While speaking to a group this past week, the comments of several of the guests stayed in my mind long afterward. I've thought a lot about them since then, and realized this was definitely something I should be addressing in my column.
There were two females that spoke about weight loss, and the self-esteem/trust issue. Each on opposite ends of the equation. We'll call them Betty and Bonnie (not their real names.)
Betty was always thin and trim (usually through starving herself) from childhood to college; then into her late twenties. Betty never lacked boyfriends or popularity and because she could usually get a little "edge" in life with a flirt and a wink, she didn't exactly challenge herself to be more. In short, things came a little easier to Betty.
At age 29, Betty married. She wed Rob, a man that she now believes married her for those good looks and perfect figure. In only a little more than a year, she gave birth to her first child, and what should have been the picture book of the perfect young American family fell apart because the glue holding them together melted. She was no longer thin, trim, or perfect. And the more her husband pointed this out, the more she turned to her new love - carbohydrates. Like a drug, they dulled her pain and made life bearable. At least for the short time she was feeling their warmth.
All of this was 12 years and 116 pounds ago. Rob is gone. She didn't divorce him, he divorced her. Even though for years Rob continued to beat down her self esteem, she stayed. She'd never known challenges before meeting Rob. Because everything had come easily, Betty had invested nothing in herself or her future.
And now, as she's made the decision to turn it around, her enemy is her own past. She told us how much she wants to lose this weight, and be freed from her addiction to carbs. But she fears being thin again will mean she'll go back to being vulnerable. She'll go back to getting her validation from others. In some ways, Betty likes her fat-self better than her thin-self.
When I heard her speaking, I realized that I had not been considering that. How many of our struggles are in part because we fear letting go of some of the safety afforded us by our extra weight?
It was Betty's speaking out that prompted Bonnie to share her thoughts as well. And Bonnie is proof that we can come down an entirely different road and arrive at the very same destination.
Bonnie came from a family of "pleasantly plump", Midwestern, well mannered people. Doing the "right thing" and self sacrifice were strongly encouraged in Bonnie's household. Her mother was a teacher; her father a minister. And Bonnie was always, always on her best behavior. Her schoolwork was done on time; her room was clean; her chores at home accomplished. She really didn't date... both because her parents discouraged it (she said they'd feel better if their children were at least 21 before going out on unsupervised dates), and because the opportunity really wasn't there. As Bonnie entered high school, she was already 30 pounds overweight, and boys weren't exactly knocking down her door for the chance to escort her to a prom.
Over the years that followed, Bonnie met and married Bill, a young man in the neighborhood that her parents approved of, and the two of them built a proper and respectable life together. While they didn't share passion or excitement, what they did share was a mutual addiction to carbs. Bonnie cooked and baked every day, remaining a stay-at-home wife. A starchy meal and sugar drenched dessert were ready every day when Bill came home from work. Her home was spotless, and her free time was given to charitable pursuits. She was the same Bonnie she'd always been.
Then a friend sparked her interest in low carbohydrate eating and allowed her to see she was most definitely addicted to the sweet stuff. Quite out of character, Bonnie made the decision to leap into the plan. And though Bill was not supportive, he did not try to stop Bonnie either. She began seeing more and more success and commented that she felt she had awoken from a long drug-induced sleep. She felt good physically, had energy to spare and really began to care about her looks.
She made an appointment at a hair salon (she'd never been to one before) and in one day she traded mousey brown hair pulled back tightly for a chic new color and cut. Her next stop saw her nails done. And soon she was enjoying the thrill of assembling a new wardrobe. Bonnie felt attractive, something completely new for her.
As the weeks passed, others noticed too. Men noticed. For the first time in Bonnie's life, men were flirting with her. She'd catch them staring at her in restaurants, and even at the market. She found it hard to ignore the elation she was feeling.
And then it occurred to her that she was flirting back. She was making overtures. She was a married woman, yet she was feeling dangerous and exciting. That safe, proper life at home with Bill didn't feel so desirable anymore. One day Bonnie came very close to sharing more than flirtatious banter with a handsome neighbor, and she found herself practically running back to the safety of her kitchen. What was she doing? She looked down at her hands and saw they were shaking, and she walked directly to the cabinet and grabbed one of Bill's Danish pastries he was so fond of. She gobbled it up, and reached for another. She ate this one more slowly, allowing herself to taste the sugary icing. She felt the old familiar rush, and then the calmness.
It was her first "fall" from the diet, and the resulting binge lasted weeks. She gained weight and with it both a renewed sense of safety that she was "the good girl" again, and an overwhelming sense of failure.
Bonnie's struggle, like Betty's, is now with her own demons. It isn't just about the process of weight loss, and of getting thin. It's about trusting yourself to handle it. And about knowing your worth and your values are not in your body size. Losing the weight is only one part of the battle. You must trust yourself. And trust is a leap.
Contents copyright © 1999 – 2003 Low Carb Luxury.
All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes your acceptance of our Terms and Conditions. No reproduction
without expressed written consent. Site Development by: Accent Design Studios.