Monday, September 5, 2011

Not wanting to be who I was

This morning I received a very insightful comment on a recent post from a reader named Vicki, who said that in a discussion with her therapist about her yo-yo weight gain and loss, she came to the realization that weight loss brought up fear that she would return to the person she had been at 28, when she started to put the weight on. That resonated with something deep inside me.

In my 20s, I had a great body. I was tall, slim, had good legs, nice breasts, long hair. Men found me attractive, some found me sexy and I used my looks to get what I thought I could get: sex and attention, and to a certain extent relief from chronic fear, anxiety, and sometimes boredom. Of course, I wanted true love but that seemed impossible. The truth was that I looked pretty great on the outside, but emotionally it was another story.

By my 20s, I had suffered from chronic anxiety, low self-esteem, and co-dependency for a lot of years already. I know these are buzz words that a lot of people deride, but for me they were, and still are to an extent, very real experiences. While I knew I was attractive and I knew I was smart, I also believed that no man would really ever care for me in the way I wanted. And much as I tried to make that their fault, I believed deep down that it was a failing in me. I was too sensitive, too shy, too clever, too demanding, too needy, too something.

For a while, I tried to be someone else. Someone less smart, more fragile, more independent, less clever, and always thinner, that somehow that would make the difference. But eventually I gave that up until I started to really drink. Alcohol made relationships possible for me. I didn't drink to become more social, I drank to become less afraid. If I drank enough, I could pretend to be somebody else, somebody who didn't care that men abandoned her when she got too needy. Pretend that one-night stands were my idea. Pretend that fighting and jealousy were a given in a relationship. Pretend that monogamy was passe.

I was also spiritually bereft in those thin years. I became an intellectual cynic, a perfect stance for a college professor in the 1970s and 1980s. I had a cruel wit and I used it. I was more and more clever, and more and more unhappy.

So when Vicki talked about her fear of weight loss bringing that earlier person back, I was right there with my own miserable thin self. For being thin and sexy and attractive are completely enmeshed in my body and feelings with misery. No wonder I feel ambivalent about weight loss.

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