Talking about fat is never easy, so this post is going to be a doozy.
A frightening, wonderful, scary piece.
I’ve oscillated over posting this A LOT. Ultimately, I believe in the power of transparency and openness, so I’m giving all of you a vulnerable little piece of my heart.
Let me explain though, as this idea is not my own.
Geneen Roth. In her book, Feeding the Hungry Heart, gathers a collection of stories from women that she works with (and her own stories) that I found life changing in my quest to improve my relationship with food. (Anything that has read The Every Woman Story Project will have heard about this book before).
One of those stories was Geneen having a conversation with her fat.
Yep. Her fat.
It inspired the heck out of me.
The writer in me instantly reacted. Brilliance. It was brilliance, I thought. One day, on a whim, (and while fighting with my ever-present self hatred and need to sugar binge) I decided to try it myself as a way to distract myself from a sleeve of Oreos I had bought.
What you are about to read is an edited version that I felt confident enough with to release on my blog. Chunks of it have been removed as it branched into other areas that I didn’t feel I should have on here for privacy’s sake. (My own and others).
Suffice it to say, this still retains most of my original thoughts, especially as they pertained to my thoughts on food. Ever since writing this, the tides in my self care have changed. I now write out conversations just like with all my demons—abandonment, food, fat, and darkness—whenever I face them. It’s how I face the ugliness and see it for what it is.
My hope is that this can inspire someone else the way Geneen inspired me.
A Conversation with Fat
Me: Dear fat, I don’t want to deal with you anymore. I’m tired of seeing you in my legs, and my hips, and my arms, and my stomach. I’m tired of you making me insecure. I’m tired of you haunting me every time I look in the mirror, or make love to my husband, or look at pictures of myself.
Fat: But you put me here.
Me: Yes, I did. But I didn’t mean it.
Fat: You must have, or you wouldn’t have eaten all those Oreo’s or all those fruit snacks and cookies.
Me: So you think it’s a conscious decision to remain fat? That’s insane. If you knew how hard I had dieted, you would never have said that. Besides, all those foods were there and available. Of course I would eat them! What little kid wouldn’t eat fruit snacks and cookies?
Fat: So you’re blaming someone else?
Me: Well . . . I guess a little.
Fat: You’ve been on your own for over ten years. That’s an excuse. A thinking error. It’s not going to slide this time.
Me: I don’t know what to say to that.
Fat: So why are you keeping me with you?
Me: I’m not sure I want to go into it.
Fat: Then you don’t want to fix it.
Me: Because weight and food are attention, maybe. Because if I’m not dieting to improve myself, I may have to do it other ways, like therapy. And then I’d have to feel pain and face demons. That’s scary. Food is belonging. Happy times occur around food. Thanksgiving. Christmas. When I’ve lost weight, people tell me I look good.
Fat: What would happen if you became skinny?
Me: I don’t know.
Fat: Would it scare you to lose a source of attention?
Me: I guess I’ve never thought of it as attention.
Fat: Commiseration over food is a valid way of connecting with people, friends, family members. Food is a source of strength and time and attention. A lot of people seek food as connecting ground with others. It’s also a really good distractor from emotions you don’t want to feel. Like abandonment, rejection, and others. So an excess of food as a way to forget other emotions leads to me.
Me: I never thought of that.
Fat: Maybe you did, but you didn’t realize it. Do you think it’s okay to feel emotions?
Me: I guess not. Well . . . okay maybe, but not desirable. I mean . . . I’m having a hard time not feeling guilt over any food that I push into my mouth, unless it’s really healthy, and even then I feel guilty because I just want to eat brownies or something. Eating makes me happy. Until I’m done, and then it’s all just kind of empty. So, no. I don’t like feeling.
Fat: Food numbs. Kind of like the time you were upset in high school and you ate a whole thing of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.
