Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Inner Masochist

The past five days or so have been difficult for me. From a mental point of view, it has felt like a real backslide. I've found myself hungry all of the time, watching the clock to see when I can eat again, and daydreaming about food while I'm working. Part of this, I believe, is biological as it could be PMS. Part of it, however, may be psychological.

Though I can say that I have done a pretty good job of beating back my impulses, the fact that these thought patterns have re-emerged after their having gone blissfully dormant for awhile has disturbed me. I had felt that I'd turned a corner and was living much closer to a "normal" (i.e., non-food-obsessed) existence for once in my life. With all of these mental struggles circling back around, I've been beating myself up for falling back into old patterns.

I have come to wonder if part of the resurgence of these patterns is related to some sort of unconscious need to find a reason to degrade myself. After all, my inner dialog for most of my life has matched the outer responses to my appearance. People let me know I disgusted them, so I told myself I was disgusting. People let me know that I was weak-willed and self-indulgent for wanting to eat too much, so I told myself I was a horrible pig.

Playing these negative inner mantras for myself day-in and day-out for much of my life is probably one of those routines that is hard to break. It is similar to the problems I discussed in my post on redefinition of ones identity. They need to be purposefully replaced with new thought patterns in order to vanquish them. If I do not make a concerted effort, then the vacuum will be filled with the old inner dialog, and that dialog cannot be motivated unless I'm either eating the way I used to or at the very least desiring to eat the way I used to.

What I realized today was that I have been castigating myself over the past few days for a backslide, but not one in which I have been eating too much or off of my desired plan. I've been berating myself for thinking about wanting to eat too often. In the absence of actual behavior to form a self-hating inner monolog, I have found a way to tear myself down for the equivalent of a "thought crime."

All I can conclude at this point in time is that my inner masochist was caught off-guard by the positive normality of my existence for the last several weeks. Since my ability to hold myself in check in terms of outward behavior thwarted some twisted need to hate on myself, I found a way to gratify that need by just thinking about such things.

The truth is that I think I'm not yet ready to love myself, and that deep down I still feel unworthy of anyone's love. The lack of worthiness is not merely rooted in my body (though it has found a way to brilliantly motivate and manifest itself thanks to my body for decades), but in my spirit. I've had so many incredible years of unconditional and oft-professed love from my husband, but that hasn't actually undone the damage to me that was inflicted in my childhood by my parents and those who I grew up around. On some level, I believe I'm duping him or that he loves me because of his greatness as a human being rather than mine. Some part of me still wants to think poorly of myself, and that part is asserting itself rather strongly at this point in time.

Among the many inner dialogs that I must battle to change, this one has been added to the list. If I really want to succeed in mastering my relationship with food, I have to deal with this need to self-hate, or I will find that I'll create reasons to do so. The easiest way to go back to a state of self-loathing is to do what I have always done, and that is something I absolutely do not want to allow to happen.

9 comments:

emmabovary said...

First of all, I am so pleased to have been pointed towards your blog. It is so rare to read an intelligent voice in the realms of weight-centered blogs out here in the sphere. It is equally rare to read a blog that does not stuff itself with platitudes and received ideas. Your critical examination of the cliches surrounding weight loss and weight management are much appreciated. How wonderful to find a writer who truly thinks.

I find nuggets of gold in all your posts, but this one is especially compelling. When we grow up fat, we also grow up surrounding by the reaction to our fat, and that outside view becomes part of our internal "truth". Much of what you've stated in the post is my truth, too, especially concerning love and self-worth.

Now I worry because one of my daughters is overweight, at 13. We live in Paris, in a society which has no tolerance for women who are not thin and beautiful (indeed, it is better to be a smoker in Parisian society than to be fat) and my daughter gets hit with the "you are fat = you are unworthy" message at school, at her (French) grandparents', on Facebook...all around her. Even if I succeed in instilling in her that her self-worth has nothing to do with her weight, I know that these societal messages will overrule anything I can do for her; at least that was my own experience and my sense it is the human experience.

How I wish I could spare her this.

Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts and your story; I find your words valuable and thought-full.

screaming fatgirl said...

Hi, emmabovary, and thanks so much for your kind, complimentary words. It really is appreciated.

I think it's sad, but almost certainly true, that most of us experience the same sort of externally imposed internal dialog. I think that trying to stop that dialog is a big part of what motivates fat acceptance blogs.

I can feel your pain in regards to your daughter's situation since I live in an Asian country where thinness is the overwhelming norm and my weight brings a great deal of negative attention. Removed from our native culture, things become even more complicated and punitive. It must be much harder for your daughter at her age.

I've read that the French are obsessed with weight and that French women are some of the thinnest in the world. I've read that they are inordinately preoccupied with their bodies and appearance and it definitely doesn't surprise me that they prefer people smoke than be overweight.

It is heartening that you are on your daughter's side and can at least try to counteract some of the messages she's receiving. For me, my mother offered me mixed messages which filled me with anxiety and made me feel that I wasn't to be loved unless I met certain standards. Having you on her side will be very meaningful for your daughter, though I fear, as you do, that it won't be enough.

