Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spoiled AND abused... but never loved

So, I realized I needed to lose weight again - I'd been spoiling myself with too much greasy food, beer, and sweets lately, feeling emotional and vulnerable more than usual. It was almost openly and explicitly self-destructive, and I felt with every bite how I'm ruining my body because I hate myself.

But I can only approach this task in yet another self-destructive way - by abusing my body with too little food and too much exercise. Otherwise, there's no motivation at all.

So I wondered why it was hard for me to find a balance and just get healthy. And then it hit me: "healthy" is an empty word I distrust, much like "love," "mom" and "dad."

It's not a simple matter of finding balance between two extremes - it's about loving myself enough to want good things, like being healthy, for myself, in which case there are no extremes to balance. They disappear.

I cannot do that. I can only overindulge or overdiscipline myself to an unhealthy degree.

Much like my parents did to me. Much like all parents who can't love their children do. Extremes of indulging and abusing the child all at the same time. Lavish praise and cruel put-downs, huge expensive presents and going without shoes, being allowed to drink myself half to death until 5AM and not being allowed to opt out of going to a family lunch when sick and in pain.

It's only possible when there's no love for the child. When you're unable to truly love. When you're trying to sing from a sheet of music but you're tone-deaf.


  1. "'healthy' is an empty word I distrust, much like 'love,' 'mom' and 'dad.'"

    This is really compelling. I'm going to have to sit with this thought for a while and see whether or not it's true for me, too. Like you, I find it hard to find a balance between overindulgence and deprivation. I also wonder if the mom/dad emptiness is why it doesn't bother me in the slightest if my children call me by my first name. Some people feel really strongly about that.

  2. I have similar problems, compounded by the fact that both my parents have always tried to control me/humiliate me around food and weight issues. When I was 17 my dad gave me a picture he'd taken of me at a barbecue. It was a view of me from behind. He said he thought it would encourage me to lose weight because obviously it was terribly embarrassing for me to look like that. My mum regularly used to taunt me to tears at the dinner table, and watched everything I ate (so much so that I used to go hungry, and then steal food later.) So everything to do with food and weight for me is totally bound up with self-hatred.

    'Healthy' has always been a negative word in my life - a stick to beat me with. I have to say that sometimes I quite like being fat, though. I feel strong, and solid, like you can't just knock me down. It's protective. It makes you invisible to some people, but also lets you take up space in the world. Being fat is a much maligned thing, but to me it has a lot of positive sides.

    Having said all that, I know it's really hard to find a balance. It has been for me. I think I am fitter and stronger and getting a bit slimmer, but it is an emotional rollercoaster. I hope that you ultimately find a way for this stuff to work for you.

  3. Yes, fatness can be an armoring and simplifying advantage despite its many drawbacks. It really is something to give up, not a win-only kind of change.

    Does it help to think about who else's life might have been made more convenient by your not being viewed as attractive?

    Seems to me like what works is to focus that sense of need on something other than food or anxiety -- to turn the familiar driving energy into outward-looking eagerness for love, for good work, for adventure. Not easy to do on purpose but sometimes it happens.

    - GKA

  4. Wow this makes so much sense. I am struggling with loosing weight again. I am learning about healthy choices from my daughter. She encouraged me to try dancing for exercise. I am really enjoying it. I found a new way to treat myself without it being food. But this for me is huge. I am wondering if the increase of self hatred comes before the weight gain. I feel like you gave me another puzzle piece that I was working on. thanks.

  5. I'm honored if it helped, Ruth.

    Seems like a lot of the diet advice out there encourages people to thwart or criminalize the eager, hungry parts of their own selves, when those parts of the self actually need to come to the surface and take hold of something more meaningful than food. Self-amputation as praiseworthy "self-discipline". If it doesn't work psychologically to disclaim a part of one's self, why would that work as a way to lose weight?

    Come to think of it, I guess this connects up with the line of feminist rhetoric about diet advice as a way of teaching women to suppress their inconvenient appetites in general.

    - GKA


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