Me: Yes, I guess it does numb. I mean . . . I can’t even tell you the number of diets I’ve been on. Or the times I didn’t control my eating. Like the diet we went on where there were three groups of food and you could eat as much of a certain type at a certain meal. I think that lasted less than a week. Or Slim Fast. Or sharing my mom’s Phentermine pills. Or the diet pills I tried when I was in high school that were so powerful I couldn’t sleep at night. Then there were liquid diets we went on, and these pills that we took after visiting a natural doctor that were super expensive and did nothing. Weight watchers. Atkins. Vegetarian. Marathon training/running. Gluten free. Paleo. It’s like a hobby now that I look back. A lifestyle, even. That’s kind of freaky. What am I trying to numb so badly?
Fat: Ah. The big question, isn’t it? So you aren’t just letting go of me if you lose weight, but your identity. Your lifestyle. Your source of commiseration with other people. Your source of attention from other people. You lose a lot if you give up dieting.
Me: I guess that’s how it feels, yeah.
Fat: Your grandmother was constantly worried about her weight, but constantly loving through food, too.
Me: Yes, always. She loved all of her grandchildren and children through food. We had dinner with her on Sundays. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Christmas plates and cookies. She’d make us birthday cakes, send us food home. Grandpa’s homemade bread and chicken noodle soup really were amazing.
Fat: So, yet again, it’s not about me, but it’s about connection. Food is a connecting point. A source of warm memories and happiness.
Me: Yes. I think that’s right. So you’re trying to say that I have a belief system that tells me that food is connection, right? But that can’t be ALL bad, and it has to be universal for everyone. And it’s not like I can get rid of food.
Fat: No. The point isn’t to create a false reality and get rid of your temptation. It’s to manage it.
Me: But that still doesn’t deal with my relationship with you: fat and food are different things. I mean . . . I don’t even know if I can imagine what it would be like to not constantly feel insecure about you.
Fat: I’m not the bad guy here. I’m the one that helped you get through the hard times, remember? When you ate, when you were hard on your body? I’m the signal. The thing that says, “Hey, something is wrong here!” I’m a product, not the cause.
Me: A signal?
Fat: When I start to appear because you’re eating more to avoid your emotions, what does that mean?
Me: That I’m avoiding emotions.
Fat: Precisely. I’m a warning. A signal that something is wrong that you aren’t fixing. I’m a friend.
Me: Ah . . . I‘m beginning to see, I think.
Fat: Despite a less-than-perfect relationship between us, you survived what you had to survive. And now you see me for what I am—a coping mechanism. A testament to getting through the hard times. But I don’t have to stay around. That’s up to you.
Me: So, basically, I need to work through my emotions so that I don’t turn to food and create more of you.
Me: When I’m turning to food, I’m really running away.
Me: So this really isn’t about you at all, is it? It’s not about finding the right diet, or the right amount of calories, or the right exercises. It’s more about dealing with my emotional crap than not.
Fat: Your relationship with me is very dependent on your relationship with your body, and then with food. The more you listen to your body, the less you’ll need me.
Me: I didn’t expect that.
Fat: It’s really quite simple, when you get down to it.
Me: So how do I do this? What do I do next?
Fat: Give it time, intention, and a lot of grace. You have demons to face. Demons from the past and demons from every day life. It’s going to take awhile to shift your mindset, but once you stop seeing food as an escape and learn to listen to your body for hunger cues—not your mind or your heart—it will all start to make sense. But it won’t be easy. And it will be constant. But it’s so much better facing the demons than living with them every single day.
Me: It doesn’t sound easy.
Fat: Nothing good ever is.
Note: This is a piece of writing, it’s not advice. Don’t take it as such. It’s not the end-all-be-all of food relationships. It’s simply an exercise I attempted out of desperation one day that led to a big change in behavior for me. That doesn’t mean it will ring true with everyone. If this triggers you, I’m sorry. That’s not my intention. But I hope you can see some truth in it. Can sense some sincerity in the words. And maybe feel a bit more inspired to take on your own demons. If you’re really struggling, or want to make a change, please go see a professional doctor or counselor to discuss your options.
As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments or share with your friends!
If you’re looking for more of my writing about food and our relationship with it as women, grab your free e-book of my award winning Chick Lit novel Bon Bons to Yoga Pants.