Words I can't shake

Monday, January 12, 2015

**I thought I should preface this blog with a note that it is about a negative experience I am thinking through that involves talking about other people in a way that is NOT body positive or affirming--and therefore out of character with how I normally strive to be on SparkPeople.**

I can't stop thinking about this moment over Christmas vacation.

The entire holiday was intense in a different way than it has been before. After four years of college and six years of grad school, this was my first year taking time away from a "regular" job to be with my family. I wanted to be with them, but I felt pressed for time and worried about ending the year with no vacation or sick days left. 2014 was the year of illnesses--my own and my mother's. I pray for health in 2015.

On one of the four days I set aside to be with my family (I know I'm lucky I got to be with them) I travelled with my parent's to visit my Dad's family. It's about a six hour drive from my parents' house to the relatives.

It was stressful to get in a car for five hours after flying to visit my parents in the first place. And did I mention that my plane on the way home was delayed and I had to sleep in the airport overnight?

It was. And I did.

So, my patience was low. My holiday had already been stressful. Add to that that being drafted back into the family holiday road trip had a weird going-backwards quality to it. Last year, I attended Christmas for the first time with a "serious" partner. This year he's gone, no one wants to hear about it, and I'm still awash, at times, in anger over how it ended, how badly I feel I was treated, and how poorly I'm dealing with my first real experience of finding out that no matter how careful you are, you can end up in a romantic relationship that isn't good and, no matter how bad that relationship is, it will still hurt worse than you expect to end it.

After a few hours in the car, I ask my Dad to stop at a Sheetz for sandwiches. He says he'd rather stop at a Cracker Barrel. I was surprised, because he usually wants to rush through the drive. But I assumed this was meant to be a nice gesture. We found the restaurant down a winding road of an exit about thirty minutes later and settled in to a table by the window.

I was still curious why my Dad wanted to stop at a Cracker Barrel instead of anywhere else. But I know he likes low-calorie menus, and when I saw they had one, I asked him if it had drawn him to the chain.

"Not really," he said. "I think their food is a good deal."

Which is also true to character for my Dad. Nothing inherently wrong with that.

"Of course, most of those people obviously never order from the healthy menu," he said. He said it loudly enough that I looked around the restaurant and saw those people, wondered if they heard.

Those people.

Those fat people.

Fat people eat bad food.

Fat people can't control themselves.

I heard all the things that he meant.

Maybe it doesn't land the same if you don't know my Dad, how it was meant. But I'm sure I heard all the things I was supposed to hear in that statement.

I don't think my Dad would actually say "fat people." He doesn't need to. He and my mom have made it clear through words and actions over many years who "those people" are.

And there I am, waiting for my order and knowing I'm one of "those people" to them. I know they love me. I know they love me despite what my body looks like. But that doesn't change the fact that "those people" are worth talking about as less than.

About four years ago now, I started my SparkPeople account. I felt drawn back to it today, and I considered starting completely fresh. A new account. New name. New people. New friends.

I lost thirty pounds on SparkPeople over two years. It was the difference for me between an unhealthy BMI and a healthy one. It helped me feel happier, sleep better, and gain energy. All my clothes fit. It was easy to find something to wear, to feel like I was dressed for the occasion. I wasn't hungry. I kept the weight off almost two years before gaining it back fairly quickly, maybe over a year or so at most. Now, I'm heavier than I've ever been. And the scale seems in danger of continuing to creep up.

I felt wonderful in a healthier body. But I hated it when I realized how excited my parents were about my weight loss. It made me feel exposed. It made me feel like my accomplishment was being turned into something that didn't reflect my values or my vision of myself. It also threw into contrast how difficult it has been for them to be cheerleaders for my other accomplishments. The joy with which they celebrated my weight loss highlighted the ways in which other things I've done--and worked just as hard for--have been downplayed or dismissed.

My Dad said he was glad I was healthy, not that I was skinny. And I think he was. But he connects health with weight in a way that goes beyond any evidence of that connection. In my mind, my parents' joy at my weight loss barely masked their contempt for "those people"--even if that meant me, or versions of me.

