Tuesday, September 30, 2003
I'll Show You
posted by Julie |
I was a chunky kid. Not a really obese kid, but chunky, soft, had a round belly, round thighs, round arms. Of course this body shape on an adolescent girl strikes terror in the hearts of parents. In my day parents lived in fear that their daughters would become fat. Today parents are both afraid their daughters will become fat and afraid their daughters will become obsessed with weight.
Their fears are well founded.
I had these concerned parents, bolstered by brothers who enjoyed teasing. Oh, and school kids who teased mercilessly, and all the same constant reviews and commentary that all adolescent girls face when they are not lean. I don't know if I overate at meals then, but I do know that I engaged in spiteful eating.
This was eating I would do when somebody told me not to eat, or suggested I should lose weight, or in some way tried to control my weight for me. I would grab a handful of cookies, a package of crackers and some peanut butter or cheese, a bowlful of whatever was around and retire to my room, lock the door, and eat.
I spent my allowance on food, and my little sister's allowance too (until she finally outgrew her gullibility, a very sad day for me). I would eat furiously, splayed out and fuming on my psychedelic bedspread or shag carpeting, listening to Donny Osmond and munching down frozen cookie dough and the Christmas cookies that mom thought she had hidden. Mad at somebody or some thing, these small binges were my way to get even. I didn't want advice. I didn't want help. I didn't want anybody to say anything about my weight.
I knew, even then, that my weight was my business.
And, I was right.
I wasn't right to use food to handle my anger, but my indignation was perfectly appropriate. What I lacked at 11, 12, 13 years old was a way to handle these situations. I needed a collection of one-liners that would let brothers and bullies know that their teasing about my weight was stupid. I needed a way to let my parents and concerned adults know what kind of help I did need from them and what I didn't. I just didn't have the tools.
At some point in my life, after eating myself through several situations that made me frustrated, sad, or angry, I realized I'd never really found good ways to deal with any kind of conflict. I pretty much reached for food each time. My little brain is so fast, so efficient, the grooves so deeply cut, that I've got food in my hand almost before I know that there is something wrong.
But I learned to use a journal. I learned a whole host of techniques (writing dialogues, role playing my adversaries' roles, planning a future conversation, dreaming of witty comebacks, drawing, making all manner of lists) for writing out my frustrations, my losses.
By getting things down and reasoning them out, we can work through anger in relationships, work through frustrations within our families, manage the losses life hands us, listing pros and cons for tough decisions, performing the various gut-checks, heart-checks, head-checks we need when faced with a stressful project, event, period.
So your assignment, should you choose to accept it: Think about whether you've used food to spite somebody. Is angry eating a part of your history? Do you gnash your way through a few hundred calories you didn't really need, just to get your teeth into something?
First write to remember those events, a few of them, some long-ago ones and some recent ones.
And then choose a time, recently, when this emotional eating was a problem for you. Try to remember what caused these feelings, define the feelings, and have a good write in your journal. Record what happened and how you felt about it.
Consider what you needed at the time. Did you need something that only somebody else could provide? Or did you need something you could have provided for yourself? What was it? Do you still need it? Did someone hurt your feelings? Did you let them know at the time or later that what they said bothered you? Do you know why the comment bothered you? Is it reasonable to be so bothered by this comment, or can you shrug it off as misinformed, shortsighted, small-minded and let it go?
And as always, if working on these assignments brings up feelings that are bigger and harder than you can handle on your own, please remember it's very easy to get help with them. A counselor, friend, or member of the clergy is a phone call or email away. And they can help a lot.
If your feelings have to do with your family, your parents or sibs, consider having a talk with them about it now that you're all grown up. You may be surprised what you learn. I learned that my Dad's advice about weight loss had to do with his own experience of growing up fat and not wanting me to live through it. It helps me to remember that he was doing everything he could think of to be a good Dad and protect his little girl. My brothers were simply finding my weakest point, because that's what siblings do. I did the same to them. I was just as mean. We're all over that now.
The fact that I internalized a habit to deal with those things? I did that to myself. And it's really up to me to fix it. It's my brain. My body. My life. I have to find my own new ways to react. I'm learning.
And if you choose to, you can too, best beloveds,
Stop Eating Your Anger, Woman's Day
Anger and Personality in Eating Disorders
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