This morning when I was reflecting on what I wanted to right about in this weeks blog I found myself contemplating how often during therapy women identify that weight has become a protection from something. I believe this had been true for me as well. It is possible that men may experience this too but I have not spoken to any men for whom this is true.
What am I talking about?
Sometimes people with low self-esteem or who have experienced some kind of sexual abuse in childhood develop a coping strategy to avoid unwanted attention. This involves making themselves as unattractive as possible and in some cases this means packing on the pounds.
When I think about my own experience I can see this pattern very clearly. My self worth as a young women was very low, as a child I had experienced abuse from a visitor to our home and sadly my father’s attitude to women was disrespectful. All of this added up to create a confusing template within me.
As a teenager I was not overweight but thought I was. I received a lot of attention from young men and quite frankly I was desperate for love and approval. I didn’t think I had much to offer but somehow I thought that being sexually available would make them love me! Sadly the kind of men I was attracting at this point in my life were not interested in love and had similar attitudes to women as my father. As a result my self-esteem got lower particular when I “put up” with an advance from someone I was not interested in.
Then I got married and started to worry. Fidelity was a high value for me and even though right from the start the marriage was abusive I wanted to be faithful. The only trouble was I worried about maintaining boundaries and saying “no”. Unconsciously I found a solution. I put on weight so I wouldn’t have to be in a position to say “no” to an unwanted advance. This worked and during my short marriage I was faithful and didn’t have to handle any difficult situations.
Then I started addressing my self-esteem issues. I mentioned in an earlier blog the fantastic personal development course I attended called “The Turning Point”. Over the span of a weekend my self-esteem went from zero to healthy. As a result I removed myself from the unhealthy relationship I was in and surprisingly or not the weight fell off.
The old issues of boundaries arose again and I had some interesting learnings. The big moment came when I finally made the complete transition internally about my worth. I had been dating a man for about three weeks and one evening he rang me up. He started telling me about a woman he was in love with who wasn’t interested in him. Now he wasn’t breaking up with me, he was just sharing his feelings!
I listened to this for about five minutes and then heard myself quite calmly say:
“I’m not really interested in this conversation and have decided I’d rather not see you any more. Good luck for the future. Goodbye.”
I calmly and quietly hung up the phone, no drama, no excitement just a clear stating of my boundaries. In the past I would have tried to convince him that I could heal his broken heart and that I could give him what this other woman was denying him. I would not have realised that I was disrespecting myself. I would have got caught up in the drama of it all.
It felt to me like this was a turning point in my life. My weight went up and down a few times over the years for other reasons but this dragon had been faced. I didn’t have to put on weight to get rid of unwanted attention I could just say how I felt. This was somewhat of a revelation.
If you realise that your weight is part of a protection strategy and you want to make a change let me know. Here are some ideas to help you process your thoughts.
- Start by writing down what you are trying to protect yourself from.
- Is it working?
- If “yes” acknowledge to yourself how successful you’ve been.
- Now ponder this, if you could find an alternative way to get the same result would you be interested?
- If “no” acknowledge that too and reflect on how it would be useful to get a new strategy.
- For you ponder, if you could find a successful strategy that would give you the result you want would you be interested?
- Now brainstorm some alternate strategies and how you will acquire the necessary skills to use them.
Let me know how you get on.