Thank you again for your generous words, and my best to you.

NewMe said...

When I was in Paris in my 20s and svelter than I am now, I was chastised by an esthetician about both my skin and my weight. A friend of mine who's originally from Morocco and speaks impeccable French was told in a clothes store in Paris that they had nothing for "people like her" (comme vous, madame) because she was overweight. I realize that in France, it's just par for the course, but it makes me furious.

A few years ago, after suffering my third ruptured disc, I went to a new acupuncturist, a Japanese man, who immediately lit into me because of my weight. I was practically in tears and stopped going to see him. I started working with a yoga therapist instead. The first time I went to her, I said up front that I didn't want a lecture on my weight. She was shocked that it would even be an issue. We've been working together for four years and she's done me a world of good.

It's ridiculous that no one has realized that belittling words have never helped anyone to make positive changes in their life.

screaming fatgirl said...

I think such belittlement NEVER has to do with actually wanting to help people. People may believe superficially that they're trying to help. They may even convince themselves of that, but it's always about feeling superior to others.

I can't believe that someone that you went to for help felt that it was his place to jump all over you about your weight. Japanese men though, are probably worse than others because they feel that men inherently have a higher status and a right to deal with women paternalistically. It reflects the attitude of the doctors in that country. That being said, a practitioner who is not operating in Japan cannot carry their cultural values to yours and was really over the top abusive.

It makes me angry, too.

NewMe said...

"I think such belittlement NEVER has to do with actually wanting to help people. People may believe superficially that they're trying to help. They may even convince themselves of that, but it's always about feeling superior to others."

Truer words were never spoken.

That's also why I often take "advice" from those who have never experienced the problem (whatever it may be) themselves with a grain of salt.

Sometimes, that means that I feel really isolated, but thanks to the Internet, I find myself connecting with people who at least have an inkling of what's I'm experiencing, even though each person's life is unique.

Anonymous said...

"I have found a way to tear myself down for the equivalent of a 'thought crime'."

WOW.

That line hit my consciousness, hard. Makes me wonder how many thousands of times I've gotten angry with myself for feeling "too hungry" or for having thoughts about wanting more food, for instance. I am reminded also how many characteristics I share with ED bloggers, both those in active recovery and those in the midst of their "diseases".

I wouldn't discount the cyclical (female) aspect of increased hunger and corresponding increased food thoughts. I used to restrict quite severely for approximately 2weeks during the month (without expending much effort), and then I seriously *overate* for about a week, just before my period (when I was still menstruating.) I ate *normally* for about a week out of the month. I know these patterns were related to my cycle. I don't know how much was physiological and how much was psychological, not that those two processes are so easily separated in reality.

This is the very first year I haven't had a period, so I guess I'm in menopause now, and I notice much less fluctuation in my hunger level. It is far easier for me to discern when I want to eat more for emotional reasons vs. when my body is requesting more calories because I have been more active.

This aspect of aging has come as a very welcome surprise to me.

Anonymous said...

I commented earlier but forgot to sign my name. Plus, I totally missed the main point of your post. I think it was too painful for me at first. This "self loathing" of which you write runs deep in me. It is a need. Easily targeted by weight issues, which are really beside the point. I mean, the weight and/or overeating is just a convenient aspect of self at which to point. Remove those and the self loathing simply reappears in another guise. I hope you will write more about this topic. I need to investigate it more for myself. This *issue* will require a lot more work on myself than I ever realized. A lot more than is required by a diet.

-Rebecca

emmabovary said...

In reading the comment stream here, I just wanted to share this incredible, but not surprising, experience I had a couple of days ago. I was interviewing a new psychiatrist for the daughter I spoke about in my initial comment (unrelated to weight, but for some deep behavioral challenges she has). The psychiatrist, a French man and well-regarded for his work with adolescents, was taking a patient history. He asked me at what age my daughter first walked. I responded that she walked late, and added, "she was a large baby, and late walking is common in that case, I think."

Out of the blue, this DOCTOR said:

"Large baby. That's not a surprise. I see the mother".

Years ago, I would have been embarassed to respond; I never would have found the voice to stand up for myself. But I'm 51 and have lived in France for over half my life and have learned NEVER to let these rude (in my culture) comments slide. So I looked the guy straight in the eye and said with the greatest sarcasm:

"Thank you".

He flushed red (to his credit) and apologized, citing "French humour" as his justification.

In closing, let me state that comments about body size are culturally accepted here; they are not necessarily "digs" or meant to chastize. I jumped on him because in my birth culture these comments are considered rude and misplaced, but for the French they are not necessarily impolite.

Still, he needed to know it was not welcome.

all best to all here,
EB

NewMe said...

I just re-read my second comment. It should read: I DON'T take advice from those who have never experienced the problem. Major change of meaning.

emmabovary:
I work with a woman from France and she can be absolutely scathing in her comments about people. She thinks that North Americans are hypocritical because they don't "tell the truth". Yes, it is a cultural difference difference and a big one at that. Hats off to you, though, for putting that doctor in his place or at least alerting him to the difference in how "les Anglo-saxons" perceive things.