Friday, February 15, 2008

The Way I See It

I have spent most of my "adult" years overweight. Perhaps it's not surprising when you consider that I've had three children, and spent most of those years taking care of them, and less taking care of myself. However, I know that there is far more to my past obesity (present obesity withstanding since I put the weight on during my current pregnancy and will be working my rear off to drop it again) than simply having three children. For years, I either ignored my "fat" body, or rationalized about it. I learned to love me the way I was and ignored the risks to my health and joints caused by my obesity.

As much as I dislike admitting my regular viewer-ship of reality TV, I have become a huge fan of NBC's "The Biggest Loser". Just a few weeks ago, Jillian, one of the trainers on the show told her team that there was always an underlying emotional reason for someone's obesity, and that until a person uncovered and dealt with that emotional reason for their obesity, they could not maintain any weight loss for a lifetime.

That really made me think.

Some of you are aware that I lost a tremendous amount of weight about 18 months ago. I maintained my weight loss really well until I met my husband, got married and pregnant. However, that was not the first time I faced that pattern. Back in 1999, I also lost a large amount of weight, maintained for six months until I got pregnant. I regained that weight and carried it around until 18 months ago...a period that was almost 5 years long.

For a long time, I addressed issues from my formative years that I thought were key to my obesity--eating habits, lack of exercise, the habit of convenience foods and drive through--and told everyone that I was not an emotional eater. In fact, when I'm overly stressed or emotional, I'm less likely to eat. But that is still a type of emotional eating. But what I missed all this time was that these were symptoms that led me to obesity, but they were not the cause. The cause lie much deeper than these.

I was raised by a single mom, and my biological father was emotionally and physically absent from my life. In fact, in my lifetime, I would estimate that I have spent less than 48 hours with him, including phone calls. I know who he is, but I've never really known him. He was always elusive. And I spent alot of my childhood bargaining with God to bring my father into my life. And when that didn't work, I attempted to gain my father's approval through my achievements.

But nothing I did--confirmation, high school graduation, my wedding, or my firstborn's baptism--was enough to draw his attention or interest in me in a real and tangible level. As a result, I did exactly what every sociological study about girls without active fathers predicts--I lost my virginity at a young age to an older boy who showed me attention. I sought this boy's love, since I could not get my father's love, and when he gave it and asked for more, I was more than happy to oblige, so long as he continued to love me.

The miracle is that God loved me all along and watched out for me. I was supernaturally protected from all the potential "results" of my mistakes. And I am able to write this because God loved me even when my biological father failed at it.

However, along the way, I learned to get men's attention. I wore close-fitting clothing and short skirts, low cut blouses, and longed for the attention of "older" boys. I hit puberty early and had much skill in actually drawing their attention, although it was for all the wrong reasons. I was the victim of things I should never have faced if I had simply had a "normal, healthy" relationship with my dad. But I didn't. And eventually, I learned that attention equalled power. But among other girls, it made me hated and despised--the object of gossip and lies.

Somewhere along the way, I got married and had kids. As a mom, I couldn't be the "sex kitten" anymore. My job was raising those kids, and I got caught up in that and "let myself go". I put on weight with each of my pregnancies, and at age 24 weighed in at 220 pounds! I had three beautiful children, and I loved myself mostly, but I was borderline "morbidly" obese.

When I made the decision to make a change and lose the weight back in April 2006, my decision was based upon health factors, and a "teensy" bit by my desire to meet a great guy. I could tell from my mom and her sisters' health issues where my life and health were going if I continued to carry around the extra weight for years and years. I did not want joint problems at a young age. I knew I had to make a change, and quickly, for life. And I knew that I wanted a healthy guy in my life, but how could I expect a healthy guy to accept me with unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits. A change was absolutely necessary.

So with help, over eight months, I lost nearly 70 pounds, going from 220 pounds to 155 pounds. I couldn't believe how great I felt and looked! Even women commented on my weight loss. I became an inspiration to others at work. I worked hard at my weight loss, and I was proud of myself.

But along the way, while I was taught to deal with the symptoms of my obesity--mindless eating, unhealthy food choices, lack of exercise--I never did deal with the real issue because I didn't really know what it was. It wasn't until I had lost the majority of that weight that it began to reveal itself to me.

My weight was a security blanket. It kept me from the unhealthy habit of attracting men's attention with my body. It forced me to stand on my personality and skill, not on my looks. Being the fat girl, I forced men to respond to me in what seemed like a "safer, more real" way. And it reinforced better choices for me, especially after a divorce that left me feeling unattractive and rejected even further. The men who did notice me were quality men seeing my skill, my personality, seeing a more "real" me. I was unremarkable physically. I had acne (even as an adult) and with my weight, men saw right through me. I even worked in an all-male office and often was heard commenting that it was almost as if in their eyes, I was asexual.

But when I dropped the weight and regained a curvaceous figure, the guys who had never noticed me physically started to drop hints and hit on me. And suddenly I found myself becoming hostile towards them about this. A man who had known me for three years during my obesity became almost aggressive in his desire to take me to dinner, although prior to my weight loss, his interest never left business. I was quite offended that I had "value" in his eyes as a thinner version of me, but had lacked value previously. I was the same person, only my wrapping had changed!

Even until I got married and pregnant, I continued to have similar experiences. Men who had not paid attention to me before my weight loss had new interest in me. And it was quite infuriating.

Ultimately, the problem was that being thinner, I became an object--when I was younger by choice, and now that I was wiser, somewhat by default. Neither really made the "real" me happy or feel loved. What I had desired all along was to be loved by my daddy.

See that was it. The real reason for my obesity was to hide from hurt and bad patterns I learned as a child to protect myself from the hurt caused by my biological father's rejection. To this day, there is still pain in my heart knowing that he still has not found enough interest to be a part of my life. But at this point, I also realize many other things. I have been protected from an emotionally abusive relationship. I have learned that my value does not come from my looks, although I feel better about myself when I like how I look. (The stress here is that I feel better when I like how I look...not when men like how I look.) And ultimately, the loss is my father's and not mine. I was the victim. It was not my fault. I cannot change his choice. I cannot convince him I'm worthy of his time, attention, or love. And those are the same lessons I learned from my failed marriage. True love doesn't require me to prove my worthiness to someone else.

I am beautiful and loved. God created me and bought me at a high price. I was set aside to be a princess. And no man can take that away from me. And only when I truly claim that knowledge in my head and heart can I really see me the way I am in a healthy manner, no matter what I weigh.

As I near the end of my pregnancy (and as I weigh in at the same weight as my previously highest weight), I have decided and resolved to lose all the baby weight again in the first year. I will do it, not by centering on a weight, but centering on health--measured by body fat and fitness, and by blood pressure and cholesterol--for my children, for my husband, and for me. But most of all, I will do it because God loves me and made me His temple. And there is a great blessing in taking care of it for those reasons.

"Do not consider his appearance or his height... The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
--I Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Really appreciated this post, and can certainly relate to it. My weight is often a shield for me, as well. Blessings as you finish up your pregnancy, and then progress along the path to returning to where you want to be weight-wise.