. I wasn't worthy of any love. Overweight isolated me and it caused me pain.
A note: For me, taking time to remember the pain of the past helps keep me motivated to make the daily commitment to ongoing lifestyle change.
Food was my closest friend and companion. It was dependable—it SEEMED to make it all better. I tried to reach out to people, but I had developed an addictive personality—I unnaturally turned to FOOD (and eventually to alcohol and overwork) to nurture and comfort me. My excess weight affected ALL parts of my life—ALL my relationships, but especially my relationship with myself. I hated myself. I would beat myself over my head with my hands and wish myself dead. Compulsive overeating is a disease of isolation, self-disgust, and self-hatred.
I finally discovered what overeating really does for me. Taken from my diary on February 2, 1980: “When I compulsively overeat my thinking goes all wrong. I don’t love me. I’m upset, disappointed, and frustrated. I become quiet and self-condemning. I just want to be alone (crawl into a hole and die). I just continue to eat, although I’m not at all hungry.” I could see overeating doesn’t fix any problem. It just makes all problems worse.
Overeating is a learned dysfunctional and ineffective coping behavior. I had used it to help me bear the pain of:
1. My parents’ VERY unhealthy relationship, which ended in divorce. I was then shuffled between two households. I felt such inner turmoil because I loved my parents so much.
2. My mother's chronic depressive illness (alcoholism/chemical dependency). Over a 25-year period, she went through hospitals, nursing homes, mental institutions and ultimately death. My mother died at 50. I experienced intense anguish over her pitiful suffering.
3. My school experiences, including community college and university were frequently interrupted due to family chaos.
4. FEELING deeply isolated, unwanted, inferior, and ugly due to my lack of social skills.
How did I transform this area? How did I break down my emotional walls? How can you?
In the past I had learned to be an excellent caregiver to my family and classmates but didn't know how to love and care for myself!
One of the most difficult things for me to do was to love me—in practice. To admit I was SICK—that I needed help—and to take care of MY NEEDS required time! I finally HAD to put my needs on the list—first things first—and slow down and stop fixing everyone else. THAT was hard to do.
A day at a time, I'm falling in love with myself AS I AM. I'm respecting myself and treating myself with gentleness. I'm no longer willing to harm myself for ANYone or ANYthing.
When no one is around and I NEED a HUG—I wrap my arms around ME and give myself a HUG! I sprinkle dollops of delight and self-care towards myself. I tell myself, "I love you, Bobby Sweetheart. You are wonderful!"
This felt very odd and unnatural at first. But I thought that if I could hit me over the head and wish me dead—as I had done on many times before, then I could certainly give myself a hug and a kiss; just as I would to a loving friend.
Sprinkle Dollops of Delight and Self-Care Towards Yourself.
(Click on link to see larger picture.)
I love you as you are and as you are not.
Part of the root of my low self-esteem came from having delight deficiency syndrome. I didn’t take enough time to care for my soul and spirit in nurturing ways. I found that deep down I didn’t feel worthwhile. For me, applied self-esteem was learning how to take time for activities that fill up my well of reserve; so from that well, I then take time to help others.
For me the daily practice of:
· Preparing yummy meals and snacks,
· Of bringing a food bag with me
· Taking time for loving social connections
· Finding fun ways to be active on a regular basis
· Taking time to provide a rich treasure chest of nurturing activities for me.
· Making time for daily prayer and meditation and retreats on a regular basis
· Keeping my life in enough balance so that I can regularly apply all of the ideas I am sharing with you in my story.
These are all the things I do for me. This shows me, at a deep, core level, that I really love and care for me. I’m not “holy hot stuff!” I have limits. When I exceed my “design capacity,” I become unhealthy. If I don’t practice these essential supportive activities on a regular basis, then I crash and burn. It happens gradually. Just because I know about all of these things doesn’t mean that I don’t need to PRACTICE them!
