Maybe you have been thinking that life is going to change once you get thinner. Are you anticipating that as those pounds drop, and the scale moves in your favor, that everything will effortlessly fall into place, and all the situations you’ve avoided facing will magically resolve themselves? I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to remain stuck in the faulty perceptions and beliefs that your family may have passed down to you when you were a kid.
From the time I was 10 and put on my first diet, until 11 years ago when I turned 44, I pinned all my hopes on the belief that losing weight would make me happy. So I procrastinated and put off and avoided so much. I blew beach vacations and even avoided my backyard pool like the plague because I didn’t want to be seen wearing a bathing suit.
It makes me get teary eyed when I think of how much precious time I wasted and how much wonderful family time I squandered and refused to capture in photographs because I was obsessed worrying about how I looked and what other people thought of my body.
I avoided parties, weddings, dancing, social occasions, because I thought I was too fat. I never had anything nice to wear, because I wouldn’t go shopping until I was down to my ideal weight. I kept on waiting and saying, “If only…”
During those 30+ odd years I wasted so much precious time thinking about what I weighed, how I looked, what size I was, how much I was eating, if I could eat, and when. I spent so much time worrying about things that didn’t really matter and as a result I stood in my own way of living and enjoying more of life.
Being Fat is Just a Symptom, It’s Not the Real Problem
For most of my adult life, I was completely fooled into thinking I was miserable because I had fat thighs. Like so many other people with #MeTooSurvivor stories to share I kept an enormous secret locked up of being sexually abused by my step father and his many pedophile friends for years.
but I never factored that into why I was so unhappy. I never considered the possibility that I had fat thighs because I was miserable. The real truth is that I was miserable because I didn’t have the skills and know how to say, “no” to people.
In 1985, soon after my stepmother, Rosie, passed away from lung cancer, my father faced a personal crisis that changed all of our lives forever. Unable to continue running the family real estate business, I felt obligated to leave college prematurely to manage the business. With mixed emotions I left school before my second year at NYU and, as they say, jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
I adored my father and will always be so grateful to him and my step mother, Rosie. By inviting me to live with them when I was 10 years old, they gave me the gift of having a loving, safe and secure home. The insidious thing about being a survivor of sexual abuse, is that the scars are invisible until something happens to trigger the memories. My experiences with so much sexual trauma left me with a lot of trust issues and fear of men. The real estate business in Manhattan in the 1980’s was a male-dominated, dog-eat-dog world. All of a sudden in order to survive, I had to learn how to stand shoulder to shoulder with the big boys and represent myself as a powerful force.
The long and short of it is that once I stepped in to run his business, I seemed to have lost my place in my father’s heart. Somewhere down the line I just became his employee. Managing three residential buildings in New York City with 110 tenant families and a 40 coin-machine operated Laundromat with my Nana was no piece of cake. I learned my lessons and have since emerged a powerful businesswoman by those years of trial by fire.
Having grown up with a silver spoon in my mouth, I was painfully naïve and unaware of anything to do with finance. I never considered that my work or contribution had any value. My father, ever the savvy businessman, had me on a short leash. For years I was on call 24/7, actually running a multi-million dollar empire. Despite having full power of signature and the ability to write myself or anyone else a check for any sum, I continued to draw a salary of $150 each week for nearly fifteen years.
For all that time, I was a woman in power who allowed herself to feel powerless. Because I had deluded myself into believing I had no value, I allowed my father and so many others to convince me I was right.
My frustration led me to join a women’s empowerment group. They helped me to see myself from a fresh perspective. At one point I grew a backbone and confronted my father. I threatened to quit unless he agreed to sell the business and share 49 percent of the proceeds with me. When push came to shove it was me who negotiated the sale of the properties for $10.5 million, along with a life lease for him to live in comfort for less than $250 a month.
Unfortunately, I trusted my father implicitly and continually ignored the pleadings of my husband and friends who urged me to demand a signed contractual agreement gifting me 49 percent of the proceeds. My father ended up with everything and quickly took legal steps to disown me and my family.
The personal and financial losses have been devastating, but through it all I can now say I’ve become a stronger person for having gone through the experience—I may have lost my father, but I gained myself.
Food has been my refuge, my safe space to hide when I couldn’t handle the intensity of my emotions. One day I stood in front of my mirror and noticed that the angry voice inside my head putting me down was my father’s. In that moment, I realized I had a choice. I would never again accept his verbal assassinations as a part of my life. I would never again feel like a victim of his intimidation and cruelty. I could break the cycle of my shame by ending the hurtful way I had come to talk to myself.
But I no longer look at the fat on my body as the problem. It’s just a symptom pointing the direction to see the real problem; years of settling for far less than I deserved because I had a painfully low self-image. It makes me want to cry when I hear women put themselves down and diminish their accomplishments. I made the same mistake. As my story shows, I paid dearly for my lack of confidence. I lost a financial fortune because I did not feel comfortable standing up for myself, and rocking the boat.
As I learned the hard lesson of the value of self-esteem. I wrote my book to teach women how to value, love and respect themselves so they could handle any storm that comes their way. As I mention in my book, “Lovin’ the Skin You’re In” we’re always teaching people how to treat us and it’s never too late to change. I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to remain stuck in the faulty perceptions and beliefs that your family may have passed down to you when you were a kid. It’s never too late to change and break out of the mold of what you don’t want to become the person you want to be.
