Monday, September 5, 2011

Is Your Body Acceptable?

First of all, I want to say a huge “thank you” to everyone who participated in the conversation last week as I launched this new topic. And a special thanks to those of you who shared a part of your story—I appreciate your vulnerability and transparency. I offer you today’s post in the same spirit.

I must begin my story today with a very important clarification. The story below displays my dad in a not-so-favorable light, therefore I think it’s absolutely necessary to tell you that I highly esteem my father, and he is, in all honesty, one of the most loving and giving people I know. At the time of this story, he was going through a very difficult and painful period in his life and in many ways wasn’t “himself” or the man I know him as today.

At the same time, I felt it was important to name him in this story because I believe parents and other influential adults need to be extremely careful about the words they speak into the lives of their children. They will have lifelong ramifications, either good or bad.

Okay, enough of the pomp and circumstance, let’s get to the nitty gritty.

As I wrote about last Monday, by the age of 7 I’d already firmly established myself in the role of an emotional eater. So when my parents’ marriage split up when I was in fifth grade, I dealt with it by, you guessed it, eating.
I had always been a “daddy’s girl” so when my dad left, I felt a loss that my 10 year old mind couldn’t cope with. Simply put, I missed him terribly. So I ate to fill that loss but it just kept leaking out the bottom of my soul and my only solution was to keep feeding it.

Then one day, during a weekend visit with my dad, my eating issue got compounded about a hundred fold. I remember sitting at a small table in the middle of a Pizza Hut, eating lunch with him, when he said to me, “You know, you’re gonna have to stop eating so much. You’re getting fat.”

And suddenly and irrevocably the floodgates opened. Up until that point, I was definitely aware that I was chubbier than my other friends, but it didn’t define me. I still liked me despite my extra rolls. But when my dad said “you’re getting fat,” what started as the loss of his regular presence in my life evolved into complete and total rejection by him. My heart had translated his above comment into: “If you are fat, you are unacceptable.” I know he didn’t mean for me to interpret his words that way, but I did all the same.

Over twenty years later, I still struggle with the self-loathing that began on that day.

What was the “moment” that created the body concept that you have today? Do you find your body “acceptable”?


  1. I have finally begun therapy this year, but mostly to deal with my grief-related depression due to the loss of my husband Kevin. One of the big issues that I hope to tackle, but really haven't gotten to yet, is my emotional eating. Oddly enough, my dad has made comments of the same, but I don't recall him making them until the past 10 years of my life: adulthood! I think it was almost hardest to hear these comments now, after already being an emotional eater, than as a child. At this point, what do I do? I have emotionally eaten now for 17+ years of my life. I have gained weight, and twice now have worked VERY strategically and hard to lose it. Now, I'm gaining again, constantly mentally beating myself up. I've never been a binge eater (or maybe I was and now I just overeat) but I constantly reward myself with food. This came back hard after Kevin's death, rewarding myself for just surviving everyday without him. It's a big hurdle to tackle. I believe most of my emotional eating started when I was a slightly chubby kid, but then became the first girl in my class to develop boobs and then, a period. I was set out amongst everyone else and I became and instant target for bullies. I had parent-parent meetings because the bullying became so bad. I was never a HUGE kid, just a little fat/chubby and I liked to be different. I wore makeup, I wore these really weird heeled combat boots, I had boobs. I became a target, and it began...Now, those weird things that one targeted me for bullies is actually why so many like me, because I'm not like everyone. Anyways, I just wanted to share the core. Sorry for taking over the blog with one comment-I've done this to your hubby too heh!

  2. Brenda, thanks so much for sharing your story. There are so many areas where I can relate (especially the whole "first boobs/period thing"; that was a particularly traumatizing time for me). One topic,"reward eating", is something I want to discuss on this blog sometime soon. I know a lot of people can relate to that idea (myself included) and I've recently come to some realizations about it. Please never apologize for taking your time (and this blog's space) sharing your experience; that's what it's here for and I'm so happy to have your perspective. Thanks again!

  3. Brenda posted this on her FB page, I also suffer from "reward eating" after my husband's passing. I did the opposite of you when my parents divorced. I was 10, I stopped eating. And I mean stopped, maybe an apple a day. I decided I didn't want to live that unhealthy way anymore late in high school. When I met my husband he helped me gain weight, unfortunately quite a bit of weight. I lost it all- quite a bit, when my husband passed. And again I'm putting it back on a year later. I'm starting to wonder if I can control it at all. Thank you for your interesting and relevant post.

  4. JTay, thanks so much for sharing. Although I never actually went down the road of anorexia, I think it's a subject that a lot of women can relate to. I appreciate your honesty and I'm so glad you stopped by to join the conversation today!

  5. I completely and utterly relate to this and have not been able to get in front of it in my own life. I had a similar conversation with my own dad in middle school that I remember with the vivid clarity that comes with a lightning bolt moment. thank you for sharing :) coral

  6. Coral, I'm always amazed how these small conversations during our formative years can lead to huge struggles throughout our lives. Thanks so much for reading and sharing.