You’re about to read a Memory Lane Post: one of my favorites over the past year. Little did I know when I wrote this post, originally published on February 1st of this year, that it would create as much buzz as it did by gaining the most combined comment/email responses of any other post I’ve ever written. Most were extremely supportive – I’d say roughly 85 percent; however it did stir up some anger and other raw emotion in several readers, especially when featured on another, widely-read website. Because of the amount of thought, discussion and opinion generated – as well as my own introspection on the topic, this remains one of my favorite posts.
While at the library the other day, I was browsing through the self-help books. I flipped through a worn-out, oversized paperback and came across a chapter about abusive relationships. I was going to continue flipping past that chapter because I thought it didn’t pertain to me, but the first paragraph grabbed my attention and really stuck with me long after I put the book back onto the shelf. It was about abusive relationships. The chapter wasn’t about the physical abuser, but the emotional abuser.
I am paraphrasing here as I did not check out the book, but it went something like this:
People have a tendency to remain in abusive relationships because there is something they get in return; something that is satisfying them just enough to make them stay in their current situation. Think about reasons why you may be keeping yourself in an abusive situation and journal about it.
I thought about that statement for a long time as it pertained to my obesity. I started wondering why I let myself stay in that unhealthy body for so long. Could it be true that I was an emotional abuser? What on earth could I have possibly gained from remaining heavy?
One night I began writing. I posed the exercise as a question that I could identify with and I thought I’d share what I wrote:
What did I gain from remaining in a morbidly obese body for so long?
It was convenient. If I was at a buffet and wanted dessert for dinner and fried meat for dessert, that’s what I ate. I had no interest in, nor did I issue any self control.
I required little maintenance. When I was obese, I wore comfortable clothing all of the time. Elastic ruled my wardrobe. Shopping was easy, too. All I had to do was look in the Hanes section of Wal-Mart and pick out things in XL. I didn’t even have to try anything on. And tops? I didn’t have to try them on, either; the bigger the better (I bought into the illusion that the larger my shirts were, the thinner I looked.)
I convinced myself that I was saving money. Not having to worry about keeping any kind of style allowed me to have the same attitude about my hair. I rarely had my hair cut. I’d just wash and pull it back into a ponytail every day; problem solved. I never got a massage. I never got a manicure or a pedicure. Basically, I never allowed myself the luxury of being pampered and I told myself and others that it was because I needed to save money. Truly, the reason was because I never felt I was worth it.
I excused myself from stressful situations (even if it was unhealthy to do so). I never had anxiety about going to the doctor because I refused to go. I didn’t like being reminded that I needed to lose weight so I’d put off my appointments and only go if I were quite ill.
I felt protected. This was an illusion, but at the time I felt like the bigger I was, the less I could be hurt by people. The truth of the matter was that by keeping myself heavy, I had an excuse to keep people away. No one would get the chance to hurt me, but no one would get the chance to know me, either.
I had less guilt. If I ate crap for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, well – that was just normal so I didn’t really stress about it. I didn’t experience any guilt if I didn’t exercise; of course this was because I didn’t exercise.
As sad as it was, there were times I thought well, this is the way I am, so I just need to live with it. I held on to the belief that I was fat because that’s just the way it was. It was scarier to change than it was to stay the same and so, I schlepped through life and made up these little lies along the way to make me feel better about why it was easier (dare I say, better?) to stay in a morbidly obese body.
So maybe there was abuse going on in my life. I’d been abusing and degrading myself for years, using excuses and negative thoughts - in part through the simple act of denial. Because I didn’t want to participate in life I told myself those things so I could stay heavy – which would then prevent me from participating in life (and round and round she goes.) Eventually, it became exhausting to carry on like that; some people manage to do it all their lives.
When the misery began to outweigh the appeal, I knew it was time to change.
Have any of you ever used an excuse to remain stagnant about a situation in your life? Maybe like me, change seemed too hard, scary, or just a little too out of reach?
This is the final in my series of Memory Lane posts, marking my blog’s anniversary on September 20th. This is also the last prize I have in my goodie-stash for you:
If you’d like to win this great water bottle, just leave a comment and you’re automatically entered (unless you instruct me not to include you in the drawing.) You’ll have until September 20th at 9 PM, EST to enter. The winner will be picked by Random.org and announced during Wednesday’s blog post. I welcome and look forward to comments from everyone, but per contest rules, please remember that only US readers can be included in this drawing.
Hope everyone had a great weekend!