Ghosts of the past

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Yesterday my mother told me, “Those shorts make you look slimmer.”

This is the second time she’s commented on my shorts making me “look” slimmer. It seems like an benign statement, perhaps even a compliment, but it’s what I read between the lines that stung. She never says that I look slimmer, it’s always the jeans making me look slimmer, or the shirt, or my hair. I’ve lost almost 50 pounds since December 2010, it’s not the jeans that make me look slimmer- I am slimmer.

My mother would never say that though. She has said that I looked like I gained a lot of weight, on more than one occasion. She’s commented that I would be beautiful if I’d lose 10 more pounds, even when I was at a good BMI. But never anything straightforward about my weight-loss. Usually, when I tell her that I’ve lost weight she says this about herself, “I really need to lose weight. I’m so fat, UGH.” The woman weighs 50 pounds less than me, and wears clothing many sizes smaller than me. So, she just makes me feel disgusting, while I’m trying to tell her how well I’m doing.

It’s not just her though. I get comments a lot about how I should lose weight, have I considered this or that.

I just want to say this now, fat people own mirrors too. I knew I was fat before anyone else did. I own a scale. These comments don’t help anyone, especially the person they’re being cast upon. We’re either going to help ourselves or we’re not. I wish people would offer more encouragement than criticism when it comes to weight issues. Although, to be honest, compliments can hurt too. I guess there’s really no winning.

Anyway, I’ve learned to motivate myself. I’m losing weight for me now. So while her comments stung, I’m not taking them to heart. I had to listen to 27 years of her (and the rest of my families) comments and criticisms, I know that I’ll never be pretty in her eyes because she’s projecting her own body image issues onto me. That doesn’t mean that it won’t still sting when she says something rude, but at least I don’t let it burrow and fester anymore.

In high school it was really bad. I had my father constantly talking crap about overweight women, my mother doing the same, even my brothers. At the same time, I was wearing plus sized clothing, boys never asked me out, and my older sister (who had been anorexic) was the “pretty one”. I really hated myself, I weighed 180 pounds but when I looked in the mirror I saw someone much bigger.

They say that anorexia runs in families. I don’t believe it’s genetic, maybe a predisposition, but I believe that it has to do with the home environment. The words, or lack of, that torment one person into starving themselves, is highly likely to do it to another. I think that was the case for me and my sister. She became anorexic, and suddenly she was beautiful in everyone’s eyes. Unsurprisingly, the same thing happened to me. I was 17, and I was anorexic without realizing it. I lost 25 pounds in a month, and suddenly everyone thought I was pretty.

It was this distortion that led me to be anorexic for almost two years. I ate, mind you, but my typical day consisted of this: no breakfast, lettuce and cheese for lunch, rice and a chicken breast for dinner, and a soda. That’s it. One time, a year later, I remember eating one can of corn for dinner. Do you know how many calories are in a can of corn? Not much. I’d always eat around people, but when no one was around I didn’t really eat. That’s why no one realized what I was doing to myself.

I didn’t even realize I had a problem until I started passing out. I was only down to 130 pounds, but I was extremely malnourished and anemic. My case was very mild, and I’m so thankful it didn’t get worse. My sister was worse, and even to this day admits she still has issues with it.

For me, the lasting effect was a fear of limiting myself. I was afraid of dieting because I knew what I was capable of. It’s not a huge step from limiting your calories and dealing with the hunger by saying, “I don’t need that,” to telling yourself that you don’t need any of it and that food is disgusting.

I also learned to never trust what I see in the mirror. Because believe me, at 130 pounds I wasn’t just saying I was fat… I really, honest to god, thought I was fat. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a girl who could stand to lose a few pounds. I didn’t see the beautiful young woman I was. I didn’t see what my boyfriend (now husband) saw in me at the time.

My husband helped bring me out of that fog, and I don’t ever plan to go back there. This time, I’m going to lose the weight the right way. I’m going to build healthy habits, and change my lifestyle for the better.

I haven’t ever really talked about this to anyone before, I mean my case was very mild. I feel like a fraud, but it was very real at the time. Eating 500 calories a day isn’t healthy but I did it anyway. It scares me how deluded I was, and how I could do something like that to myself without even realizing that I was doing it. It’s one of the ghosts to my past.

I overcame it though, and I overcame the comments and shit I put up with. I survived the people feeding my anorexia with compliments, and the people feeding my obesity with insults. This is a new day, and a new life.

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3 responses »

  1. My family is very similar. Doesn’t help that I’m the biggest one and then the give advice on top of everything. Having PCOS doesn’t help the situation either. But you are doing great and you look great. It isn’t just the clothes. The most important thing is to eat healthy and exercise which is what you are doing, that is the only true way to be “healthy”.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this story. It’s not easy to deal with weight and to find ourselves comfortable in our own skin. Society paints this photoshopped image of how we should look. Our own families do the same. Just remember that no matter how much you weigh, it’s about being healthy. It’s not about the BMI as much as it’s about your happiness and health! Having energy to keep up with your soon-to-be-mobile son and knowing that your husband finds you beautiful is ALL that matters. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you’re on this journey to reclaim yourself. Do this for you, your husband and your son, not for your mom or anyone else. You’re a beautiful person!

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