Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday catharsis

I married into a family of beautiful people. My husband is very good looking, and he might be the most "average" of them all. They are extremely wonderful, kind and loving folks who just happen to have been very well-appointed in the looks department. Both his parents were knock outs in their youth - I wish I could find pictures of them in those days to post so you would really believe me. It makes sense that their union produced more gorgeousness. Tom is the oldest, then a drop dead hunk of a brother 4 years younger (definitely showing his age, in a good way), then 2 highly attractive sisters about 3 years apart. None of this gang are conceited or evidence awareness or superiority of their good looks - they are who they are, with the gamut of goodness and badness found in all humanity. I am ridiculously blessed to have married into this family and fortunate to have good to excellent relationships with every member - some closer than others, but all good.

Tom and I will celebrate our 28th anniversary in February, so it's been awhile that I've been one of this clan. (God really made up for me being a lonely only whose Dad died when I was 11 and Mom when I was 23.) Over the years we've been with them zillions of times. They all live in the Atlanta area, and when Tom and I had been married for just 2 years, and coinciding with the birth of our first child Jean, we moved from there to Pennsylvania for Tom's work. So we see them only a few times a year, now exclusively in Atlanta, though when the kids were young, grandparents and Aunt and Uncle and cousin groups visited us occasionally.

Bear with me here; I'm going somewhere related to weight issues and trying to set the stage and provide background information.

I was quite lean when Tom and I got married in 1982, and stayed that way pretty successfully until after the birth of our 3 son in August of 1987. I gained more weight with each pregnancy, but after the first 2 eventually managed to drop the weight. Not so the third time, and so I went from being lean and pretty plain looking in this family of beautiful and THIN TO AVERAGE people to being overweight, and eventually obese (according to the BMI). My highest weight was 237 (same as Oprah's), so I kept some semblance of a lid on my weight; alas not enough to not usually render me the fattest girl in the room in general, and the fattest person in the family in particular. It's been very painful to me over the years. They never seem to mind, and don't comment but it was certainly noticed (because I've endlessly brought it up, apologized for it, vowed to lose the weight...). It's been much more my issue than theirs.

I wrote a while back of how one day about 8-10 years ago, Kristin, my youngest SIL with whom I'm very close confided in me that her mom had commented to her the she and I were "the family fatties". First - why would she tell me this? Second - Kristin had a very minor weight problem when Tom and I first got married. For a few years she was a little heavy. Since then, she's been lean in a healthy way with not even vapors of the struggles with weight she'd had for a number of years. When she told me that, I felt embarrassed for me and bad for her that her mother had lumped me in with her, if that was the truth, which to this day I don't know for sure. I absolutely believe the MIL said it about me; but I've always wondered if Kristin wanted me to know this and to soften it a bit put herself into the statement. My response was something to the effect that she certainly wasn't in that category and that of course I WAS the family "fattie". God, just writing that right now makes me cringe and feel ashamed, sad, and mad. My MIL is a person who has to pigeon-hole people - categorize them in some way. She has an opinion on most everything, and while she's loving and I have a great relationship with her, this kind of crap is in keeping with her endless tendency (need?) to critique all in her periphery (and not always to their faces).

In family pictures from the last 20 years, I always look bad - self conscious and fat. I'm not very photogenic to start with, so this truth has also been painful. The family has never noted this, BTW. It's how I feel about my appearance, and in my mind I think I "ruin" every picture I'm in. Pretty pathologic, huh? I'm aware that some of my oldest issues are surfacing as I write this, so feel free to NOT "wonder" about it. I'm know this is f'ed up thinking, but it's been my reality.

So - why am I going on and on about all this ancient and real history of Leslie's life? Because I am now at the lowest weight I've been in years - many years. And there is a family wedding in Atlanta in March that we'll be attending where of course there will be zillions of family photos taken over the course of the 5-6 days we'll be there. The wedding is just after the end of the Perfect 10 challenge which, if I'm successful, will help me to be 15 pounds lower than I am now. The difference in my size will be substantial. The family will be surprised and happy for me, but they won't be any happier to see leaner me than they would be to see me in any form. They genuinely love and care about me. I really know this.

The wedding is starting to loom large in my mind - not because of the joyous event it is for the couple, but because every trip to Atlanta sets off the familiar feelings of shame of being plain and fat. Countless times over the years I'm determined to lose some weight before I go there, and usually fail to do so. So I show up feeling inwardly bad about myself and certain that all the family are thinking, "Oh, she's still fat." After the initial "appearance" with the various family members, I relax and have a good time, but always with my default setting of feeling "less than" them because there is so much more of me. I don't want that to be the case this time. I want to enjoy the whole experience and all of the family. I want to forget myself and be available to be one of the many. A family member among family members. The egocentrism of me in my fat girl identity seems to know no bounds. And the confusing thoughts I'm having about this next trip to Atlanta, given my already substantial weight loss and hopefully even more, are starting to undermine my commitment to this weight loss and exercise journey to better health and fitness as my way of life. I'm finding myself focusing on the "event", and wanting to lose as much as possible prior, rather than just staying in each day and doing the best I can a day at a time, in accordance with my belief that this truly is a way of life, and not a quick-fix prior to an event.

I've decided to write about this because the morass of feelings is scary and threatens to knock me way off my square. And when this happens, I eat. My fear and feelings of being less than the rest of the family swirl and begin to inform my self concept and worth. Too painful to bear, so before it gets out of control or even conscious on my part, I eat. Maybe by spewing this sh*t out of me, the negative energy of it will dissipate and I can continue to eat less and move more one day at a time. If I break it down, I can know that I have no control over the future or the past. I can only take action about anything today - right now. Reel it back to today, Leslie.