I noticed that everything I do affects everything else. My life is an ecosystem. The law of cause and effect, or sowing and reaping, plays out at all levels of my being. An example is if I keep too busy, don’t plan for healthful food choices, don’t plan some quiet time or some fun ways to relax, nor take time for physical activity, then I’m much more likely to make poor food choices and end up emotionally and mentally off track. If I do practice self-care, then my life seems to roll on a wholesome rhythm and I make healthier choices in all levels of my life. Investigate The Complex Web of Weight Management section.
See the transforming root causes of social isolation part of my story to see how for me, entering into balanced, healthful relationships was an essential part of my transforming my low self-esteem.
A concept that REALLY helped me be gentler with myself was to remember I STILL HAVE a "little child" part of me INSIDE my adult body. I learned to make friends with that emotional part of me—to remember HOW little children grow and change. They NEED freedom to try out new things, they need support and encouragement for their efforts, and they ALWAYS need unconditional love that nurtures them while they're learning. They need to feel that their worth is NOT tied to performance, that they are O.K. and loved—no matter what. As an adult, I know how to do MANY things with great skill. In OTHER areas of life, I still feel like "a kid in poopy diapers!” I NEED HELP to clean up my messes. I NEED LOVE AND ENCOURAGEMENT.
One superb book on the issue of learning to love, support, and nurture yourself is Self-Parenting—The Complete Guide to Your Inner Conversations by Dr. John K. Pollard, III. (Scrutinize Resources 1 section and BELOW for other ideas and resources for self-parenting.)
Me at about 3 years old
How did I transform the suffering and pain in my life into well-being?
I shined the light of self-care to break down my inner prison of self-hate and despair. (Click on link to see picture and ideas.)
I did it through practicing compassion, kindness, awareness, and making more skillful choices. I did it by valuing myself more and making a commitment of time to find out what my needs were. I also learned about my personal limits and noticed the inner signals of “malfunction imminent, shut down in progress.” I found these ideas to be universal: everyone can benefit from them.
Through practicing these ideas, many times, I learned how to be with uncomfortable emotions and not eat to mask them.
The suggestions below summarize the compassionate process about the journey of personal transformation—mine and yours. Practicing this skill on a daily basis has helped me transform my self-hate into self-respect. Where you’re at, is where you’re at! You can’t be anywhere else. So, just start there.
The process is summarized in the following FIVE STEPS:
Step I: Recognize it—observe it—notice that something is wrong. Something hurts. You don’t know what it is, so you check it out.
Step 2: Accept it and look deeply—you do not deny it; you accept whatever is present.
Step 3: Embrace it—your mindfulness (awareness) embraces your situation and your feelings—without judging yourself. You just notice, and are present with, whatever arises.
Just like a baby or child crying, you pay attention.
Embrace your pain and confusion as a loving mother would toward her child.
Talk with yourself:
Oh, sweetheart, what is the matter? What do you need? I am here for you.
I will not abandon you and I love you.
I hear that you are in pain. Can you tell me about it? Take your time.
Let me know when you are ready. I don’t want to rush you or invalidate your feelings.
I will always be here for you.
So, let me know what hurts. Is there anything I can do to help?
To hear a Windows Media File of Develop a Nurturing Inner Voice for You, click here.
After being present for your inner emotional self (like an inner child), then you may want to start providing suggestions, insights and other options for healing. Consider reading inspirational books or self-nurturing and self-esteem books. I have had to read things over many times—gradually my understanding deepened and the tone of the relationship I had with myself changed from self-hatred to self-love. I gradually stopped beating up on myself (literally) and became kinder to me and learned the skill of compassionate self-care.
Self-abuse is not OK.
It’s just not OK to be mean to yourself for any reason.
If you notice that you’re about to beat up on yourself….
Step 4: Then evaluate it—what is causing it? Is it physical, emotional? Just like a doctor that evaluates an illness, we tune-in to ourselves and notice the symptoms. What patterns do you have in your life that are causing the distress? Notice your habits.
