Recently, my husband and I were invited to one of his coworker’s homes. In the past, accepting such an invitation was out of the question for me. With my back pain, mobility issues, and the uncertainty associated with situating my large body in unknown surroundings that I may not fit in, my husband always knew that I could not go to another person's home. It was physically impossible when I couldn’t walk 5 minutes without great pain, and very stressful because of the potential trauma involved in finding myself in a situation where I was so fat I might not fit due to my girth.
Now that my back pain is almost reduced to the point that it is not an issue except in the longest sojourns and my size is about two-thirds of what it once was, the possibility of my taking part in such social situations has been opened up again. This may look like some sort of achievement, but it actually is something that makes me uncomfortable and causes stress. I’m not necessarily keen to subject myself to unknown situations despite the low probability of any sort of difficulty arising due to my size. Though now that my weight is likely in the 260 range rather than the high 300’s, I still don’t feel comfortable visiting other people’s homes because I need control, and I don’t have it when I’m not in my own home.
Control has always been an issue for me and I have had very significant problems emotionally in any circumstance in which I feel acutely out of control. The thought of having to go to a government office to apply for something that I need but may be turned down for would stress me out for weeks before the appointed time. My sense of not having control over the approval process caused a great deal of anxiety for me. It may seem ironic that someone who needs control to such an unrealistic extent would live the majority of her life to date completely out of control with food, but I’m sure that these factors are linked in a way that is not yet clear to me. Perhaps there is only so much one’s psyche can expend energy on in terms of taking control, and food is where I have traditionally let myself be out of control. It may have been the release valve. It’s something that needs to percolate a bit longer before I figure out the connections.
I believe that most of my control issues are not the result of some biologically induced compulsion, but rather related to my upbringing. My father is an alcoholic. My mother has always had significant mood issues and was verbally abusive throughout my life. That home life coupled with the daily torment I received from everyone around me at school and in public because I was fat, instilled in me an intense need to have control in order to escape the suffering I experienced. Having control meant I wouldn’t be hurt. Not having it meant I was exceedingly vulnerable.
One of the things that I am vigilant about at this point in time is how many changes in lifestyle I take on as a result of my “improved” condition. That is, I am aware that being fatter than I am now served me well in many ways psychologically because it gave me the power to say “no” with excuses that could not be considered arbitrary or selfish. If I was in too much pain to walk somewhere, no one could blame me for not going. Now, the only reason not to go is that I simply do not want to, either because I prefer to do something else, or I have a need for control that is not really rational but not having it causes me stress nonetheless.
Since I, like many other people who have been fat all of their lives, believe others have the right to control me (since so many of them have tried through bullying, judging, pushing me to lose weight, etc.), it is hard for me to simply refuse because that is what I want to do. I think that part of what might compel me to stop losing weight or start regain is not asserting my needs and wishes actively and without guilt at this point in time. It is imperative that I refuse when I want to refuse regardless of the reason so that I don’t start to conclude that losing weight or being smaller is going to result in a loss of control for me over other parts of my life.
While I initially told my husband that I was open to visiting his coworker, who has visited us and is a lovely person to talk with, I changed my mind after pondering all of this. I know he is disappointed, but he understands the choice I have made and that I may have to continue to say “no” in the future. It’s something I have to do for myself as a means of giving myself the power that being fatter once gave me.