They're not bad people. My parents. I don't think they are. I also don't think they realize how their words land. My mother told my how pretty I was when I was skinny. She's said it before, but she meant it then, or I heard it differently. Definitely more often. I could hear that a hundred more times before I believe it. If I ever do. But I probably only ever needed to hear about "those people" once to feel ashamed, and I've heard it over and over, in different ways, through my life, whether skinny or "fat" or in-between.

I wanted to defend "those people". I was secure that, intellectually and morally, I rejected those words and the way they were said--privately, judging people as not really people, not us--"those people."

But I can hear those words and believe them so easily, believe the thing that they were saying and confirming as I struggle with what I feel about myself. Struggle with not being at the weight I want while knowing I'll never be happy at any weight if I can't move past words like that--even from people I love.

I want to find a way to tell myself the things I need to know a hundred times and find ways to set aside the things that hurt deeply even if they're only said once, even if they're not aimed at me, even if I've heard them before and I know they don't need to be said in that way, by those people.

My parents.

But every day I look ahead at the long process of becoming healthy again, I am struck again by how much easier it is to hear and believe and know that I'm one of "those people" than it is to feel beautiful or at all worth the effort I know it all takes. I hate my body. I didn't feel that way before. Being happy in my body, in awe of learning to be healthy--that's something I would love to gain back more than I care about losing a single pound.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Many people simply do not understand weight-related issues...............and this lack of understanding crosses all age ranges (young, old, and "mid-range" folks have all "been there")...........

    You have been blessedly forearmed with knowledge and understanding through your experiences (both Spark and non-Spark) can confidently go into the world and make a strong, positive presence known to all around you! This is the best possible work that you can do, for yourself and for those around you!

    May you continue to be strong and hold your head up high!


    2345 days ago
    I have been following a blogger who is reviewing Dr. Judith Beck's book - The Beck Diet Solution, which seems to be a workbook on how to shape your behavior and habits into how to think and behave like a slender person. I have been picking up some pretty good tips from her blogs.


    This might be a useful tool for you.

    Other than that, I would suggest that you try some therapy. You are way too young to have the rest of your life messed up like this by people who love you (even it they do/say ignorant things).

    I hope that you can work things out so that you are comfortable with your body and proud of how it looks.

    2345 days ago
    Hey, Lil, I know where you are coming from. I lived so many years feeling like you do. It wasn't my parents that put me down...I was never as heavy as I am when my parents were alive (they died young), but it was my husband and one of my sisters-in-law who I would feel put down by their unkind words, looks, and innuendos. I still feel inadequate at times, but when I do, I bring myself to remember what my mother's life was like.

    My mother was a wonderful sweet spicy hard working lady. She had a fun sense of humor and everyone absolutely loved her because she loved everyone she met...well almost everyone. She loved my Dad most of all and he loved her, too, but it was in the days when men were the head of the family and women were there to 'take care' of' their men. My mother used to tell my father when it was time for him to take a bath...or I swear he wouldn't do it on his own...back in the day. LOL But, as much as my mother was loved and adored by everyone, she was so self conscious of her weight. When she and my dad were married, she was a skinny little blonde at the age of 18. Then three kids came within 6 years of her marriage and she didn't have the tiny little waistline that she'd had before. As long as I can remember, my mother was trying to lose diet after another. Weight Watchers, Tops, you name it...she was doing it. She rode bike, she started a diet club with her friends and they met at each others homes and exercised to the record of "Chicken Fat". You are too young to know what that is. At least I hope they don't make that old record anymore. But my mother could never lose enough weight or get skinny enough. The most she ever weighed was 200#. (I am certainly over that...I'd love to get back down to that weight again). Why did she work so hard at this and why was she always feeling lousy about her weight? Because my dad kept telling her she was fat. Oh, he didn't say, "You are fat!" But I remember him telling me when I was little, and my kids when they were little that the reason he married my mom was because if he didn't, she would have stepped on him and made him a greasy spot on the floor. And he thought that was funny. So did I when I was a kid...and my kids laughed at it, too when he said it to them. It's only when I got older and heavier that I realized how debilitating that was. It wasn't just the words, it was the attitude that he had that my mother lived with. Add that to the fact that it was a 'woman's responsibility to make her husband happy' or to 'keep him happy' and my mother believed every bit of it. One of her best friends told her that if she'd lose weight, then maybe my dad would want to spend more time with her. This coming from a woman who was way too critical and way too outspoken. But that is the way it was in those days. It wasn't until after my dad died that my mother died. She was 53 years old and she felt 'fat' every day until she got cancer and lost weight from chemo. Then she didn't worry about her weight anymore. She died from the cancer, my she rest in peace.