This post feels very dark and revealing, and makes me feel vulnerable. But if I've learned anything in AA, it's that you're as sick as your secrets, and the truth will set you free. I sure as hell hope so, because I've had a lot of food thoughts swarming today, and took a day off yesterday from my plan. Two off days in a row is a lot harder to come back from than one. I intend to stay clean with my food the rest of today, and hopefully this post will ensure that.


  1. So, I am a big believer in "if you feel thin and sexy, you will act thin and sexy" even if it's not technically true. I don't have great advice on how to get there Leslie but I will tell you that the one fool proof trick for me is the find the most GORGEOUS dress and outfit myself from head to toe. Something about doing that makes me hold my head high and feel like the bomb even if I am the chubby girl in the room. Believe me, I feel for you honey because I am married to the most gorgeous man who is also just a real nice guy. 55 years old and he's got a six pack. Some day I hope to live up to that.

  2. It's amazing what a number that inner voice can do on our thinking and thought-patterns, isn't it? Also, how much power we give over to other people and how much we assume we know about what others are thinking. Or at least I do. I've been trying to let all that go - and I hope you are able to get some peace about how you are feeling. It's a tough boat to be in, I know.

    Good luck to you. Stay on the beam and focused. You can do this. In fact, you are doing it right now.

  3. While I am sure the comment was not meant to be hurtful, it sure did leave a mark. Families often have a way of doing that.

    The one thing I would say to you Leslie is that you are probably dwelling on something that no one else is worrying about. Nevertheless, this is a great motivator to drive your success over the coming weeks. Use it while you can - there is nothing wrong with that.

  4. um,
    I would say it's all in your head except your mil said something, and your sil said something.
    blah blah blah, they are great people to whom looks mean something whether they admit it or not.
    I find people shake off these intiutive feelings much too easily.
    You aren't plain, and you aren't fat.
    Being a part of a family of genetic 1 percenters may make you feel that way....but it isn't true.
    15 lbs can make a huge difference.
    I have been the 'fat wife' for years now.
    When I go back to Ohio and meet up with my in laws I will be going back as person who has found out who she is, what she wants and knows she looks damn good knowing both. I will also be going back as one of the thinnest people in the family...everyone else having picked up the weight I managed to lose.
    I say you take the next eight weeks and do the same.
    Go in there knowing you have a blog following of people who like and admire you. That you have taken control of your eating and your life.
    That you are fantabulous and fresh and you should buy some cute clothes to show it off.
    Go get em.

  5. Hi, Leslie!

    I'm new to your blog--and am so glad that I found you. There is so much in this post that I relate to. The statemnt, "feeling 'less than' them because there is so much more of me." certainly hit home. And I ALWAYS survey a room to see if I am the fattest woman in it--always. And often I am.

    I haven't had a chance to look through your blog, but it sounds like you've has some good success with your weight loss efforts. I'm thinking that you're going to overcome the anxiety of the 'wedding goal' and keep at it for you--one day at a time--for you.


  6. Your husband loves you. Your HANDSOME husband loves you; no...I bet he ADORES you. Isn't that what's important? You know, though, just like anorexics with faulty body images, those of us with the eating disorder of being overweight can suffer from faulty body images, as well. Sounds like that's you. And you HAVE to know that inner beauty trumps outer beauty every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Your MIL and SIL might be gorgeous on the outside, but not so much on the inside. What's more important? You know the answer to that, don't you?

    Stay your plan, lose 10 or 15 pounds by then, look even better, buy yourself a few new outfits for the trip, and HAVE FUN. :)

  7. I think you and I have quite a bit in common! I'll hear an innocent remark someone makes about me in general and mull it over and over in my head until a molehill becomes a mountain! Then I'll remember (and fret about) it for the next 20 years or so!

    MILs, bless them, have an uncanny knack of doing something (at least ONE thing) that Really Pisses Us Off! My MIL is lovely, but my God, she pisses me off when she constantly contradicts my decisions! She's like it with everyone, so I'm trying to stop taking it so personally, but taking it personally is just something I always tend to do! It's really difficult to change the habit of a lifetime! :o)

  8. Forgot to say, Craig is very handsome (although you wouldn't know that from photos - he's even more unphotogenic than me) and I've caught myself thinking "I bet people wonder what he's doing with HER"... I'm fairly attractive at the right weight and below (I need to drop another 50 or so pounds to start getting there) and it's probably only then that I'll feel people won't be judging us as a couple. I know that 99% of the time this thought is completely mine alone, but there you go!


    I identified with this posting.

    And I even have a picture of ME in this same situation.

    And that day - in that picture - I had a very good time.

    I was IN process and that was enough for me.

    I didn't have to be at my lowest. It was enough that I was moving forward and working on it.

  10. I say take it one day at a time with the good eating, and not do it for the event. Didn't you say you've been in the family for 28 years now? Good Lord woman, lol....they ALREADY love and accept you. It's not going to change one bit if you're 15-20 lbs less by the time you get down here! I say do what another commenter said, dress up in some gorgeous clothes and that will boost the always does for me, even when I'm the biggest person in the room. Sexy and Savvy aren't about a clothing size. It's all about attitude girlfriend, and I LOVE yours!! Can't wait til you get down here...hoping we can meet up at Starbucks or lunch or something! :)