Monday, April 13, 2009

Chapter 1 exercises

"Anatomy of a Food Addiction" by Anne Katherine, MA

"Assignment 1.1, Self-Acceptance, p. 13

(1)List the ways you have abused yourself, physically with extreme weight control measures, and emotionally with negative self-messages, because of your problem with food."

My abridged response:

Bulimia—starving, bingeing, purging, laxative and diuretic abuse
Putting myself down, making myself the butt of a joke before anyone else can
Refusal to try to look good--what’s the point?
Feeling like I have to outdress everyone or be overdressed to make up for my weight (mostly at work or social events)
Self-induced isolation almost to the point of agoraphobia at times
Refusal to exercise or try certain things because I fear I will be ridiculed
Told myself/felt like I was/am: ugly, fat, worthless, damaged goods, ruined, poisonous, monstrous, don’t deserve to live, smelly, disgusting, repulsive, weak, awkward, clumsy, untouchable, undesirable, unfeminine, dirty, a bad person
(A friend told me once she thought I had body dysmorphic disorder because my inner default setting always goes straight to “ugly” during any time of vulnerability, particularly when I am ill and/or down.)


"Assignment 1.4, The Truth About Consequences p. 20

(I'm paraphrasing) List "incentives" used by others or yourself to get you to lose weight.

My abridged response:

(Note: my God, they are such bullshit!)

(a) Acceptance from boys/men: “I would go out with you/you could get any guy you wanted if you lost weight”, I heard from about the age of 12 until about age 25. Which is not only untrue, but wrong on about 5,036 levels.

(b) Acceptance and love from my family of origin, who made it clear I was never good enough because of my weight. (After a lot of distance from them and a considerable amount of therapy, I figured out *nothing* would have ever garnered their approval, which was ultimately a relief.)

(c) In my own mind, on some level, I have felt I could never be fully happy or successful without losing weight. There may be some truth to this when it comes to a career, as I know there are jobs I have not been hired for as a result of my looks. (Now that I’m older and wiser, I think: would I really want that kind of job anyway? And I'm 40, so my age is now going to be a factor as well.)

(d) Doctors would get off my back. The stories I can tell about things doctors have said to me would curl anyone’s hair.

Did any of these "incentives" work? NO!

The group facilitator posed a couple of questions for us to journal on and consider for further discussion. These are my abridged responses:

How much of your self-worth depends on the outward appearance of your body?

I think when I was younger and still struggling actively with bulimia that this was much worse for me than it is now. Ageism is certainly alive and well in our culture, but getting older takes a lot of the pressure off, too. I didn’t expect to look like society’s ideal of a gorgeous 19-year-old at 39, but at 19, I felt extremely less than because I didn't come anywhere near meeting those ideals—-I think on some level, in my warped mind, I thought that because I was young, I was also supposed to be beautiful (by society’s standards). I knew from a very young age that I was never going to be able to trade on my looks anyway, so I spent more energy on my brain and my personality--a better investment, IMHO--but in an ideal world, girls and women would be able to enjoy all aspects of their being.

The older I get, the less I care about how I look on the outside. Some of that has to do with acceptance by my spouse, and some self-acceptance comes with age and (I hope) wisdom. I have never liked my body, but I learned to grudgingly accept it and at least not continue to punish it for its many perceived failures, because I am grateful that I have mobility, sight, vision, etc. I also became much more concerned with health than appearance as I got older because I had several very immediate health problems that were much more of a concern. They have rendered any worries about my appearance extremely trivial!

I was alone by choice for four years between my divorce and remarriage and during that time hit my heaviest weight, which was 296 pounds. I did binge occasionally during that time period, but also swam laps regularly and used a treadmill at home. I was well aware that my weight made me less “valuable” in the dating market. When I chose to dip my foot in again, my approach was to look online very selectively and just lay it all out on the table--so that if a prospective mate had an issue, I wouldn't waste my time or energy. My husband now is the only man that was worth the trouble, and I am happy to say he is a fantastic individual and we celebrate our second anniversary tomorrow. :)

I like myself better as a human being than I ever have in my life. I still (grudgingly) accept my body, but feel very uncomfortable physically. I do think I would feel better about myself if I was thinner, simply because I would feel better in my body.

In what ways have you or others treated you as an object, rather than the deep and complex being that you are?

I don’t remember not feeling like an object. I was always aware that I did not measure up to who my mother had been in any way, shape, or form, and I felt that I was a pale facsimile of her. My father was not consistently involved in my life, but was enough of a presence that I knew I was legally his property until I was 18 years old; he was obsessed with how I looked. He was also abusive and inappropriate. I was a high academic achiever and an all-around good person, but I felt that “thin and pretty” was always the carrot being dangled and the ultimate condition of the family's extremely conditional love, particularly his.

I have had men and boys treat me like an object (as most women do) my entire life. Getting older, again, this is less of an issue, but the world is not nice to fat people of any age, and I think that has been well-documented by myself and many others. People have yelled at me out of cars, mooed, looked pointedly in my grocery cart, and made rude comments. Even children have felt this was acceptable to do at times. People have made rude comments toward my husband. I have had a really hard time with medical professionals because they look at the number on the scale--or the body shape—and just stop listening. I once had a doctor castigate me about my weight when I was seeing him for a broken ankle that had not even been set yet. I have had doctors bitch at me about my weight when I was in for strep throat.

The ways I have treated myself as an object were included in the first exercise...

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