My Big Fat Problem | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

My Big Fat Problem

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At 6 every morning I awake to the sound of the alarm. Most days I groggily get out of bed and go about the daily routine of getting my son to the bus stop on time. But some days, something happens to me when I'm under a lot of stress or not feeling like I'm at my best. On those mornings the first thought in my head after hearing the alarm is, "I'm not going to eat more than 300 calories today."

As I make chocolate milk and Pop Tarts for my son's breakfast and pack his school snack, I cannot resist a couple of bites. After almost allowing myself to enjoy the warm, frosted and sprinkled pastry with melted chocolate and marshmallow in the middle, I start to regret it and begin the daily calorie count: If a Pop Tart has 250 calories and I only eat two bites, that is about a quarter of the whole thing, which equals about 60 calories, which means I have 190 calories left for the day. I begin to think of what I will eat for the rest of the day after I walk my son to the bus stop. I could just have coffee until lunchtime when I can have celery and mustard and a couple of tomato slices and consume about 80 calories. I can satisfy my hunger with Perrier or a diet soda. That will leave 110 calories.

The thought of being so limited is daunting. Failure is imminent, so I allow myself 200 more calories. After being awake for only 30 minutes, somewhere deep in my psyche I have told myself that I have already failed for the day. I can "diet" this way for days until my body is so hungry for protein that my sugar drops, and I have no choice but to eat whatever is fastest and closest, which often ends up being something microwaveable or fried. Then I have really failed. I feel as if I have failed in every aspect of my life. I may as well pull up a chair in front of the fridge and surrender.

I have been dealing with body dysmorphia since I was young. I remember feeling insecure about my weight even in elementary school. I can eat a couple of pizza slices and actually see five extra pounds around my middle if I look in the mirror 10 minutes later. There have been times when I disliked the feeling of a full stomach so much that I have felt disgusting and unclean and wanted to shower.

Only in the past couple of years has it begun to develop into something that has made me seek therapy. I have been on and off anti-depressants, and I've been to at least a dozen psychologists and several different therapists. At 31 years old, I finally feel that I know what it is that I need to work on: an eating disorder.

Of course eating disorders don't just happen without a reason. There is usually a family history of eating disorders, a traumatic event such as abuse or rape or extremely low self-esteem that causes someone to focus on weight control to bring a sense of order to his or her life. I definitely feel more in control when I'm feeling thin and controlling how much I eat and exercise. I have also used my weight as a measure of success and self-worth.

I am not significantly overweight. For my body type—short and strong as hell—I am only two or three pounds over my ideal weight and even 2 percent under the suggested body-mass index. My doctor has told me I am not fat. So has my therapist, the trainer at the gym, my friends, my family and my fiance, who is understanding and patient even though he is completely dumbfounded that I can call myself fat. I wish I could see what they see.

It is amazing to me how many women have confided in me about their own issues with body image since I have become open about my issues with eating, food and dieting. The media, peers and a lack of strong female role models are causing serious damage to young girls and their self-esteem.

There are even Web sites called pro-ana or pro-mia (pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia) that teach girls tips and tricks on starving or purging. I actually learned about the celery and mustard diet on their sites. They show pictures of "thinspiration:" extremely thin celebrities, obese people and severely malnourished bodies. What is sad is that mostly 13- to 18-year-old girls create these disturbing Web sites.

I was guilty of visiting these Web sites for ideas on how to eat under 500 calories a day, but I have erased them from my favorites list. I am now completely against these ideas of impossible perfection, even though it's a daily struggle to let go of those feelings.

Today, I'm searching for ways to make a difference for young girls in the same situation. I might have to create my own Jackson support group, but if I can help one girl from suffering the way I have, it'll be worth it.

Previous Comments

ID
84976
Comment

Thank you for sharin that, Caroline. I wish you well in your recovery, and by the way, you're not fat. I saw you at the JFP book reading, remember? :-)

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-10-10T21:56:05-06:00
ID
84977
Comment

Caroline, I think you're awesome and brave for writing this article and being so honest. I think so many women suffer from what you describe in varying degrees, no matter what their body shape. Have you run across some of the awesome blogs that have cropped up over the past year or so, encouraging women to love their bodies and questioning the status quo on weight/health standards? They provide a great counterpoint to what we so often see in the media. Here are a few - and be warned, if you need it, some salty language and sassy attitude ahead: http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/, http://kateharding.net/, http://www.bfdblog.com/ I love your writing in the JFP, but this is the first article that has gotten me off my butt to write you. :)

Author
Lucy
Date
2007-10-16T09:21:51-06:00
ID
84978
Comment

Carolyn, thanks for such an open and honest contribution. This is more than half your battle. One thing about mental rehersals and buffers is the fact that the brain does not know a real rehersal from one that you do not believe. Isn't it a fact that you told yourself over and over again that you were fat in spite of the fact that there was no evidence to prove/support these thoughts. If one can change their mental tape (message), and give the brain a more positive message, the desired behavior usually replaces the undesirable behaviors. You are the client that any therapist would simply love to work with, because you speak of follow-through, i.e., I am not fat and my thinking that I WAS is because of these things:_____, _______ and_______. Thanks again for this article and it will help a lot of people who are suffers of this very painful condition and for those of us who bang our heads against the wall trying to figure treatment modalities that will yeild a step toward healing.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-10-16T10:39:25-06:00
ID
84979
Comment

Carolyn, there was something else that got my attention. You mentioned a daily breakfast for your son of "choclate milk and pop tarts." This might be something else to discuss as it relates to nutrition. You may find that not only do you not need those triggers: He doesn't either and especially on a daily basis.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-10-16T10:49:44-06:00
ID
84980
Comment

Just a little something I learned about making my issues public: I have had a very horrible week. Everything has gone wrong that could possibly go wrong. My first impulse is to focus on "something in my contol" and restrict my calories and eat as little as possible, but knowing that I have made myself a public example has made me think twice. And not just because I don't want to make a mistake in front of all of Jackson, but because it reminds me where that unhealthy thinking comes from and I don't intend to let this week's failures affect my health. And that is what taking control is all about. Thanks for all the comments. It really does help to read them and know that I'm turning the negative into a positive. For those who understand what I deal with, take note of every day you live for health and not for weight loss.If you did it for one day, you can do it for another. As those days add up you will find it is easier to stay in a healthy state of mind, though there may still be the ghost of the problem. And thanks for the advice about the tiggers, justjess. You are absolutely right.

Author
caroline
Date
2007-10-25T08:02:41-06:00
ID
84981
Comment

Caroline, it is true that publicizing your issues brings about more accountability. Also, it is a reminder that those who are going through the same thing are looking to you as a source of inspiration.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-10-25T19:57:44-06:00

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