    I told you about my parents because there is one thing that I learned from them. My mother was the most beautiful person in the world and so many people thought so. But she didn't feel that way because she listened to other peoples opinions of her - people that she loved and respected, etc.. Did my dad purposely try to hurt her regarding her weight? I don't think so...I just think that in that time and day, it was funny to be funny. But it wasn't funny. It was hurtful and degrading and he had no right to talk to my mom in that way or think of her in that way. She did so much good in her life and was so well loved and respected by so many people. She loved so many people...but the one person she didn't love was herself. Not enough anyway to feel good about her self.

    So, I vowed (eventually when I thought this all out about my mom) that I would never be a slave to diets, my husband, or any other person who would put me down because of my weight. My weight is only one part of me. I have gifts and talents and I share them openly and freely with those I meet every day of my family included. I know that God loves me. I had to learn to love myself, too. To get over my own self loathing...I learned it from my Mom's example.

    I know that God loves me....He died on the cross for me. He has blessed me with wonderful husband and children and wonderful parents as well, may they rest in peace.

    I don't like the way I have treated my body. I have at least 75# to lose...hopefully more like a 100. I am working on it day by day. I rise and I fall. I do good one day and poorly two days after that...but I get up every morning and love myself in spite of it.

    I love the gifts and talents that God has granted me and how He shows me how to use them. I'm not perfect in that area of my life either....but I don't hate myself cause I'm not fulfilling all that I could do. I don't hate myself because I haven't been successful in all of the other areas of my why should I hate myself when I fail to follow my diet or lose weight or exercise, etc. etc.

    My hubby gave me a hard time when we were younger about not just my weight, but about all the other things I am lacking in, least in his opinion. But, I learned that that was all it was....just his opinion. I know he loves me, but he's not always right....he not always wise...and he's not perfect. So, in time, I let him know that I would not allow him to state his opinions of my deficiencies in any way that is meant to hurt me or put me down. If he has a problem with something, I encourage him to tell me in a sensitive and loving way. Does it always work, when it doesn't, I stand up to him and let him know how I feel and that I will not allow him to put me down in disrespectful ways.

    Our sister-in-law used to say rude things to me as well about my weight. More than once I informed her that she was being rude and actually told her that if she doesn't love me for who I am, then she doesn't love me enough. In other words, she needs to accept me for who I am or not accept me at all. She has refrained from making the statements since then and things are good. I know she still has a 'thing' about 'fat' people, but that is her problem now and not mine. I don't let her get to me. When she makes a nasty comment about someone else who is overweight, I just consider the source...who it's coming from....and know that it is not worth getting frustrated over.

    I realize I have rambled in this post, but I hope you will find some encouragement in it. Keep your chin yourself because God loves you. He made you and He doesn't make junk. He loves you just as you are. He doesn't see your 'fat' He sees the goodness that is inside of you. God has given you an incredible talent for writing. Your blog was sad, but beautifully written. Thanks be to God!
    2345 days ago
  • no profile photo CD375712
    Parental shame can hang on inside us for years like black mold! Even though they love you, the limits with which they see you do not define you. Rock who you are right now - you are beautiful EXACTLY like you are. Period. No qualifiers. No shallow surface judgments. You. Are. Beautiful.

    2345 days ago
    2345 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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