I have a weight problem. Because of my various diseases, conditions and health problems I am weighed routinely. I know that I am ten to fifteen pounds underweight. I can see it on the scale. Strangely enough the first time that I actually became aware of this problem was when I set up a Wii exercise program and standing on that white platform I was told my BMI was too low.
Being underweight is actually a problem I have only had for about half my life. The beginning of my life I was a good forty to fifty pounds heavier than I am now. Somewhere in my twenties, for no reason that any doctor could figure, I lost so much weight that I took on the look of a walking dead. Cellulite and stretch marks became normal because my skin lost so much so quickly. I had to buy new clothes and new bras (which is not a pleasant activity for me). There were times at the beginning I felt that I had accomplished something; I had become what other women think they want. I was wrong.
Being underweight brings with it…complications. There is the low blood pressure, the risk of being sick because your immune system isn’t healthy, there is anemia, and vitamin deficiencies that can make all the rest of what you have so much worse. It isn’t something to desire. It isn’t something to put on a pedestal and believe is an accomplishment. While there are risks to being overweight, there can be just as many being underweight. And while there will always be people rolling their eyes at my predicament, it actually is a problem.
My husband and I decided recently to see if we could do something about it. I can’t eat more – that isn’t possible for me. I can’t worry if it is a medication I am taking because those too are essential. I can’t go to the gym because my anxiety would destroy me and then I would waste all that money on nothing. I practice yoga everyday but that is for pain not health. But we had never tried the powders that those who are trying bulk their muscles up use regularly. We never tried a supplement to see if that would help my body. So I did what I always do; I researched, and researched, and researched. And I found one; gluten free, vegan free, minimal ingredients, with reviews that highlighted the lack of stomach and digestive problems. We ordered it and there the problems began.
I took one look at that massive barrel of powder and fell into a massive panic attack, driven by a fear similar to one I feel when I see a live snake. The fear took my breath away. I looked at that huge tub and all I could think was, “hell no”. Just no.
Now I have been in therapy and doctors offices enough in my life to instinctively know why I was feeling some of that fear. But I wonder if it is possible to know all of the reasons behind your fears.
As a child I was heavier than I am now. I wasn’t overweight. None of the pediatricians I saw had any negative thoughts about my weight – it was never mentioned. Except by my father. My father has always been an exceptionally handsome man – I know this not through my own preferences but through the thousands of times that women have stopped him (right in front of me) to flirt, give him their phone numbers and basically embarrass me. Full disclosure – my father loved that attention and took those numbers even when married to my mother. In front of me.
My father believed that his oldest daughter was going to be heavy as I grew older. My sister was blond, blue-eyed, athletic, and simply beautiful. My father couldn’t reconcile the idea that he had another daughter who wasn’t those things; who wasn’t as beautiful as he was. And he made sure that I knew it. He warned me of the future as if he knew that I was going to be overweight and unhealthy. And in case you wish to give him a pass, those words were never done out of love but rather his fear that I would not be as pretty as the rest of my immediate family. I could tell you word-for-word what he said. I could tell you what I heard. But I think you could probably figure most of it out on your own.
Through years of therapy, I have learned to not only recognize what my father was doing but why he was doing it. I have spent thousands of dollars learning to try and put something in prospective that damaged me. And I have tried to figure out a way to put it in a bag, drop it on the floor, and walk away from it. I am not sure I succeeded. His voice is still there. His exact words, word-for-word, are as clear today as they were when he spoke them. Of course, now he complains that I am too skinny and sickly but appearances mean everything to my father. My beautiful sister, who has remained beautiful is a lawyer. A successful lawyer that my father can brag about – I am not. There isn’t much he can brag about when it comes to me.
My mother, who I asked, maintains that he was just really health conscience. That all he was trying to do, albeit badly, was to make sure I was healthy. But this is the same woman who spent decades allowing the same man to treat her like shit and constantly cheat on her, so I am not sure that her words mean much in this situation. My mother is exceptionally smart except when it comes to feelings and all that stuff that makes us human. She doesn’t understand me and never has; but then I guess I never made it that easy for her.
There has to be other reasons for this fear. I say this because I know what my father did to me. I know what my mother has done to me. It simply doesn’t sit well with me that my fear of getting fat should only be blamed on my parents. The level of fear doesn’t match the progress I have made in understanding who and what my parents are and what they truly can be for me. Don’t forget, I spent thousands working on my parents relationship with me. When they say that you go to therapy because of your parents, they weren’t joking. Parents and therapy are so symbiotic that its practically the first question those doctors ask about.
I am not trying to discount the incredible impact parents have on us; especially for me, a girl who has been begging to be loved for who I am my whole life. I know that my parents can’t speak to me in a language that makes me feel anything but desperate for some word that would make me feel whole. I am well aware of my parents foibles and the damage they have done to me through the years (exasperated by my mental illness). I am certain that the world sees my parents differently than I do and I have to recognize that – they aren’t bad people, they just have no ability to speak to their own child. Don’t worry they speak fluently to my sister. But once you recognize the problem, isn’t the problem suppose to go away?
But if it isn’t my father that has put this unreasonable fear of being fat into me; where is it coming from? My husband has a huge influence on me and I imagine some of my body images come from him. But not from his deliberate words. Not from a place of anger or even misunderstanding. My body image issues could feasibly come from our relationship – but I wonder if fear is one of them. To be truthful, I honestly believe that he would like me to gain some weight, get some meat on my bones, potentially finally have some breasts. I don’t know if my weight plays a role in our physical relationship, but I know that while I am not the most beautiful wife he could have I am not so embarrassing to be hidden away.
Fear is based on something. We may joke that we have unreasonable fears, tease one another about them, but they come from somewhere. There is a reason for them. They have long names that all end in phobia and they are easier to pick out than a beautiful pair of boots on a cold day. Fear is present. It is in all of us. It lives in us. And while I am coming to terms that knowing about them might not mean conquering them, I need desperately to understand why my weight is a literal weight on my ability to be healthy. Because if there is one thing I want for myself, and I mean the only thing I really want for myself, is to finally be healthy.