Step 5: The suffering needs to be understood. Encourage yourself to look deeply into your suffering—recognize its nature. You do this by seeing how it came about.
What nutrients are creating and sustaining it? Notice—be mindful of— which nutrients are creating the symptoms that you are presently experiencing?
· Food nutrients? What you eat or drink can bring about distress in your body and mind. Do you cook and shop and eat with awareness? Just notice.
· Sense nutrients (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings of body or thoughts of mind)? You are always in constant contact with sense objects. They are food for your mind and emotions. Notice if certain objects stimulate your cravings and misery.
· Intention/Motivation nutrients? Choose to be aware of what motivates you. What do you think will bring you happiness? Wealth, fame, career, a mate? Do those things really bring lasting happiness?
· Nutrients stored in our subconscious—all your past actions—all of your habits of body, speech and mind are stored in your subconscious. Through repetition, these choices become unconscious and automatic. Which habits for you are creating the problems? Investigate the Horse of Habit Story and Patterns, Patterns, Everywhere! Not a Moment's Peace!
Through practicing this skill of going inside for our answers, then we can unravel the roots of emotional eating.
To transform our emotional eating habits, we learn to ask: Why am I in this place, at this particular time, with this food in my hand, about to eat it? Do I need it? Am I really hungry? Do I need to eat food at this time? Do I feel stressed or emotionally overwhelmed? What am I feeling? Will eating solve the problem, or will it make it worse? What do I really need?
Am I eating to fix painful emotions or situations?
From Sandra Stoltz, The Food Fix, 1983.
Many times for me, family chaos brought on feelings of extreme sadness and confusion. In 1979 my mother’s mental state had deteriorated due to her alcoholism and chemical dependency. I was responsible for caring for her. For her own well-being, she needed to be committed to a mental institution.
Taken from my diary on May 9, 1979: “My mother is mentally ill and I will have her committed for assistance this evening. I am troubled at heart. My mother and I have gone through so much together. I tried to call the courthouse to find out about the process of committal. The phone line was busy. So I rushed off to the store and got 7 ounces of Butter Finger miniatures and 1 pint of ice cream and ate them. After I had finished, them I wondered WHY I had done it. It didn’t help my mother or me.”
My diaries tell many stories of similar painful situations and my response of destructive eating “to make it all better.” On October 5, 1979: “Last night (after a fight with a friend) I overate 8 –10 cookies, pecan pie, a French dip sandwich, 3 candy bars, 1 pint ice cream with chocolate sauce, 2.5 glasses wine, 1 scoop ice cream, 1 square of pumpkin pudding. I wasn’t feeling well (from overeating the night before) and so to comfort myself I overate to ‘help out.’ Ha, ha! What a deception and a lie. Overeating did NOT help out.”
I’ve always been the best me I could be, at each stage of my journey of change. I’ve done the best I could with the knowledge and skills I had at the time. When I learned more and practiced new skills, my choices became more effective. The pivotal, most essential practice was to:
Stop the inner firing squad, to stop self-judgment.
I was willing to practice the skill of compassion to the wounded being who lives inside of my skin, not demand it be different or more evolved. I learned to truly listen to that part of myself while asking, “Oh, Bobby sweetheart, what do you really need?” This PRACTICE helped my inner, emotional part to really understand that I do care.
Previously, if I had been an “outer parent” to little Bobbie, I would have been arrested for child abuse. To really learn to be a kind and gentle parent to myself required trying out, over and over again, everything that I’ve shared with you in this section. For me, the results have been miraculous. I’ve come out of hell, into emotional well-being. I’ve learned, every second is a new beginning. The key to success is to: just begin again!
It’s not OK to harm myself, even for a spectacular reason.
I deserve warmth, caring, affection, and self acceptance.
I radiate these qualities first to myself, and then to others.
Copyright © 2001-2017 Bob Wilson BS, DTR All Right Reserved. Articles are for personal use only. Please request permission for other uses. Thanks!