How ’bout you? If you’re struggling with feelings of shame around your body, focusing on food and weight is a precious waste of your time. Nobody is going to give those years back to you. The problem is not your body. The problem is hating your body and disowning yourself. In order for you to have any peace at all with the constant never-ending changes that come with aging, you have to first feel good about yourself; as the person you are. It’s impossible to separate your body from the rest of you. If you hate your body, you hate yourself, and as my example shows, self-hatred, shame, hiding, whining, blaming and complaining gets you nowhere.
I’ve endured a lot of adversity, but I also admit that I created so much of my own misery, because I thought so little of myself. I’ve learned several truths that have successfully freed me from my body-hating/food-fueling beliefs that I’d like to share with you. Here they are:
It’s Not What You’re Eating; It’s What’s Eating You! In her book, Breaking the Link Between Abuse, Stress and Overeating, Doreen Virtue, Ph.D, says, “Every extra pound you carry on your body equals a pound of emotional pain you’re carrying in your heart.” If you consider the excess weight, those extra pounds and inches that you carry on your body, as a measure of emotional pain that you hold in your heart, it’s more likely that you will find your way to being more compassionate with yourself.
Food Isn’t What You Really Want: Your cravings are really unmet emotional needs in disguise. When your brain gets triggered with the urge to eat, it is not because you lack will power or discipline, it is an instinctual survival-based response to dealing with your stress. Your desire is not really to eat the food, but to recreate the happy emotions that you have associated with the foods you enjoy. As an emotional eater, your brain is wired to recognize that eating those foods will ease your stress. During those times when you overeat, forgive yourself, let it go and move on, being willing to begin again, and again, and again.
It’s a process: Unfortunately there is no magic bullet or quick fix that will get you down to your ideal weight in a flash, short of sustained torturous deprivation. And 9 times out of 10 your weight will soar right back up after a long period of being deprived. Getting thinner is going to take time. In order to do it successfully, your body has to reorganize itself to think and feel differently about food. Since it is a learning process like riding a bike or dancing, you’re going to have to fall many times before you get it right. Diets keep you focused on thinking like a dieter which only perpetuates the deprivation response, the feelings of scarcity and the focus on food. Dieting reinforces dieting. Diets will never teach you self-mastery around food.
No More Dieting: As long as you continue to diet, you’ll remain fearful of certain foods, thinking of them as fattening. Trying desperately to avoid them, you’ll only want them more. Diets focus on depriving you and that only feeds the compulsion to get more of what you don’t think you can have. I recommend learning how to feel safe around real food and eating in response to your body’s natural hunger. Eat the foods you crave, guilt free to break out of diet prison. Legalize all foods.
Be willing to dig deeper – In order to break the emotional food = comfort link, you must begin to become aware of when you are eating to soothe your emotions. Unless you deal with why your body has a need to unconsciously hold onto your weight, your voracious hunger and tendency to eat mindlessly will remain a problem. That means that even if you lose weight like the 98% of people who participated in the study, your body will find it’s way back to regaining it. You must be willing to dig deeper to find out what’s really behind your emotional eating. To get to the bottom of why you’re eating, be curious, not critical.
What’s Behind the Wall of Weight? Really stop to consider what side benefit you’re getting by being overweight. For me, as a woman who was sexually abused, being fat created a barrier of protection and made it possible for me to feel safely invisible and avoid all the attention that I didn’t want from men. In terms of my relationship with my husband, because I felt so uncomfortable simply refusing and saying, “No” to sex, I used food to set the boundaries for me. At one time, I had gotten into a habit of eating a pint of ice cream each night. By smiling and saying, “Not tonight, Honey, I have a stomach ache,” It was my way of distancing myself and feeling safe without having to risk rejection. And as a businesswoman, being overweight enabled me to create the illusion of being strong enough to deal with the big boys by ‘throwing my weight around’. Consider there’s more to your thighs than what meets your eyes.
Put the emphasis on how you feel: To break the connection of eating for comfort, you need to reset your focus and become mindful of what emotions you are experiencing. Many people like to journal to become more aware of what is going on in their head. This can be helpful as long as it’s done without judgment. Your goal is to look for patterns and notice when your eating goes out of control and what events in your life preceded the binge.
Cope with Your Stress: No matter how you slice it, it still comes down to dealing with your emotions rather than stuffing them. Rather than journalling, I prefer to use a process called Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT. It’s a simple tapping process derived from the ancient healing art of acupuncture. It works on the basis of using your fingertips to tap gently on different parts of your face and body to activate your body’s natural relaxation response so you can calm down.
The bottom line is that in our pluck and tuck, thin is in, beauty in a bottle culture, we’ve come to devalue the person in favor of the packaging. Please remember that you are so much more than just a number on the scale and there is so much life to be lived between the spaces of where you are now and where you want to be. Please don’t waste a moment of it waiting for perfect.
The truth is none of us are perfect; we all have our flaws, and to accept them means we have the power to rise above them. As I continue to learn myself and teach my clients every day, by opening your heart and accepting the ‘before’ gal you are right now, you’ll be ready to love the ‘after’ gal you’ll be. I urge you to take my advice and use the tips I’ve shared. They will help you melt away your resistance and fear of losing weight by giving you the time and space you need to get thinner slowly and effortlessly without dieting once and for all.
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